Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Freakish Coincidence?


I've talked about the kind of homage that might or might not veer a little too close to the work of a revered master. I've touched on the blatant rip-off, where an artist's work is stolen and re-used by a hack. And here is one more related category: the extraordinary coincidence.
It might be hard to believe, but I didn't see "An Ellis Island Christmas" by Maxinne Rhea Leighton and Dennis Nolan until I had completed my work on "When Jessie Came Across the Sea" by Amy Hest.
"An Ellis Island Christmas" came out a few years before Jessie, and I first saw it a month or two before Jessie was published. I well remember the shock I got when I saw the book in a shop. It was so freakishly close to the cover of my book.
The main reason I believe that I hadn't seen Dennis Nolan's book is because of the unusual way that the Jessie cover was designed. I well remember the meetings I had with the designers and editors as we discussed the essential elements that had to be on the jacket.
We looked at ways to have the old New York skyline in the background. We discussed the number of people who should be seen. Was the railing and a few ropes enough to suggest a ship?
More than any other cover I have done, this one had a lot of input from other people.
But the final design always had to be down to me, and I have to recognize the possibility that I had somehow unconsciously referenced Dennis's work.
I wanted to contact Dennis as a courtesy, to explain the situation to him, but my publishers insisted that I shouldn't. And although it went against my instinct, I went along with my publishers wishes.
Dennis is an excellent illustrator and educator who runs a well respected course at Hartford Art School. If he has seen my book, and if he reads this, I hope he will accept what I believe, that it's almost certainly a case of "great minds think alike..."

2 comments:

Susan at Stony River said...

With so many guidelines from the publisher to follow, it's no surprise that yours turned out similar, but wow, they are close. I think I'd want to contact Dennis too in your place, but can understand why the publisher would go with caution instead. That's difficult.

Just this week I read on a literary agent's blog about an author who was nearly finished her novel manuscript. She then read a publishing newsletter only to find her manuscript's exact premise and hook reported in a recent book deal for someone else. She was horrified, but she couldn't possibly have known about the other author's work.

Fortunately her book was published anyhow; as the agent wrote, we might get the same idea or vision as someone else, but we'll all execute it our own way.

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