It’s been said that you should never judge a book by its cover. While this may be true, I’ve been guilty on more than one occasion of doing exactly that. And so, even though I invested a tremendous amount of hard work into the writing of my debut novel, Inside the Outside, I always knew that, for better or worse, its cover would greatly affect how potential readers would judge it. But now that it’s complete, I’m confident that, should Inside the Outside be judged by its cover, it will be judged favorably. And for that, I am forever indebted to Colin Frangicetto.
While Colin is a brilliant artist with a loyal and growing fan base, he is probably best known as one of the founding members of the rock band Circa Survive. Of course, I didn’t know either of these things when Colin was first brought to my attention. It was my student, Jose, who told me about Colin. Jose had taken a few of my English courses at Mt. San Antonio College and, consequently, he knew I was working on a novel. As I was wrapping up the writing phase and looking ahead to the publishing phase, Jose asked me how the book was coming along. I told him that I had been thinking about the cover, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. My only idea, I told him, was to find a decent artist willing to work on it and see what they could come up with.
After a moment, Jose’s eyes lit up.
“I know someone.”
“Yeah,” he said. “He’s an artist. He’s really good. I can ask him for you.”
“Sure,” I said. “That’d be great.”
Of course, I didn’t expect Jose to actually talk to who ever it was he knew. Not that he was a liar or anything, I just figured he’d forget about it or whatever. And that would’ve been fine, as I figured this artist he knew was probably some kid who sketched incoherent doodles in textbooks in between playing video games and working on his ollie kickflip. But the next time I saw Jose, he told me he’d talked to the artist and that he was interested, but he wanted to read some of the book.
I figured it couldn’t hurt, but I still wasn’t too sold on whoever this skateboarding doodle artist was. I told Jose to have his artist friend email me, so I could send him a few chapters. I figured this would nip the whole issue in the bud as whoever this artist was probably wouldn't care enough about some freelance project to actually email me. In this case, everybody would save face (and, by “everybody,” I am of course talking about me). But, to my surprise, I soon received an email from Colin Frangicetto.
It was a brief email, essentially an introduction, so I responded in kind. Colin told me he was touring Europe, but when he got back we could arrange a phone call to talk about the book and the possible cover art. My first thought was that he must be a serious artist if he’s touring through Europe.
Right around this time, Jose sent me a couple of websites where I could view Colin’s artwork and I was totally blown away. His work was strange and imaginative, vivid and surreal. I definitely wanted him to work on my book cover, so I asked if he wanted to meet up when he was back in town. But it turned out he lived in Pennsylvania. I was left wondering how the heck Jose had a friend in Pennsylvania.
A few weeks later, Colin and I spoke on the phone and he couldn’t have been nicer. I remember at some point during the conversation he mentioned something about his band. I figured it was some sort of garage band he messed around with as a hobby when he wasn’t busy with his paintings. A few days later, Jose told me Colin’s band, Circa Survive, would be playing in Anaheim at the House of Blues. I figured this must be a pretty big break for their little garage band.
I was sitting at the computer reading about Colin’s band when my girlfriend, Chanel, walked by. After taking a look at the screen she stopped in her tracks. I should mention here that I’m notoriously ignorant about music. I probably own about five CDs and, given a choice, I much prefer listening to talk radio. Chanel, on the other hand, is a music junkie. She’s always going to shows for bands whose names I could swear she made up on the spot (Ladytron? Warpaint? HorrorPops?) and her CD collection could seriously harm me if I were ever standing near it during an earthquake.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Oh, this is the band the artist is in.”
“He’s in Circa Survive?!”
“You know them?”
“Yeah,” she said. “They’re kind of a big deal.”
After talking with Chanel a little more and doing some further research, I found out that Circa Survive were indeed a big deal. It also became clear to me that Colin wasn’t touring through Europe to show his artwork, he was touring with his rock band. I was beginning to feel very silly, because not only was Colin this terrific artist who sold his pieces for large amounts of money, but he was also a rock star.
I couldn’t believe he was even considering working on my book cover. Certainly he had better things to do. Right? Well, as it turned out, he liked the idea of creating a book cover, as he’d never done it before. And, luckily for me, I seemed to be the first author who asked him to do it (well, technically, it was Jose who asked).
Next time I saw Jose, I asked how he knew Colin. It turned out Jose had never met or talked to Colin before. He was just a big fan of Circa Survive and he loved Colin’s artwork. The first time he ever communicated with Colin was when he asked if he’d be interested in working on my book cover. This instantly shot Jose up the scale of one of the coolest dudes on the planet for even trying such a thing on my behalf. Of course, Colin is right there with him in the cool department for not only responding to Jose—a perfect stranger, mind you—but also for talking to me and agreeing to do my book cover.
Colin liked the premise of my novel and he told me that the story of Timber Marlow, my teenage cannibal protagonist, fit very nicely with a series of paintings he was working on. When it was time to work on the book cover, I told Colin my favorite painting of his was “Unicorn,” which is of a woman with big eyes and no arms and a horn sprouting from her head. It's a striking collaboration of watercolor and black ink and it very much captured the aesthetic I hoped to have for my book cover.
With that painting as his reference, Colin sent me a rough sketch of Timber Marlow. I really loved it, but the only problem was he gave her hair and she was holding what appeared to be a spear. I asked if he could make Timber bald and have her holding a cleaver, as both of these visuals are very important in the novel. The next picture he sent me was a completed painting and I was thrilled beyond words when I saw it. This was definitely the painting that would go on the cover.
When it was time for the book to be designed, I sent Colin’s painting to Jerry Dorris of AuthorSupport.com. Jerry did a brilliant job of designing the rest of my cover around Colin’s painting. In the end, everything was perfect and I couldn’t have been happier.
Now that everything is complete and Inside the Outside has been published, I can still hardly believe my good fortune. Every time I pick up my book and look at its cover, I’m reminded of the precarious domino of events that precipitated its creation. I can’t imagine the cover looking any different and, luckily for me, I don’t have to.
So now, should any potential readers judge my book by its cover, I know I’ll have nothing to worry about.
And I have Colin Frangicetto to thank for it.