I first saw the cover for my new book, The Bloodletter's Daughter, on the tiny screen of my cell phone. Even so, I was stunned. How could an image by someone I had never met convey the beauty, magic, and darkness of the story of Marketa Pichler, the bloodletter's daughter?
I was certain the image was a Renaissance painting, but it turned out to be a photograph taken by John Foley of Long Melford, England. I had to learn more. I tracked him down, and we exchanged e-mails just days before my novel was published.
I shall tell you a little about your picture, "Grey Girl."
Each year I used to visit a historical reenactment. I would wander around for days taking pictures of things that excited and moved me.
I entered a room (an old bakery in a manor house) and tried to make myself invisible so that I could observe without being observed.
To my eye, the room was dominated by a lonely girl kneeling on the floor, scrubbing out a "dough trough." She seemed apart from everything going on around her, and there was a sadness about her. She was very plain, but her plainness gave her a certain beauty.
In my imagination, she seemed bathed in a pool of light and stillness. I moved very slowly for fear that I would startle her and scare her away.
Days later, I viewed my pictures of the girl on a computer. It was such a disappointment, as they were spoilt by the crowd of people in the background. So I started playing with the picture to create the image as I had seen it in my imagination.
The finished version, I am proud to say, is your cover.
My novel, Foley's art. They came together in a meant-to-be synchronicity. The haunting image of the kneeling girl inspired me to hunt down the photographer. I needed to know the story of the "Grey Girl" who graced the cover of my own story.
I am the one who's proud, John Foley. And thankful to you.