I have recently published a new novel, ‘Marielle’. It is set in Paris in the present day (or rather, about the turn of the millennium which was when I started it) and concerns a prosperous fifty-year-old dentist whose marriage has run into problems. Sadly it has not been published by a publisher as a print edition (I’m still trying!) but is available on Amazon Kindle and Kindle apps.
As always, I had trouble with the cover. Covers on e-books, it seems to me, are quite different to those on printed books in bookshops. Though often very beautiful, they are generally less subtle, more explicit and more directly related to the book's content. I tend instinctively to veer towards the former sort, which is probably why my sales are so low.
With ‘Marielle’ I was completely stumped. All the photos I had of Paris (whether they featured the Eiffel Tower or some bohemian back street in Montmartre) somehow looked corny. Also, the action of this novel moves away from the Paris of the tourists. Then I remembered staying in Senlis in 2007 and travelling by train to the Gard du Nord through the northern suburbs. This is the poor part of Paris – the equivalent of the London's East End before it was yuppified – with a very high immigrant population, mostly from France’s former colonies in North and Central Africa. It is also, to me, the graffiti capital of the world. Every wall, every door, every bridge, every girder and every junction box seems to be covered with it – some in the most incredibly inaccessible places – and there is no better way to view it than from the train.
As an artist, graffiti has always fascinated me – not obscenities scribbled on lavatory walls but the real thing. The idea that ordinary, poor, disadvantaged people should spend hours creating those lavish, complex, witty and often beautiful images knowing they’ll receive no financial reward or approbation from the art world, must testify to an extraordinary creative energy underlying the surface of these deprived areas. Of course, I’m aware that this underground, alternative art world has its own stars, its own heroes and some of them, such as Banksy, have finally been embraced into the ‘real’ art world. Street art has become fashionable but only on the surface. The real body of work is still subversive.
So I finally decided, what the hell? I’d use some of it as the cover for ‘Marielle’. The piece I chose looks quite effective, I thought. The thumbnail looks like a fire and it’s only when you open it that you realise it’s graffiti. It’s the sort of graffiti I like – colourful and textural, a bit messy and not too neat and clever. As a book cover people will probably either love it or hate it – mostly hate, I should imagine. Ah well!