Monday, May 10, 2010

The Person Behind the Face on the Cover of A GOLDEN WEB

Alessandra Lives!
The real girl behind the face on the cover of A GOLDEN WEB holds the novel close to her heart.


Imagine my surprise and delight when I found this message in my website mailbox:

Hello, my name is Anna Kobylianski and I am actually the model featured on the book cover of A Golden Web. I know this is quite a random email, but I just wanted to let you know how honored I am to represent a girl such as Alessandra, especially as I am actually studying Health Sciences at McMaster university in the hopes of becoming a medical doctor. I have read some of your interviews and am thrilled to be involved to some extent in the publication of a novel that stands as a source of inspiration for young women. As I am sure we would have never met otherwise, I would like to extend my gratitude over email: truly, thank you for providing me with this experience.

I wish you all the best, and hope that the book is a great success!

Sincerely,

Anna Kobylianski
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Random email? I was enchanted! What were the chances that a pre-med student would be the cover model for my novel about a pre-med student in 14th century Bologna?

You see, I’d been given the somewhat unusual chance to approve photos of the model the production department at HarperCollins had in mind for my novel’s cover image. The lovely, Italian-looking girl in the photos looked remarkably like the Alessandra Giliani who sprang to life inside my own imagination. When I saw the photos, I emailed my editor and wrote, Yes! She’s perfect!

I was still working on the final edits of the novel--which gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my descriptions of Alessandra and make her look even more unmistakably like the girl in the photos. I already loved Alessandra like a daughter. (Giving literary birth is not all that different from the other kind, either in the daunting labor of the enterprise or the pride and delight one takes in the result!) It was as if my fictional creation had somehow become real.

Of course, I wrote back to Anna Kobylianski immediately. I was dying to know how the photographer managed to find a model who matched my Alessandra, both inside and out, so precisely.

Anna explained, “It was actually quite random that I ended up with the job. The book cover designer’s name is Juliana Kolesova. She was in search of a girl with brown curly hair for the cover of your novel. She is also family friends with a girl who went to my school, and the girl approached me in the halls one day to ask if I was interested in modeling for the cover. I sent Juliana some sample pictures, and after she had approval from the publisher [I was part of that!], we went ahead with it.”

Nineteen-year-old Anna was as amazed at the coincidence as I was, when she read A Golden Web. “At first, this felt a little strange,” she wrote, “as I was reading about a girl living in the Middle Ages, yet who had my features. As the story progressed, I noticed more and more similarities between Alessandra and myself. In essence, it felt as if my Self in its entirety was transported into a different time and slightly different situation.”

Like Alessandra, Anna is the eldest girl of four children who takes her responsibility as a role model and caretaker for her siblings very seriously. She is also, like Alessandra, a gifted artist who enjoys painting, drawing, and working with clay. “And what is even more striking,” Anna confided, “is that this careful work with a paintbrush and fingers easily translates to a desire to pursue the career of a surgeon for me as well.”

I hope I’m not giving away too much of the plot when I tell you that Alessandra Giliani tragically died at the age of 19. Perhaps she’s finally getting the chance, after waiting for 700 years, to live out the rest of the long and glorious life she deserved, courtesy of the brilliant, beautiful, and gracious pre-med student from Canada, Anna Kobylianski.

8 comments:

  1. What a great story! My daughter and I have often lamented that few publishers commission beautiful artwork for the covers of novels for kids and young adults anymore. A Golden Web is truly gorgeous, and knowing the story behind this beautiful, brilliant young woman makes it even better.

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  2. Barbara,
    This is such a powerful blog story that supports the very spiritual notion that we live on and on and on. You were destined to bring Alessandra to life and to allow her to "come through" Anna for all of us to see and meet. Perhaps the 15th century was too soon for her to fully live out her life. But, now she has an incredible opportunity through your depiction of her in "The Golden Web," for the fullest of life. I can hardly wait to read "The Golden Web," especially after having now read this blog. Thank you, Barbara

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  3. Barbara -
    What a beautiful story! It only shows that the universe works in a mysterious manner. I would love to read about Alessandra, that you were able to bring her to life on the cover of the book also is amazing.

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  4. This is such a beautiful story. The fact that Anna is so much like Alessandra is amazing. I can't wait to read your book after reading this post.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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  5. Julia KobylianskiMay 3, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    Anna's my sister ! When I read this novel, I was shocked about how her profile and passions were matched almost perfectly by those of Alessandra. It is an insane coincidence that this happened and knowing my sister, Anna, I could easily relate to how Alessandra felt about med school and pursuing her dreams. Amazing.

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  6. All of these comments are so meaningful to me! Julia, I'm still waiting for this story of Anna and Alessandra to be discovered by the wider world. (Maybe the story in itself would be a good subject for a novel?) There's a certain realm, in the world of, let's call it the collective unconscious, where there are no coincidences. I hope to have the pleasure and honor of meeting Anna someday. I look forward to seeing her put the letters "M.D." after her name. There's a thread connecting your family to my imagination. Maybe that thread will become a pathway to something that none of us can see now. In the meantime, thank you so much for writing to me! All best wishes to you, Anna and the rest of your family. -Barbara

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  7. Barbara,

    I just finished your book, A Golden Web. I read that the model for the book cover has several things in common with Alessandra. What a coincidence! Or perhaps not. Maybe Alessandra's way of righting a wrong from the other side - from 700 years ago. I was surprised to hear the girl on the cover was a model and not your daughter because there is a strong likeness in your faces. I consider myself a true, modern femenist, and this story appealed to me for that reason. What a long way we have come as women, and thank goodness!

    Sincerely,
    Whitney Yeager
    Denver, CO

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  8. There is certainly an ecology of consciousness, parallel to the ecology of Nature. (I'm no scientist - but I'm convinced of it!) We're all connected to everyone who's ever lived and dreamed. What each of us does and says affects humanity's march through Time just as much as one leaf falling affects the earth's ability to sustain and nurture life. Strong arguments for thanking each other and all the abundance and beauty inside us and surrounding us. Thank you, Whitney! You've made my world a better place with your words.

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