What's cooler than a sexy Halloween costume? A sexy AND gruesome book cover! Enter Amelia Gray's Gutshot, a cover that perfectly tows that beautiful/gross line (boy do we love that line). We spoke to the designers, Charlotte Strick and Claire Williams Martinez of Strick&Williams about their process, how it compared to designing Gray's first FSG Originals cover (designed by Strick in 2010), and what potential cover images were a little too gross.
How did working on Gutshot compare with working on THREATS?
CS: The cover design for Gutshot is a collaboration between my business partner, Claire Williams Martinez, and myself for our newly formed design agency, Strick&Williams. Working as a team on the design made the process inherently different. We both read the stories and then sat down to compare which ones haunted us and what these had in common; we were looking for related themes. With THREATS I was working solo. Interestingly, in the case of both covers, I/we started with layouts that used photography and then ended up with final covers that are illustrative. (In the case of THREATS, I also ended up with dirt under my nails!) Because Amelia’s writing is so graphic, there’s an immediate temptation to represent it with a film still. Having worked on two of her titles now, I think a more abstract approach to her writing makes so much more sense.
How does the image of the woman relate to the stories in Gutshot?
CWM: We wanted to find an image that related to human biology, and we puzzled over the meaning of the title. Was it a punch to the gut? A bullet to the gut? Or a reference about gut instinct? Perhaps it was all of the above. In the end Charlotte and I decided that a visual which reveals what lies beneath human appearances speaks most directly Amelia’s stories.
How did you decide on that particular illustration? How did you find the artist? Were you previously familiar with his work?
CWM: We searched high and low for an image that was both beautiful and grotesque. Prior to this project, Charlotte and I were not familiar with Fernando Vicente’s work. A book of his images has just been published in Spain, where he is based.
CS: We discovered Vicente while trolling online for both historic and contemporary images of human anatomy. These drawings fit the bill. Fernando’s drawings are as visceral as Amelia’s writing. Both writer and artist make work that is raw, shocking, and utterly human; there is a creeping beauty to be found in both.
What were some of the images you considered that didn’t make the cut?
CWM: Toilets! Tiles! Mops!
CS: I wanted to try one version with handmade type to rhyme with my cover for THREATS. The stories in Gutshot are brimming with liquids—most of them bodily—and so we started with constructing type from liquids. It was great fun to make, but it lacked the beauty and mystery of THREATS. Paired with the title, perhaps the liquid type was just plain gross.
What inspired the choice of font?
CWM: The landscape of these stories is altogether American, and the display face, Willow, is a Americana slab typeface that is reminiscent of Wild West “Wanted” posters. It’s highly compressed and spindly, but doesn’t compete with Vicente’s illustration. The eerie marriage of the illustration and typography relates well to Gray’s stories.
A woman creeps through the ductwork of a quiet home. A medical procedure reveals an object of worship. A carnivorous reptile divides and cauterizes a town. Amelia Gray’s curio cabinet expands in Gutshot, where isolation and coupling are pushed to their dark and outrageous edges. These singular stories live and breathe on their own, pulsating with energy and humanness and a glorious sense of humor. Hers are stories that you will read and reread—raw gems that burrow into your brain, reminders of just how strange and beautiful our world is. These collected stories come to us like a vivisected body, the whole that is all the more elegant and breathtaking for exploring its most grotesque and intimate lightless viscera.
Amelia Gray grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Her first collection of stories, AM/PM, was published in 2009. Her second collection, Museum of the Weird, was awarded the Ronald Sukenick/American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize. THREATS is her first novel and it was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.