Lynn Crosbie’s new novel, Where Did You Sleep Last Night (House of Anansi Press), follows 16-year-old Evelyn Gray, whose love for Kurt Cobain is so strong, she brings the iconic ’90s musician back to life.
Toronto graphic designer and illustrator Lola Landekic designed the evocative cover for Crosbie’s “haute fan fiction” novel. Q&Q spoke to Landekic about the inspirations behind her book-cover debut.
How did you come to work on this cover? I met Lynn through an assignment. I was a regular contributing illustrator at Hazlitt and Lynn had been writing these really intense short stories for their Tabloid Fiction series. Lynn really loved what I was making for her, and when she developed the story that this book later turned into, she talked to House of Anansi about me doing the cover.
Initially when I got the manuscript it was still an early draft, but I was still able to understand the tone and the dreamlike quality of the story, which I think is present in a lot of Lynn’s work – it’s a surreal quality where everything feels like it’s just on the edge of a dream. There are always so many images you can pull from her work because it’s packed so tightly with metaphor. Nobody can pack as many evocative, startling images into a sentence like she can.
Where did your inspiration come from? After reading the first few parts of the book, I made a bunch of sketches. We had been discussing a Ouija board direction or a ghostly atmosphere, but geared toward a rock vibe, which is a strange melange of elements. I had also drawn young women and a tarot-card element and other paranormal things. There were also carnations, because the story takes place in Carnation, Washington, and the flowers are mentioned a lot. There’s also this idea, to use a Cobainism: it’s a “tender age in bloom.”
I was working closely with Anansi designer Alysia Shewchuk. One of things we talked about a lot was ’90s concert posters. The ’90s had a strange fascination with the ’70s and there was this hippie revival, where everything was a modern rendition of the ’70s aesthetic. Rock posters for bands like the Pixies, Nirvana, and Rodriguez had this aged, vintage distressed look. We looked at the posters and tried to understand the energy that they were working with. The idea evolved from there.
What is the source of the Kurt Cobain illustration? The main image of Kurt is based on a very famous set of photos by the phenomenal photographer Jesse Frohman. It’s an image that appears a number of times in the book, where Kurt has those glasses on, or the central character does. It seemed like a really simple way to capture that energy.
How did you decide on the colour palette? I don’t struggle with colour, but I do have a hard time deciding on it. I literally did a dozen different colour variations, using blues and greens and purples. I sent Alysia probably 10 variations and let her and Lynn choose. From there, we had different colour variations for just the carnations, and that went back and forth until we finally chose the yellow carnations. It was a very collaborative process where everyone had their paws in it, but it worked really well.
Did you design the lettering? I find custom lettering to be a total joy to do and I was really glad of the opportunity to do some here. I designed the lettering for the title of the book and for Lynn’s author credit on the cover. Initially, the title had a question mark in it, so you can see that in the early versions of the lettering.
This interview has been edited and condensed.