As one half of Cranachan Publishing, I read the submissions we receive and this can provoke a mixed bag of emotions. More often than not, it’s a feeling of disappointment that the writer has failed to engage me and the synopsis hasn’t lived up to my expectations. But an email from debut writer Triona Scully arrived in our inbox and it immediately intrigued us. The novel was set in Withering, a fictional town in modern, matriarchal Britain and Triona described her manuscript as “a subversive take on the standard serial killer story. Andrea Dworkin meets Thomas Harris in this fast-paced, corpse-heavy tale of murder and misogyny”.
Opening the document, I was hooked! The voice of sexist D.C.I. Jane Wayne is one the likes of which I’ve never read in any other novel. She is tasked with catching the serial strangler dubbed ‘The Withering Wringer’ who is terrorising local teenage prostitutes and no boy selling sex is safe. The pressure is on Wayne, but she’s not the lead officer on the investigation. Demoted, she must take orders from a man and not just any man, an ugly one.
You can guess why Anne and I were keen to read more, meet Triona and agree to publishing the most unique book I’ve read in a long time. For such a special book as Nailing Jess, we needed a special cover. It wasn’t an easy process but Anne explains how eventually we all knew we’d hit on the perfect image.
From the designer’s perspective…
“An explosive story needs an explosive cover. It’s fair to say though, that our first cover concepts were perhaps a bit too shocking (a female Jesus, a woman being crucified, and other graphic images) which would perhaps repel readers, rather than intrigue them. Many other concepts were mocked up, with everything from cowboy boots, to gender signs, to men wearing high heels and bearded ladies. And yes, there might have been one or two featuring sperm… Finally, 72 images later, we hit upon the current cover – and we knew we had it. A crime style cover, with the suggestion of blood and the Barbie legs, hint that there’s not only a deeper dimension to this tale, but a bulging vein of humour throughout.”
From the writer’s perspective…
“It is a very tricky job, to convey the core of an idea in a few simple images. Luckily for me, that burden fell on Anne, and I think she has captured perfectly the dual narrative at play in ‘Nailing Jess’. It’s a crime novel, but it’s also a novel about gender. The doll’s legs on the blood-stained floor tells us both of those things. Having been privileged enough to be part of the process and allowed input, I found I was only really sure of what I didn’t want, images featuring sperm! Anne sent a lot of carefully considered suggestions my way, and in some way every image worked!
‘I like that one!’ I’d say. ‘That really works!’ I’d think about the next one. But Anne was a lot harder to please than me, and I’m really glad of that. The final image was perfect. ‘It’s like you’re killing Barbie’, a friend has observed about the image, and that’s quite a compliment.”
What do you think? Do you love it as much as we do?