In 2016 I became friends with author Lauren Beukes when we both appeared at a creative womxn conference as speakers. I’ve been a major fan of hers since I read her first book, Moxyland. At the time Lauren was busy writing her latest novel, Afterland, while I was finishing my PhD. Our friendship bloomed in-between writing sprints, at her house or mine.
I was privileged enough to read bits of draft, to watch her ideas percolate and become parts of a compelling story. She asked me to consider doing the cover (and ensured that there would be a kill fee if it didn’t work out).
I was inspired by a typeset detail in the United States edition of the book: the designer had added a flower bomb symbol on the opening page. I thought it was a fantastic visual for a world in which most of the men have been wiped out. Flowers are encoded as symbols of traditional femininity: we speak of women being “deflowered”, flowers are Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day staples; and, throughout history, flowers have signified an imagined divine femininity with their delicate petals; their exquisite beauty.
But Lauren’s vision of a post manfall world subverts any such expectations — the survivors can be barbed, masculine, aggressive, strong and capable. Those long-held beliefs of femininity are blown to bits and re-assembled into a shattered world, in which a mother and her son are simply trying to get back to a home that doesn’t exist.
The publishers loved it — so much so that they asked me to do a new paperback edition cover for The Shining Girls to match the look and feel of Afterland. I worked closely with Lauren to find images that would be as clean and symbolic of the spirit of the book as Afterland’s flower grenade.