March 2, 2007

In Which Your Help is Gently Solicited

So, it’s almost time to RE -DO THE WEBSITE, oh best beloveds, and I need your help.
If you go look at the SPLASH PAGE or any page with a banner, you'll see the art/colors is/are all based on the covers of my first two books, BUT! Between comes out in PB in a little over a month, and it will have a NEW COVER, And thne TOGWISS will escape into bookstores next year. SO. That’s FOUR covers and if I keep trying to add integrated bits of cover art eventually the banner will degenerate into a mish-mash of vomitous slag.

My web designer (aka my good friend Jill) says I should QUIT with the cover art already, and get some sort of OBJECT or group of objects that is somehow an ICON for my work or REPRESENTATIVE of me as a human. Um. Yeah. Dead pets banner, anyone? I didn’t think so.

I can’t think of anything. I am not a VISUAL person. I am a language person.

I like the IDEA of the Black Eyed Susan. The Black Eyed Susan kinda sums my work up in a weird way----It’s southern, it has bold, cheerful colors, it’s got a strong female name, but OOPS! It’s been punched in the face. That’s my odd blend of humor and violence in a way, although it is actually an image in my friend Anna’s novel, and MAN it made me sit up and say YES.

But without the WORDS, the black Eyed Susan just looks like… a nice daisy.

I need an OBJECT or image that combines those bold, fun colors with something JUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUST a little bit EDGY about it. People who read me expecting only sweetness and humor often take my novels as a punch in the face, so I want it to be more accurate than a drift of darling flowers, you know?

ANY THOUGHTS? Other things my books seem to have in common---Kudzu, Rural v. Urban, Redemption, Identity, Vicious Aunts, and people who get murdered in Alabama (Oddly enough, I’ve never killed anyone in another state, and I’ve never written a book where someone didn’t get murdered in Alabama. Even in Between, set entirely in Georgia, you hear about a bar fight across the state line that ended in manslaughter charges, and in TGWSS they leave Florida and go into Alabama before they shoot anybody.)

Secondly, I’ll be adding a REVIEW page with my press clippings, but should I ALSO add an FAQ? If so, what questions do you think I need to put on there? Because if it is left up to me I will use the questions that ARE most frequently asked by my WEIRDO REGULAR KUDZU READERS (Yes, I AM looking you. Yes. You.) and the FAQ will look something like this:

Q: Why do you sometimes call Mr. Husband “The Yeti?”
A: Because of AimBall. Duh.

Q: How can you be a professional novelist and make so many homophone errors, you moron?
A: Shut. Up.

Q: Is anything creepier than roaches?
A: No. Well, men who wax come close. But…no.

Q: You are the greatest novelist EVER BORN, and you are so VERY PRETTY when you stand up straight and brush that hair out of your eyes, but did you HAVE to use the Very Bad F Word so many times in gods in Alabama?
A: Aw thanks Mommy! And Yes. I did.

And I don’t think that’s the sort of thing people who are NOT regulars here might WANT that sort of an FAQ. SO.

PLEASE BB’s, in the comments, put links to images you think seem like they are FASTER THA KUDZU LOOKING or just write down ideas of things that might work----keys? Maps? LEAVES? Alive dogs? Aunties? MONKEYS IN STRAW HATS???? WHAT! and any questions you think should be in an FAQ. I will big fat hairy owe ya.

Rigth now, me and The Yeti are off to the Biltmore.
YAY FOR SOUTHERN LIVING MAGAZINE! And the coolest part is, I know I will see at least a couple of you guys there. *waves to d*

Posted by joshilyn at March 2, 2007 7:18 AM

Dear Tulip... you must keep the kudzu... it completely represents the south (which you will always be writing about) and its the defining factor of the Faster than Kudzu Blog. A kudzu leaf, somehow all gussied up for the BBQ at Three Oaks, HAS to be it.

Of course, thats just my opinion. I'll send an invoice for it;)

Be well, pet. And don't fret.

Posted by: tina at March 2, 2007 7:22 AM

The black-eyed susan could have a petal dripping blood, or be growing out of a kudzu-entwined corpse . . ya know, something to make it not quite so sweet and innocent-looking.

Posted by: Brigitte at March 2, 2007 7:35 AM

Ok, I read this first thing this morning and have been pondering ever since. This is what I've come up with, and I'll try to describe it the way it looks in my head. On the left of the banner would be flourishing, summertime kudzu, all deep and green and lush (include a black-eyed susan here perhaps), but as you move to the right, it starts going to bones (do I have that phrase correctly?) and revealing what's hidden beneath--that's where you can put some of the darker icons. Maybe a snarling dog is partially hidden back there, or just the eyes; a beaten-up football helmet, or an abandoned refrigerator, or--well, you're Southern, you'd know better than me. But the idea is more the continuum--the lush surface of the South, then the exposed not-so-nice parts, like the tension in your books.

