Harvesting: a tale of two covers

Harvesting’s author discusses its two very different covers with designer Anna Morrison

Second harvest: designer Anna Morrison’s two versions of Harvesting

Second harvest: designer Anna Morrison’s two versions of Harvesting

 

Lisa Harding: Both covers for Harvesting are startling and arresting in their own way, although they could be entirely different novels. That must be interesting for you, working to a different brief on the same book?
Anna Morrison: Yes, it allows an opportunity to go back and look at it again from a different perspective. Publishing books from hardback to paperback, publishers will either want to stick with the original design or revitalize the cover to appeal to a wider audience. I enjoy redesigning for paperback as it often enables me to develop ideas that were rejected in the initial design process of the hardback or come up with something completely different.

Did you have a personal favourite? I thought the first edition was like a film poster, which is ironic now that the book has been picked up for film. Was there something about that text itself that spoke to you of this medium?
I like both covers equally; I think they both work well. I didn’t set out to make the hardback cover like a film poster although I felt there was a cinematic quality to your writing. I’m so glad this has been picked up for film, it is such an important story to be shared.

I remember being quite concerned that we didn’t go for a sensationalist cover. No bars on windows, girls in heels, or chains. I was so delighted with your interpretation of the book, when I saw the first ideas filter back. How did you go about making those choices?
Sammy and Nico’s stories are so harrowing it felt wrong to sensationalise them. For me it was their vulnerabilities I wanted to portray. Their story is so brutal I felt it was important to humanise them on the cover.

The first cover speaks more to the human quality of the girls, whereas the second one conjures the wider industry of trafficking: the commodification of girls, girls as dolls, objects to be projected onto. Do you agree?
Absolutely, and its great we had the opportunity to project these two ideas on each edition.The doll’s head held in a man’s hands is a strong symbol of the throwaway nature of these girls in the sex trade, something to be played with and discarded.

Is it more limiting when you are offered an image, such as the striking photograph by Ron Evans to work with, than when you are given free rein to interpret the book as you feel fit?
I knew straight away when Dan set me the photograph by Ron that it was perfect. It’s such a powerful image. It can feel restrictive when you are given an image or a photograph to work with that I wouldn’t necessary have chosen myself but that’s a challenge of my job.

Can you tell us a little about your process? I was really struck by the level of care and attention you paid to both covers. Again, with that image of the doll in a man’s hand by Ron Evans, I feel in another person’s hands the cover could have been garish and sensationalist. You brought great class and restraint to its treatment. Was this something you felt was important in reflecting the essence of the book? As you know I worked hard at bringing beauty and meaning into these lives that are lived in the midst of such brutality. I feel you reflected these values in both covers.
I loved your novel, it’s shocking and hard to read but so important. You write so beautifully as well, and I just wanted to do your work justice. After reading it I was quite taken aback by the brutality of the story; I know your work is fiction but I was naïve to the reality of the sex traffic trade. I did struggle initially with ideas as it’s such a sensitive but important topic. Dan was open to my thoughts which was great but sometimes no constraints can be hard. I felt it was crucial to stay away from any type of “sex” look and concentrate on the girls telling their stories.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, and yet, I’ve had some very different responses to both. The first was more colourful, the second, in a way, more shocking. I can honestly say I love both of them equally and feel hugely grateful that you are so open to discussing the author’s wants and concerns during the process. I have heard this is not always the case. It must be really upsetting for an author to feel that their cover is a misrepresentation of the world inside. Do you read the novel in its entirety before designing a cover?
I do try to read the whole novel if its available, I feel it’s respectful to the author and their work and helps me to represent their writing in an authentic way. I love reading but sometimes there just isn’t enough time. However, with Harvesting I was gripped from the start. Authors thoughts on covers matter to me immensely. It’s such a privilege to interpret someone’s writing visually, so to please them and have them on board with my ideas is the best part of my job.
Harvesting by Lisa Harding (New Island) is November 2018’s Irish Times Book Club choice

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