Just Bumps on the Road to Publication



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!


Published by

Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born, Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning, historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a Finalist in the 2016 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now, and was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. She is featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is currently working on her second book, The Laments, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger, who is never without a pen, notebook, and her camera. Her wonderful adult children are doing wonderful things in the world, which allows Eleanor the blessing of writing full time. http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

4 thoughts on “Just Bumps on the Road to Publication”

  1. Ellie, this is a beautiful lesson in seeing a bump as just that and moving on, with the understanding the universe must have some reason for the challenges it presents us with. Your new cover sounds gorgeous and I truly can’t wait to read the book!

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Patricia! It’s been an interesting week to say the least. I’m a glass-full type of person, so this is just a hiccup I knew I’d figure out, but I’m still scratching my head about the lesson! There is no moral to this story, only an interesting case of Caribbean synchronicity 🙂 My protagonist, Ana, would love that!

    After years of research, Marlon James’ book never appeared in any search I conducted nor did it appear on Google Images where I saw the image after deciding it was perfect for my book. My ‘old’ book cover does appear, however. Go figure! Thanks again, Patricia.

  3. Eleanor, I don’t know what lesson you’re supposed to learn from this story, but I’m so glad you shared it because you’re an inspiration to all writers who hit bumps along the road. Some of these bumps make no sense, but your attitude is the right one. Some people would see this as a major setback and spend months whining and complaining about the injustice, etc. But I love how you processed it, got a little bummed out, then went to work finding a new cover image. I’m looking forward to seeing it and reading your book as well!

  4. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary! I do hope my experience serves some good. I’ve wanted this book published for so many years, and can’t allow anything to get in the way now that I’m so close! Giving up isn’t an option.

    You’re right, no lesson here. Maybe the Universe needed to know (yet again) how much I want this 🙂 I’m excited again! Thanks again, Mary.

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