That perhaps may be my total creative output for the day, both boys are sick again, it's pouring rain, and we'll be stuck inside all day. So I hope it's at least moderately helpful!

Posted by: amy at March 2, 2007 9:28 AM

Kudzu, definitely. Maybe bordering the page, spreading towards the center. And then maybe if there's room the straw-hatted monkey shaking hands with PHOEBE all decked out for her web page debut. No, really, kudzu.

I don't know if you need a FAQ page. Readers like those pages b/c they get a little insight into writers and their thought process and such, but you have a blog. You can't get much more personal than this.

Oh, and I'm SO late, but congrats on finishing!!!

Posted by: Michelle at March 2, 2007 9:47 AM

I can't believe you're in my town, and I'm down in Northern Florida! Okay, I'm drinking beer, walking on the beach in the rain, and chatting with my Book Club girls, but still...

Have a great time! Make sure to buy lots of Biltmore Wine.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at March 2, 2007 10:15 AM

People named Aimee (and Amy) like Amy's rockin' idea, above. I was sort of thinking the same thing (Southern and pretty, with a shocking and/or dark center) but I hadn't formulated anything as detailed as what she wrote. I'll give some thought to the FAQ and come back in a bit.

Posted by: Aimee at March 2, 2007 10:25 AM

Actually, I had the thought of blood on a black eyed susan too, but then thought that actually that may be a little too bloody b/c really there's not THAT much blood in your books. I'm kind of partial to using the black eyed susans though because I have a great-aunt they call Suzy (even though that's nowhere close to her real name) because she has such dark eyes. I think a picture of an old abandoned house surrounded by black eyed susans might be nice. You know, delapidated gentility and all that.

Posted by: Leandra at March 2, 2007 10:31 AM

I'm thinking kudzu winding around a martini glass with some cat/ plane contraption flying above dropping additional full glass out of the bottom.
What? It makes sense to me.

Posted by: Chris at March 2, 2007 10:48 AM

How about the dark and foreboding kudzu taking over everything in its path in the background (it is such an amazing site, both fantasy and gothic) with a field of sunny black eyed susans in the foreground?

Posted by: hollygee at March 2, 2007 11:42 AM

I liked Amy's idea - maybe have the beatup football helmet, abandoned refrigerator, rusty license plate, Co-Cola could put all kinds of litter that signifies southern in there under that kudzu!

Posted by: Keetha at March 2, 2007 11:58 AM

Thought Amy's idea rocked. . .like hollygee's too. Have fun at your weekend party. I clicked over, and the Biltmore looks like it might have all the things you lacked in your last hotel stay. . .except the p*rn.

And. . .does it totally drive you crazy that people are forever capitalizing the "G" in gods in Alabama? I am NOT one who casts stones at your congenital homophone defect. . .but it's the title of your book and it's very obvious that you wanted it that way. . .just sayin'.

Posted by: Roxanne at March 2, 2007 12:40 PM

Yes, there must be kudzu. Because, you know, the name of your blog and all. Could the Black-eyed Susans maybe have an apropriate booze bottle for a vase? Or could they be growing out of the abandoned and battered football helmet? Could there be a fuzzily focussed I-10 sign in the background? Maybe there's a little girl walking along the side of a kudzu lined dirt road, seen from behind, pulling a wagon in which sits, A. the football helmet, B. a big-headed alive dog, C. a discarded booze bottle? And she has stopped to squat down and admire some Black-eyed Susans? Or maybe she's got some clutched in her other hand? Okay, so maybe I'm not destined for a career in advertizing.

P.S. Book done? Yay! = )

Posted by: David at March 2, 2007 1:57 PM

I'm sooooooooo a visual person, and given what I've read here, this is what I see- on the left the invasive kudzu overtakes some pine trees (with some pine needles still visible) which gives way to a small field with wildflowers (native to the settings of your novels). Panning right, the wildflower field degrades into a dump, complete with a discarded refrigerator. That's the background. The foreground is a little girl with stringy, wind blown hair wearing a sundress, pulling a wagon (winking at David) alongside the road (make sure the blacktop and white line are visible) filled with her dump finds- Jack Daniel's bottle, football helmet, etc. This girl and wagon is partially obscuring a dog digging up bones in the kudzu. So the dog and bones are there, but they're not in your face obvious.

