I need a book cover for a short story collection. The title of this collection is "The Daily Lives of Monsters," and includes six stories. I don't want to represent any one of these stories exclusively, but communicate the feeling and atmosphere that the collection should inspire. To get an understanding of this atmosphere, here's a brief summary of the stories:
- "Accomplice" - This is a sci-fi murder-mystery. Set in the future, it follows a wealthy, incompetent college professor named Llewellyn who uses his service robot, Apollo, to help him murder his unfaithful wife. The robot attempts to make his master atone for his sin, but is destroyed for his defiance. The tone of this story is rather stark, almost black and white, slightly creepy and dark.
- "Bloodlines" - In a rugged, rather backward and agricultural future (about 300 years), this sci-fi drama follows Eugenia, a 60-something widow whose brother has just died, leaving her as the only remaining member of her family and with an embarrassing legacy: his life-long belief that their family's ancestors colonized Mars. Meanwhile, the colonists' descendents have been attempting to return to Earth, and a handful of them manage to survive and find Eugenia's farm. The tone of this story is reflective and sad, but bittersweet and hopeful.
- "A Child's Imagination" - A flash fiction piece featuring a young child being eaten by a monster. The tone is just plain scary.
- "Bernie & Baris" - This is what I like to call a dark fairy tale. It follows a stubborn nine-year-old tomboy named Bernie who, against the wishes of her family and the small mountain town she lives in, ventures into forbidden woods and befriends a Cyclops named Baris. Baris is known as the "Forest Devil" to everyone else, and is believed to have slaughtered farm animals and eaten children in town; when a dozen kids go missing, every suspects he's responsible and head to the woods to kill him and save the kids. Bernie ends up saving his life and he must flee the angry townspeople. Not long after, the children are found safe and sound, singing hymns in a church (that last part is a true story). The tone here is bittersweet as well, dark, threatening and tense.
- "A Funny Thing Happened in the Morgue" - This is my take on the vampire romance. Set in Paris, it begins when the immortal Gaspard Ouimet is nearly decapitated on the street. He shows up in the morgue of Leonie Boutin, where he miraculously - and shockingly - is revived prior to his autopsy, his injuries healing before the morgue attendant's eyes. He flees and the duo search Paris for each other - Leonie out of a strange curiosity to learn the truth about a man who is by all accounts a dangerous monster; and Gaspard to finally find a connection with someone who knows his secret. They reunite. The tone is obsessive, ghoulish, starkly beautiful (Paris setting), perhaps gothic, and romantic.
- "Downhill" - Finally, this story is set in a post-zombie apocalypse future, in which zombies are actually living humans who've inherited a genetic disease that causes their bodies to decompose while they are still alive. However, the "plague of panic" has almost destroyed the U.S., and the "zombies" - now an offensive epithet - are trying to assimilate back into society, including Jack. He is terminally ill, but was once a famous stage actor and is on for one last audition. However, during his performance, his finger falls off and his ruse exposed. He leaves the audition without a job, fated to rot away even more, alone and rejected. The tone of this piece is darkly humorous, obviously depressing and rather gross.
Underlying all these stories is a theme of belonging. Llewellyn responds to his rejection from his family and by his wife with violence; Eugenia feels alienated from society, then learns she has a place in the world after all; Baris is wrongly judged as violent, even though he is a kind, gentle soul, simply because of his looks; neither Gaspard or Leonie fit in, for different reasons, but find belonging in each other; and Jack is very obviously at the fringes of society, the ignorant people around him convinced he's contagious.
I want to reflect the sense of alienation these stories inspire, and their ghoulish themes and atmosphere, and bittersweet and sometimes dark humor. I'm open to both abstract and literal images; I prefer simplicity in both color and style; and illustrations to photos. I'm not sure this is helpful, but I'd like something that looks a little off-kilter, bizarre, unhinged, different - like my characters. Something that almost doesn't fit in, if that makes sense.
Here are Pinterest Boards on four of the stories, to give a better idea of how I see the stories visually: