From the May 2011 issue of Q&Q: Designer Natalie Olsen walks readers through the steps involved in designing a cover that conveys the disturbing intensity of Ian Williams’ story collection Not Anyone’s Anything (Freehand Books).
I came up with this concept after reading Break-in, a story in the collection about a boy who breaks into a home and finds himself hiding under the stairs as his harmless prank becomes a criminal act. The mysterious tone of this cover is suitable for the tension in the book, but isn’t unsettling enough.
I then photographed a trio of chess pieces, inspired by a line in the title story that compares a relationship to a player controlling a pawn. My intent was to imply calculated aggression and shifts in power. However, I still felt the artwork needed to convey a more disturbing aspect.
Many of the book’s characters are destructive; to illustrate that, I literally wrecked a chessboard. I was highly confident about this one until the author confessed that whenever he sees chess paraphernalia, he feels uninvited to the cool kids’ party because he doesn’t know the rules. Neither do I, which is why I felt no remorse about cutting up a chessboard.
For the final version, I abandoned chess in favour of mirror shards, which feel more volatile and dangerous. By meticulously arranging the pieces near my piano, I attained some rich colours and interesting reflections. Overall, the tone of this cover is brighter than the others, but still successfully conveys the intensity of Williams’ work.