Posted by: Sabra at March 2, 2007 4:24 PM

Green and kudzu?

Posted by: Heather at March 2, 2007 4:36 PM

I went searching for kudzu pictures and ewwww, creepy stuff - ha ha, I CREEPY - I crack myself up. Have you seen this site with kudzu covered houses!?

And you can buy a gaming card called Kudzu:

But despite it's eerie quality, just right for your books, it's hard to see that upclose and far away it could be blackberry bushes in the Pacific Northwest just as easily. I think the Black Eyed Susan is a better idea. But how to make it less innocuous. How about having a black eyed susan in front of a gravestone? I have some photos of black eyed susans I took last fall that are backlit and they look more "moody". You could do something like that and then have some Photo Shop wiz like DebR do something to fade to black and white around the edges. Or maybe a hand holding some black eyed susans and the hand fades to black and white. That would give you the idea that not all is sweet and sunny in your books, but there is a ray of hope.

I'll keep thinking....

Posted by: Laume at March 2, 2007 4:46 PM

Should there be a goat? I think a goat would be nice.


Posted by: Liise at March 2, 2007 6:19 PM

How about this?
A photo taken from ground level of an urban sidewalk/street, but with buildings visible in the background. Focus is on a very pretty Black-eyed Susan growing out of a crack in the sidewalk/street. Kudzu is creeping over one of the buildings in the background.

Posted by: Tina at March 2, 2007 8:29 PM

I agree. KUDZU is a must. Kudzu R U, or is that Kudzu is U. Maybe a little red clay stroad around, a small picture of my hero Lewis Grizzard....oh wait, that's my dream website! Feel free to use it.
I enveyyyy you, we went to the Biltmore about this time last year! AMAZING! WONDERFUL, GREAT, beautiful, ect,ect.....Do Not forego the Breakfast. It is wonderful & so is the Tea.

Posted by: Desi at March 2, 2007 8:44 PM

I have no idea what you should do, design-wise, because I am useless that way. But I do do DO want the FAQ section, because I think it will prompt lots of self-righteous people to send you obnoxious mail and I LOVE THAT. I mean, not when/if it upsets you, but when crazy people say weird things that you tell us about.

Have a LOVELY time at the Biltmore! I'm sorry we missed you, but will see you soon. :)

Posted by: Mir at March 2, 2007 9:46 PM

Yes! I'm with Mir on the FAQ page. Lots of witty-snarky-typo-fest answers to obnoxious questions. With the liberal use of "dude."

Posted by: JenniferG at March 2, 2007 10:20 PM

Oh, I like Amy's idea! That would be fabulous, done right. Amy, maybe you should professionally have ideas for people. You are so good at it!

Posted by: Laura Florand at March 3, 2007 7:09 AM

OK, there are LOTS of good ideas here. Wow! Now I wonder what it is about your work that draws such creative readers...? :)

Posted by: Laura Florand at March 3, 2007 7:11 AM

I love the idea of the kudzu (I thought Amy's idea description rocked!) but I wonder how recognizable it is outside the southern US. Will people "get" exactly what it is and does, or will many people just think it's some kind of generic ivy or other vine? (I'm sure they'd get it HERE, of course, but would they get it on your general website splash page where the word "kudzu" isn't prominent?)

I like the idea of the black-eyed Susan for not only the reasons you mentioned, Joss, but for how recognizable it is. Of course you could always combine them somehow. I like the ideas that Brigitte and Laume gave for giving the flower a menacing edge. (Laume, it's funny...I'd had an idea and threw together a Photoshopped thing and sent it to Joss before I ever saw your comment!)

About the FAQ - yes! I love it when I visit someone's website and they have a FAQ. You've been interviewed loads of times - online, in print, and on TV or radio. Can't you maybe use some of the questions that really ARE asked most frequently in those situations? Although, looking at it another way, if you use the oddball kind of questions and answers you mentioned as examples, you'd find some kindred spirit new readers, fer shure, dude. :-)

Posted by: DebR at March 3, 2007 9:06 AM

I don't supposed that the cat-headed poodle walrus and the Bagel could be on it someplace? Maybe in the FAQ!

Posted by: hollygee at March 3, 2007 11:12 AM

And I knew about your Aim Ball name, but had not read that particular post. . ."I, for one, do not want to drive to Kroger at the speed of continental drift."


My husband agreed on both counts.

Posted by: Roxanne at March 3, 2007 1:21 PM

Man, I just totally read Biltmore as Baltimore and I was ready to go get in the car! Oh well.

I see kudzu-ish colors; you know it flowers, too, I think purplish flowers. Or you could have the BES's popping thru the kudzu. I think of BES's as very Maryland-y, though.

Posted by: dynagirl at March 3, 2007 2:42 PM

I think you can wrap it all together with the kudzu creeping up an old Southern porch, and certainly a black-eyed susan or two can be peeping out of the greenery. That way there's still a human factor to it, with the building--maybe even a rocking chair?--instead of it looking too nature-y.

Posted by: Jessica at March 3, 2007 6:14 PM

Drawing of you with kudzu growing up your Marilyn Monroe body. Your caricatured pretty face smiling happily with a thinking balloon reading Grrrrr.

Posted by: wendy at March 3, 2007 6:26 PM

I'm delurking just to say, "What about a chalk outline of a body over a colored field that's shaped the same as Alabama?"

I really have to read your books some day because I keep coming back to your blog.

Posted by: carrien at March 4, 2007 3:58 AM

It's got to be Kudzu cos I didn't know what it was (being a Brit) and had to look it up the first time I came here.

Following on from the last idea what about an Alabama shaped Kudzu bush.

As for the FAQs No 1 What is Kudzu?


Posted by: Jas at March 4, 2007 3:49 PM

I'm not even going to try to contribute to the visual art aspect - everyone else has already given such great ideas!!!

For FAQs, though - you do 3 Questions all the time with other authors; I know you have tons of great, burning questions you'd want to ask other people. So you just need to ask some of those of yourself - How much of your books draw from real-life people and experiences? When's your next book coming out and what's it called? Are you working on anything right now? Do you think your stories and characters could be uprooted to another place and still tell their story? etc. etc. etc. I'm sure I could come up with a bunch more if you want. And I think you definitely should answer the question "What is kudzu?" for the newbies, particularly those not from the South. Of course, most of us here know the answers to those particular questions, but new people wouldn't, and that's the point. Some of them would require occasional updating, too...

Posted by: JenA at March 5, 2007 7:45 AM

You know, for FAQ I've been thinking some preemptively snarky responses to questions about where you get your ideas or whatever other questions with which trolls have accosted you in bookstores might be a good idea. And I like the idea someone mentioned, above, about answering some of the "3 Questions" questions you ask other authors.

Posted by: Aimee at March 5, 2007 10:46 AM

Ok, your splash page should include killer awesome shoes. When I think of you, I think of great shoes.

Posted by: Heather at March 5, 2007 12:22 PM

I vote for something similar to that. A young girl in a hand-me-down party dress, a field of black-eyed-susans...clutching a rifle taller than she is.

Posted by: Janet at March 5, 2007 12:27 PM

I second Jessica's banner suggestion of a kudzu-vined porch, with the addition of the sweetest little girl-child there carefully holding a BES and heartlessly, but deliberately, tearing off each petal which leaves a bloody/sappy spot on the remaining flower head.

Covers the themes of sweetness, light, cruelty, and gore, and the juxtaposition of both in every creation, without too much specific imagery from any of your books.

And for the FAQ's, how about including a definition of "southern gothic" along with a list of your favorite southern gothic authors?

Posted by: Lulu at March 5, 2007 5:04 PM

The yellowhammer is the state bird of Alabama and I thought that could be interpreted in so many ways that it might make a cool page.

Oh and I was thinking about creepy doll heads like the ones from Between...that would be a really great masthead thingy! Have a great March!

Posted by: Dawn at March 5, 2007 7:19 PM

Oh Dude, My Dude! I so totally wanted to be at the Biltmore with you this weekend. However, after a long talk with the husband about the cruise and cost of, and the Biltmore and cost of, he convinced me that YOU were right, and I went for what was behind Door Number 2 (if you remember, then you're even cooler than I already think you are!)
So that's what I did, and that's how I'm sending you this comment.
With BIG love, and green with envy of your royal Biltmore-ness, but happily getting used to my new keyboard,

Posted by: dee at March 5, 2007 10:16 PM

I really liked Sabra's idea myself. But there are a LOT of really great ideas on here. Make them into a list and maybe you can pull out the stuff that speaks the most to you. Sounds like you need to keep the kudzu and the sunflowers/black-eyed susans. Maybe throw in a bayou covered in kudzu with black-eyed susans growing in the foreground. Weathered house in the bayou with a little girl holding a bouquet of the susans. Hound dog sleeping in the sun. Fresh turned mound of dirt about the right size for a grave to the left of the house. Shovel and rifle leaning against the porch rail...

Posted by: Sheri at March 8, 2007 1:08 AM