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Susan Stinson

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10:23 am: Cover!
Spider in a Tree Cover

I had to remind myself to breath just now. I’m taking short, shaky breaths. Here, my friends, is the cover for my novel.
The illustration is by Elisabeth Alba.

I love it so much.

I didn’t have a strong feeling about what the cover should be. There are some beautiful old maps of Northampton in the Local History room at Forbes Library that I thought might be good. Forbes also has reproductions of a painting of the eighteenth century town down in the 1930s, which I’ve used in the past. Yale owns the only portraits of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, so that was a possibility. But the book has multiple voices, including those of Leah and Saul, enslaved in the Edwards household, and of Rebekah, Joseph and Elisha Hawley, who were related to Edwards and helped bring out his expulsion from the pulpit in the town. It is because Jonathan Edwards was so well-known and powerful in his time (I’ve read at least one account by an historian who said that preachers were like rock stars in the 18th century colonies) that the portraits exist. His readers in Scotland wanted to know what he and Sarah looked like. In the past few years, I’ve also seen a poster of a more muscular-looking Jonathan Edwards commissioned by scholars who thought he needed an image make-over for the twenty-first century. But Spider isn’t the story of Jonathan Edwards, Calvinist rock star. It’s the story of the people in a community – Northampton, MA – and the consequences of the waves of intense religious experience that swept over them, sparked by JE’s preaching, as what historians call the First Great Awakening caught fire and transformed life in the colonies.

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press came up with the idea of an image of the inside of the meeting house for the cover. It’s one of those fantastic leaps that fiction makes possible, since, although First Churches in Northampton is a continuous congregation since its founding, no paintings of the inside of its early meeting houses exist. Kelly, Gavin and Elisabeth, the artist, looked at images and information about other meeting houses. They looked at the seating chart for the 1737 Northampton meeting house, which was built (under dramatic circumstances!) during the time of the novel. And Elisabeth created this great painting, which teems with the life of the town and the spirit of the time. Along with the imaginative stretch, there is a lot of attention to historical detail: seating by gender was changing at this time, so some of the boxes have mixed gender family groups. Enslaved people and servants sat in the back of the meeting house, on the stairs or in the gallery, and here they are, present, visible. (A phrase that comes to mind is “Like People in History,” the title of a novel by Felice Picano about gay men in the 1950s.) That means a lot to me. This isn’t an impossible photograph insistent on its accuracy, but an openly subjective leap into a world, based in considered information, but willing to risk being wrong for being alive and present. I think it serves the story well.

When I showed it to a friend this week, she was surprised to hear that it was by a contemporary artist, but thought it was an image from the 18th century. That makes me just pulse with delight. Another loved how quickly the cover brought her to the time and place of the novel, and the hint of mystery and strangeness in the contrast with the title. Small Beer actively looked for my thoughts and feedback in this process, but it was their gorgeous idea and Elisabeth Alba’s painting that created this image. I hope it makes you want to enter the world of the book as much as it fills me with the pleasure.

The book itself is due out in October. ETA: The book can be pre-ordered on paper or as an e-book now here!.

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Comments

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From:crazycrone
Date:March 3rd, 2013 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Lovely, I, too, thought it was an 18th century image before I read the post.
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 3rd, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
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I love that! Thanks.
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From:gordonzola
Date:March 3rd, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
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AWESOME!
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 3rd, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Gordon.
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From:beccawrites
Date:March 3rd, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
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yippee!!!!!
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 3rd, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, becca!
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From:songquake
Date:March 4th, 2013 02:56 am (UTC)
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Yay! SO many congratulations to you!

And it's an AWESOME blurb for your cover! That's delightful as well. *grin*

I've been looking forward to this for years--am off to pre-order the eBook now.
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From:songquake
Date:March 4th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
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Question: will the eBook be just available in PDF? Or maybe other formats, too? PDF doesn't always show up well on my Kindle.

(Of course, I could just go and pre-order the print book, which would also probably feel better under my fingers.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 4th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC)
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I don't know about other ebook formats. I'll check with the publisher and let you know. The pre-order for the print book isn't available yet. Soon, soon, soon! Sorry to keep you dangling around buying the book just a tiny bit longer -- that you're excited about it, and are SO ready to have it -- and I am SO ready to have it in your hands! -- is a beautiful thing.
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 4th, 2013 04:18 pm (UTC)
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Oops! That was me -- I didn't realize I wasn't logged in.
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 15th, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
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Here's the answer from Small Beer and Weightless books (my publisher) about e-book formats:

Spider in a Tree will be available in epub, mobi, and pdf format from Weightless and then the usual formats from the usual other ebooksites. Epubs work on Nooks and Kobos and mobis work on Kindles.

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From:songquake
Date:March 15th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
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Awesome! Looking forward to it!
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 15th, 2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
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Also, you can now pre-order the print or e-book version here: http://smallbeerpress.com/forthcoming/2013/03/14/spider-in-a-tree/
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From:tinywarrior
Date:March 4th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
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Wow!! The cover is lovely! Can't wait to read the book!
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 4th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I'm really excited about the cover! I hope that my excitement isn't making everybody else's peak too soon -- it's out in October! Some months from now!

(that's a gorgeous icon.)
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From:bounce_n_jiggle
Date:March 4th, 2013 06:24 am (UTC)
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There is so much incredible richness to take away from witnessing your experience with this book. Quiet and sometimes not so quiet perseverance, leaps of faith, the frustration of so many closed doors, nurturing a labor of love, the commitment it takes to research and write a book because of your passion for the subject not the sales $, and the triumph of the dream actualized. I am just so impressed and proud of your stamina my friend.
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 4th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Oh, thanks so much, Deb. My friends who have been reading about this book all of these years really do know about the heartbreaking ups and downs and, yep, the stamina it's taken to get to this gorgeous, joyful place. I appreciate you reflecting that back.
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From:oneroom
Date:March 6th, 2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
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This cover, and the stories within its images, are absolutely beautiful, Susan. Hooray and congratulations!

Edited at 2013-03-06 05:23 pm (UTC)
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From:susanstinson
Date:March 7th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
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Thank you!
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