Last week, an author and new friend emailed to tell me about a novel by Marlon James titled, The Book of Night Women, published in 2009. From my immediate reply, it was clear to my friend that I’d never heard of Marlon James or read any of his books that were well-received and highly thought of.
As I scrolled down her second email, I saw the cover of his book, The Book of Night Women, and my jaw dropped. It features an image of the painting by Marie-Guillemine Benoist that currently graces my debut novel’s book cover. You could have knocked me over with a paperback book. What are the odds of this happening? And, so close to the publication of my book!
Well, it was clear Mr. James and I have good taste in book covers, and we share Caribbean roots–Marlon James is Jamaican and I’m Puerto Rican, both born on beautiful islands. What to do? Not surprising we’d come up with stories with similar settings, so I went on Amazon and read the synopsis of his story.
Not only do our historical novels share the same image, they are written about slave women in the Caribbean. His Jamaican slave woman/protagonist has green eyes; my Afro-Cuban slave woman/protagonist has hazel eyes. Not too crazy given the times and places; both women grew up as slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations. But, O.M.G. I read on…
Marlon James’ story is about a group of slave women who plot a slave rebellion on their sugar plantation in Jamaica. Nothing like my story, thank God. No similarities. My story is about a freed slave who flees Cuba to Puerto Rico, and begins her life as the only midwife in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico. My book begins in 1900; James’ story starts in the late 1700’s. My protagonist Ana was a real person; she was my grandmother’s midwife, Doña Ana.
I immediately ordered The Book of Night Women, and am waiting for it to arrive. I can’t wait to read the book as my manuscript goes into the final editing stage. My book should be on shelves Autumn 2014…with a new book cover.
Well, the stars and the Universe have spoken. I discovered an awesome black and white image of a Caribbean belle, and I am praying I can use it for my book cover. Fingers crossed and back to the drawing board for me and my publishing team. Who knows why these things happen?
I first saw the Benoist painting in the Louvre in Paris after I wrote my story. The year was 2006 and I lived in Brussels, Belgium. I’d always imagined I was telling the story of the woman in the Benoist painting, or maybe channeling Doña Ana which wouldn’t surprise me one bit. In the end, we write what we know, and we write what we’ve experienced in life. As I write this blog post, it is clear this although this was an unusual occurrence, we write what we know, and we write what we experience in life. This is what I know.
Now, what in the world do I do with 500 bookmarks, 500 book postcards, and 500 business cards that feature this image?? A bonfire, a collage? Use them anyway?
No matter, I’m eternally grateful to my new friend, BB, for coming forward with the information. Thank you, BB!
We go on, that’s what we do. I pray my novel is as well-received as Mr. James’ novel, and I’d love to meet him.
Congratulations, Marlon James. You sir, have an awesome, kick ass book cover!