Thursday, February 19, 2015

Typesetting and Such

Though I haven't posted much of late, I've not been idle. I have, among other things, continued to work on the layout of my novel. Here's a more finished draft of the front cover:

As you can see, I'm now leaning toward Garamond rather than an Art Nouveau font, as it matches the interior better. It may seem strange, but I've always found Garamond quite beautiful. There's something about the broad roundness of the characters and the thinness of the strokes that I like.

It has a lightweight quality, beside which Times New Roman seems coarse and bulky. A certain small publisher I sometimes read uses a Garamond-derived font, as does the Everyman's Divine Comedy with the Botticelli illustrations, and I find that it makes the books more pleasurable to peruse. But then, I'm weird like that.

Anyway, here's the spine, which would be a truly handsome addition to the shelf of any discerning collector of fine books:

(The name of the "publishing house" is mosaicked out, because I don't want people to, like, steal it.) The glory of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy wrap-around covers was their spine, and I've tried to evoke that. On my own shelf it would fall between William Morris and Mervyn Peake, if that tells you anything.

Here's the back, complete with the blurb and the place for the execrable bar code:

Well, okay, you might be thinking, but this is more or less the same as what you posted the last time you blathered about all this.

But! I now have some interior pages to show. Here is the title page:

As you can see, if you know about these things, I'm going for the effect of the earlier editions of The Worm Ouroboros. I don't know if the first edition looked like this, but the oldish Xanadu Library edition I have does, and I'm pretty sure that that one's the same as the hardcover edition I checked out from a university library long ago. The dragonfly illustration is from a scratch drawing in India ink.

One thing I like about the layout of these Ouroboros editions is the sense of monumentality and width. The pages are, relatively speaking, short and wide, rather than tall and narrow, and this is accentuated by the typeface. My choice of Garamond goes with this ideal.

Another thing I like is the use of ornaments at the ends of chapters. But my own chapters tend to be short and to-the-point, as in parts of Moby-Dick, unlike the epic months-long chapters of The Worm Ouroboros, and my feeling is that an ornament at the end of each chapter would be wearying. So I made larger ornaments (inspired by Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur) and included them only where the chapter-end left a large amount of empty space.

From a drawing in ink on clay ground.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is the map page with my newly touched-up map:

Feast your eyes on that. At this point I have it coming after the table of contents. Books like this don't often have tables of contents (or chapter titles, for that matter), but mine does because I like them. Skillfully deployed, they yield a tantalizing first glance at the plot.

I will, I suppose, also be offering this in e-book form, but I personally prefer a book that you can hold, that's pleasing to the eye and feels good in the hands, and that's what I'm going to offer first.

The prospect of putting this out there is of course quite terrifying, because it's something that can't be undone. There's this part in Willa Cather's Song of the Lark where the protagonist is revealed as reluctant to let people know she sings, because, in the back of her mind, she knows that as soon as she comes out of the closet, everything about her will be on display, with nothing held back about which she can say, they still don't know about this. That's how putting this novel out there makes me feel. Yes, this is me, and yes, this is all I've got.

My novel's layout is meant to make the nostalgic think of the Ballantine series. And the thing about the novelists in the Ballantine series and their various literary kin is that they didn't know they were writing fantasy. Their models were mostly not what we would call fantasists. The first print runs were also often quite small. There was no a niche genre with built-up expectations. No specialized publishers. No conventions. Each of them stands alone. That makes them odd or even uncouth to moderns, as wild plants might be strange to someone raised in a greenhouse. Most readers won't take them on their own terms or promote them without apologizing for them. They're prehistory. Antecedents. What led up to the glorious present, which is us. But to me, part of fantasy is arresting strangeness, and you don't get that in a hothouse where every plant is vying to outdo every other plant in uniqueness and originality under precisely the same artificial conditions.

From time to time, usually right after I've gotten yet another near-miss of a rejection, I think to myself, Self, shouldn't you just throw in the towel, stop trying to write? It's not as though I don't have other things to do. But you see, deep down, I know I'm not going to kick the habit. It's like the way I've given up painting more times than I can count. I once even destroyed my entire oeuvre. No, twice. But as I've gotten older (and mellower) I've realized that it's not going away, so I might as well just roll with it, and not take my harsher self-judgments too seriously.

So I've got this novel. I think it's mighty fine, and I want to share it with others. Do I sit on it, hoping someone will finally take it? Or do I just say the hell with it, and make it as close to my own personal vision as I can, and get it out there, and keep working on the sequel? Because, by God, there will be sequels. This is going to be a tetralogy by the time I'm done.

From what I've said, it's probably clear what my answer is. I just have to give myself these little pep talks from time to time.

The novel is coming, and will be out in a few months, give or take, I reckon. Stay tuned for more definite plans...

No comments:

Post a Comment