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 so 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 the book cover of my debut historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN. 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’s clear to me that 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 our 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 book cover image, our stories 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 from the very beginning. Both stories open with a birth. Not too crazy given the times and places; both women grew up as slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations, and my protagonist is a midwife. 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 the story begins with 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. Talk about relief.
From reading some of the reviews of his book, I could see my book receiving similar reviews in that both stories tell the story of slavery in the Caribbean. I’ve already heard the words, “raw”, “tragic”, and “historically factual”, from early readers of A DECENT WOMAN.
I immediately ordered The Book of Night Women, and am waiting for it to arrive. I can’t wait to read his book as my manuscript goes into the final editing stage. A DECENT WOMAN should be on book 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 that 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? Start a bonfire, make a collage? Use them anyway? I’ll be starting over with a new image for all that to include my website, blog, Twitter page, two Facebook pages, Google +, and Pinterest. Oh and, Goodreads and LinkedIn. Fun.
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, A DECENT WOMAN, is as well-received as Mr. James’ novel was, and I’d love to meet the author one day in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, or somewhere in between.
Congratulations, Marlon James. You have one awesome, kick ass book cover!