Wednesday 10 August 2016

Brokeheart Fountain - Michelle Lovric

 In recent posts I’ve been exploring ideas that occupied me when I was a ‘packager’ – a shadowy job that entails conceiving, researching, writing, designing and producing books that then come out under a trade publisher’s imprint.

Here’s another idea that never made it to the shop. Brokeheart Fountain was an anthology of bluesy Country song titles and lyrics dating back to Victorian times. The TV series Nashville has rekindled interest in Country music and reminded me of the initial work done on this anthology to prepare it to present to publishers.

The way an anthology works is this: you research a subject that interests you. Based on what you’ve discovered, you write a storyline. Then sequence your quotes along the line, like hanging decorations on a Christmas tree. Then you rub out the story, and the quotes hang together as if by magic. Only anthologists – and now you – know how this works.

I’ve always loved a good moan, whether in poetry or on a record player. The devil may have the best tunes, but misery has the greatest vocabulary. But the tunes and the words together - you’ll discover great beauty in bathos. No one knows, it seems, knew how to moan like an old-fashioned cowboy. No one was less ashamed of a filthy pun.

Annie Proulx’s wonderful novella was in the news and on the cinema screens at that time. So I came up with a title and subtitle: Broke-Heart Fountain, The Most Miserable Country & Blues Songs

Music industry permissions fees can be ruinous, even for a few lines of a song. But there’s no copyright in titles. So my way was clear. I soon had an amazing list of song titles. Next job was to sequence them. The storyline I came up with simply mimicked the progress of any love affair.

For the pictures I sourced clip art and out-of-copyright images from old postcards and Victorian chromolithographs that would give an attractively vintage look to the package. The main font, I decided, would be old-fashioned American Typewriter, which has a 1940s feeling about it.

Then I had to come up with a cover idea and a format that would appeal to my current publishers. Back then I was doing a lot of work for a company known as Past Times. I was also making books for Barnes & Noble in the USA. So here is my cover suggestion, with the front flap. I decided to make a visual pun based on the old cowboy icon of a cactus.

back cover and flap looked like this:

 Then I prepared some sample spreads, to give a feel of the book. Of course, this book was all about being blue, so most of the sample spreads were sad.

Even the onset of love is aggressive in cowboy country ...

and all the best relationships soon go to hell ...

And then there's the fighting

and rejection

followed by despair ...

and then revenge ...

I could moan about why this little book never came to pass. Most of the reasons were my own fault – a format too dinky to support the necessary price, a misjudgement about what the market was looking for in terms of gift books at the time.

But I prefer not to moan. I had such a good time making those mistakes.

Michelle Lovric’s website

Brokeheart Fountain was designed with the help of Lisa Pentreath.

 Many thanks to Anne Rooney for turning the old acrobat files into Jpegs.


Pippa Goodhart said...

I want that album!

Susan Price said...

And we had good fun reading this blog, Michelle.
I particularly liked, 'My head hurts/My feet stink/And I don't believe in Jesus.' Could be my anthem.

Ruan Peat said...

What a fun treat, I esp love the one 'If I'd killed you when I wanted to, I'd be out of Jail by now'
Thank you for that smile :-)

Joan Lennon said...

So many gems to choose from - thanks for this grin fest, Michelle!

Sue Purkiss said...

How could it not have been published? Genius!