Causing Pandemonium: January Update
50 Essential Science Fiction Novels (Part 1: 1812 - 1979)

Interview: Joey Hi-Fi and Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls

The Shining GirlsThe South African cover of Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls!

This edition (click it to embiggen) re-unites Lauren Beukes with award-winning artist, film critic and Twitter guru Joey Hi-Fi. But unlike his stunning illustrated covers for Zoo City and Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds, Mr. Hi-Fi has gone in a different direction with The Shining Girls. Curious about this (and many other matters of the heart), we pushed a few questions at him through the tubes of the Internet.

Pornokitsch: What were your first thoughts after reading The Shining Girls? Did an approach to the cover come immediately to mind?

Joey Hi-Fi: Once my heartbeat returned to normal and colour returned to my cheeks (I was thoroughly harrowed by this book) - a concept for the cover had already taken root.I thought that since events in the book spanned so many different time periods, this should be reflected on the cover. The book also follows the attempts of Kirby in trying to solve a labyrinthine mystery that goes across decades. I thought the cover should also subtly express that idea - someone trying to put together clues in order to solve a mystery. Thus the use of typography and images pulled from the various decades covered in the book.

While reading the book I also saw the covers for the UK and USA editions of The Shining Girls. Both covers feature a woman on the cover (although the woman on the UK one is quite small). So I decided that instead of using photos of the 'shining girls' from the novel, I would prefer to leave their appearance to the reader's imagination and only offer small clues to  their appearance and personality. In this way, it would set the cover apart from its American and British counterparts.

PK: Your illustrated covers are the stuff of legend. What prompted you to take a photography-based approached to this cover?

JH: I tend only to use photography for book covers if I feel it suits the tone of the book or if I can commission photography specifically for the cover. Commissioning good photography is also often hamstrung by budgetary and time constraints, so I rarely get to go that route. Fortunately in this case I had access to a bank of original and interesting images. Courtesy of a certain intrepid female novelist whose meticulous research bore unexpected fruit. The identity of which I will reveal in the next question....

PK: So... where’d the photos come from?

JH: Lauren Beukes! They all come from her meticulous research for this novel, and she took them on a research trip to Chicago. Photos of art deco buildings, creepy dilapidated houses, seedy diners, neon signage, haunting landscapes, fog covered Chicago skylines and so on. Most are specific to scenes from the book, almost like location shots for a film. The photos all have a creepy and haunting quality to them, which suited the tone of the novel and cover perfectly. I wanted all the images on the cover to have a slight otherwordly glow to them. So I manipulated all the images in Photoshop using a variety of techniques such as superimposing some of the images over each other and adding small, subtle elements. Things that the viewer may not see initially.

PK: Does Lauren Beukes hover? I bet she hovers.

JH: I've only seen her hover once. About a metre off the floor. And we chalked that one up to an attempted alien abduction. Seriously though - she's not one for hovering. She is always available to bounce ideas off - but she's usually quite happy to leave me labouring away in sweet solitude.

PK: What’s most helpful in a cover brief? What’s the most annoying or least helpful?

The most helpful - being able to read the book before starting work on the book cover. The least helpful or annoying brief would be one with a lack of or vague information about the book. [Editors' note: gulp!]

PK: It is now 2013 and you just had a birthday (Happy birthday!). Set any ‘create amazing art’-type goals for the next year?

JH: Thank You! Now that the Mayans let us off the apocalyptic hook, my ‘create amazing art' goals remain the same as in 2012. Try and finish a bloody graphic novel! I performed poorly in that respect in 2012. I'm hoping to make more progress in 2013.

PK: What’s up next?

JH: At the moment I'm working on a cover for Chuck Wendig's new book. As well as a cover for the UK and South African editions of the delightfully demented Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human. And, of course, a space-related project for Pandemonium. 


PK: Robots or zombies?

JH: Robots.

PK: Dinosaurs or aliens?

JH: Aliens riding dinosaurs? Essentially - Dino-Riders.

PK: Superheroes or bears?

JH: Superheroes.

PK: Coffee or tea?

JH: Tea.

PK: Jack Kirby or Will Eisner?

JH: This is like a geek Sophie's Choice. Erm. Jack Kirby.

PK: Last boardgame you played?

JH: Aye, Dark Overlord (which I got as a birthday present).

PK: Mutant power you’d like to have?

JH: Healing factor. (Migraines begone!)

PK: If you had an enormous invisible pooka, like in Harvey, what animal would it be?

JH: A platypus.


We love Joey Hi-Fi... if you'd like to read more about him, here's a lengthy appreciation of his amazing work (by Lauren Beukes and many, many others) and we once interrogated him about classic books for children. Plus, you can see more of his work here

The Shining Girls is available in South Africa from Umazi (April), the USA from Mulholland (June) and the UK from HarperCollins (April). It is really good.

The other half of this reveal is over at Brainwavez - with more chat from Joey Hi-Fi as well (and a peek at the super-sexy hardcover)!