Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

ANGELS DON'T ALL HAVE TO SING

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We've been designing our Christmas card, which usually includes a new poem. This year it is Angel Band, our four grandchildren reflecting their individual beatitudes, a heavy metal angel, a castanet playing dancer angel, a doll baby angel and a guitar playing angel who also does martial arts and draws like Raphael.

All this picture think took me to book designer Angel Guerra, whose work raptures me up.

Angel's answers to my questions reveal his artistic sensibility. His responses are clear and sculpted.

With any luck, we will get some images he prepared for my new book into this space and you can guess which cover we chose. Hint. One idea came in after he sent back his answers to my questions.

1.Q LINDA

Angel I think your cover designs are beautiful and wonder about the sensibility that transforms words into images. Are you a word person? Did you come to design from a gift for visual art, or from an integrated approach to sound and pictures?

A ANGEL

I’m a word and visual guy. Words are images to me. And images spring from sounds.

2. Q LINDA

Do you do books exclusively or are you involved in a great range of design projects?

A ANGEL

I work across the spectrum — I do movie and music posters, menus, catalogues and art pieces. My covers usually carry my art work. The cover for your new book is a painting done just for the book. Your publisher uses me for that very reason. These are not store bought images.

3.Q LINDA
What is the step by step process in designing a book?

A ANGEL

I try to read the book when I can. When I don’t, I feel I’m designing based on gossip. I’m searching for moments that grab me—an image or a bit of dialogue, a mood. Colors come to mind as I read. I finish the book, hold my breath and plunge in.

4. Q LINDA

Do you have to love a book to enjoy designing it?

A ANGEL

Yes. I have turned down books because I didn’t get them. If I can’t bring anything to the process what good does that do the author? It would be an indecent thing to do. Better to let some other designer try. It’s not because the book is necessarily bad—though some have been—it’s just that some books don’t reach me.

5. Q LINDA

Are your cover decisions fairly pragmatic. Is the bottom line overwhelmingly important? What will sell the book?

A ANGEL

No I try to do the cover I think best captures the book. If I’m lucky I don’t have to deal with the marketing types in publishing. They rarely read the books they market. They might say they do but I’ve been involved in publishing for some time and I have yet to meet a marketing person worth admiring.

6. Q LINDA

You have just presented Cormorant with two covers for my new novel, The Third Day Book. What did you consider when you began working on it?

A ANGEL

The unrelenting image of hands. There were probably 10 cover treatments for your book. Only two made it to your shores. Your publisher—Marc Cote—plays a big role in the design process. He lives and breathes the book and is always wise and sensitive. He has a vision for his company that he clearly articulates and that makes for a healthy creative partnership.

7. Q LINDA

Do your clients often tell you what they want, or do they give you a free hand?

A ANGEL

Some boss me around. The best ones – like Marc — don’t. Again I’m lucky. I don’t pursue work. Most of my clients come to me through referrals. They usually come to me knowing my work. It’s their initiative. That gives a designer some heft the relationship.

8.Q LINDA

What advice would you give to someone interested in your line of work?

A ANGEL

Practice. Practice. Practice.

9. Q LINDA

What has been the most satisfying moment in your life as a book designer?

A ANGEL

Getting a lovely note from an appreciative author or client. Any time I’m asked to design something I feel fortunate and grateful.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page