Thursday, August 24, 2017

Happy Book Birthday to Me!

I'm going off-piste because THE WEIGHT OF ANGELS is out today in the UK. (HOUSE. TREE. PERSON as it's called in the US is out on the 8th of September).

I'm going to answer the question: "Where do you get your ideas?", since for once I actually know. The premise, plot and title of HOUSE-TREE-PERSON fell into my head in one piece. Okay, that plot is now only one strand of the story, but it's the main one.

I was at the Writer's Police Academy in Wisconsin in 2015, at Katherine Ramsland's session on the psychology of child serial killers. She put up some slides of "the house-tree-person test", which is a (discredited, I must say) method of diagnosing personality disorders and scoring general mental health. Quite simply, the clinician asks the subject to draw a house and a tree and a person and then interprets the picture.

Dr Ramsland showed pictures by healthy members of the general population, with no psychiatric diagnoses. These were . . . normal (boring). She also showed us pictures by some quite unwell people, which were . . . far from normal. Poor wee scones; I can't think of many things more frightening than full psychosis, can you? To be in such distress, with the added horror of other people not believing that the monsters are real?  Dreadful.

Setting aside all sympathy, (writers are allowed to have a sliver of ice in the heart, right?) what interested me most was the question of the pictures people draw when they're deliberately trying to mislead the doctor. When they're faking.

Presented without comment


My book had arrived. I spent the rest of the hour in Dr Ramsland's class furiously scribbling the bare bones of a tale about two women, one who draws ever more baroque houses (and trees and persons) and one who only ever draws, in the top left-hand corner of the paper, a tiny square bisected by a vertical line and a horizontal line.

If you want to find out what this picture means . . . as I said, the book is out today in the UK and coming to the US on the 8th of September.

What do you think of the two covers and titles, since we're on the subject of interpreting pictures anyway?


Karen in Ohio said...

Happy book birthday! Can't wait for September, this one sounds so deliciously creepy.

On the covers, I like the US version best; it best conveys the kind of book I think it is. The title change is interesting. Why and how for both titles? I get the House. Tree. Person. one, but not why it was changed from The Weight of Angels. Or why TWOA in the first place. Or is that part of the mystery? Your titles usually become clear somewhere in the story, like an extra puzzle for the reader.

Kristopher said...

I almost always prefer the UK titles and covers, but this is that rare instance where that is not the case.

House. Tree. Person is clearly the perfect title and the cover works very well with the reveals in the book.

Having read the book, I understand The Weight of Angels as a title and don't really mind it. I just prefer the US. As for the UK cover, it too is lovely, but pretty generic in this case and not nearly as evocative of the novel.

Enjoy launch day today and again in a few weeks!

Cathy Ace said...

Happy book birthday my dear! Preference? The US title and cover...but that's just me. As long as the contents don't change, that'll be just fine :-)

James W. Ziskin said...

Happy book birthday, Catriona! And thanks for the liberating knowledge that we are permitted to go off piste on this blog! I'll remember that. 🏚🌴


Unknown said...

This book sounds great. Want to read...! I like the US cover/title as well.

Celia Fowler said...

Happy, Happy U.K. book birthday! Can't wait for September 8th!

catriona said...

And I quote (my UK editor) "That's the worst title I've ever heard. It's just three random words. Can I have something better in the next twenty minutes to take into the meeting?"

I do love the level of straight-talking from her - Krystyna Green at Little,Brown (Constable). There's never any deciphering to be done!

Susan C Shea said...

Will order it right away. I don't care about the title, I know I'm going to get good and creeped out!

RJ Harlick said...

I'll add my Happy Book Birthday wishes too, Catrionia. I also prefer the US title and cover. It makes me ask the question what in the world is this book about. The other doesn't. Looking forward to reading it.