Behind Our Best Cover: Questions for 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Designer Doogie Horner
Somehow, it's appropriate that the man behind the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which won our inaugural Best Book Cover of the Year vote in a thrilling come-from-behind victory just before Christmas) would be both a graphic designer and a standup comedian. As I mentioned last month when we announced the winner, when I did a Google search on "Doogie Horner," I got the results you only dream about: podcasts, hilarious photo montages, action ping-pong shots (see below, stolen from the Quirk Books site), and standup comedy entrepreneurism. I tracked down Doogie and sent him a few questions about the book and his work, and he was gracious enough to reply:
Amazon.com: It's been a heady year for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: from semi-obscure literary mashup to national bestseller to Natalie Portman-attached film deal in less than a year. How did the book come about?
Horner: Jason Rekulak, the Creative Director at Quirk, came up with the book idea. He's a genius. He had complete faith in the idea, he was so excited about it, even though everybody else was like "wha?" I don't know what inspired him to come up with it.
Amazon.com: How did you approach the project as a designer? On first glance, it doesn't look like it belongs on the same shelf with other Quirk books like the Worst-Case Scenario guides or Your Big Fat Boyfriend.
Horner: Yeah, it looks different than other Quirk books. Quirk has a very eclectic list, so we don't really have a "house style," we do whatever is right for that particular book. With this one, I wanted the cover to look like a regular classic book, a real copy of Pride and Prejudice, but with a zombie on the cover. That's what the text is like, it's a mash-up. So I wanted the cover to be a mashed up old portrait, a portrait you'd find on a real version of Pride and Prejudice.
Wendy Zeiger at the Bridgeman Art Gallery helped us find the right portrait, and then I painted on the zombie parts--the skull, the exposed spinal column, the blood--and merged the two. I liked actually painting, that was nice. I also messed with her in Photoshop, made her pale and such. Oh, and I designed the Quirk Classics logo in the upper right, which we thought would be fun, envisioning this as an imprint within Quirk Books. Although, at the time, I don't think we expected Quirk Classics to become a legitimate imprint, like it has.
Amazon.com: How did you come to publishing? Does Quirk work like other publishers? You're located in Philadelphia, for one thing, which is just a short Amtrak hop from Manhattan, but somehow that distance seems significant.
Horner: I always wanted to get into publishing, because I love books. I'm a bibliophile. I read a lot, I write a lot. So I always wanted to do book design, but I didn't want to move to NY, because, in case you haven't noticed, it's crowded and expensive (no offense, NY--you're beautiful!) There are only two publishers in Philadelphia: Running Press and Quirk. I started at Running Press, and then moved to Quirk a couple years ago. So I've worked at 100% of the trade publishers in the City of Brotherly Love.
I guess being in Philadelphia effects what we publish, how we publish; I'm not sure how other publishers work, actually. I think because we're a small publisher we have to generate a lot more book ideas in-house. I think larger houses utilize submissions from authors and agents more than we do. Quirk is very democratic; David Borgenicht, the Publisher, is open to ideas from anybody in the company. Anybody can pitch a book idea, and if we like it, the book will come together very quickly without too much red tape. Everybody in the company can fit around one table.
Amazon.com: How many graphic designer/standups are out there? Haven't all the font jokes been used up?
Horner: Sure, there have been a lot of font jokes written, but I think the great American font joke is still out there somewhere. I have a limerick I've been working on about Frankfurter, which has a lot of potential, but it's still under development.
I bet there are other graphic designer comedians. I don't have the exact numbers. Dave Eggers is a graphic designer--he's not a standup, but he's funny. Phil Hartman did design before comedy.
Amazon.com: I understand that "Dr. Eric Ryland Horner, D.V.M.," the author of First Timer's Kit: The Safe, Effective Way to Lose Your Virginity, is none other than you. Is that so? When I looked that item up on Amazon, these were among the first products listed in the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought section: the Logitech MX 1100 Cordless Laser Mouse, the Rubbermaid 7J98 Easy Find Lid 24-Piece Food Storage Containers, and the Kitchens of India Paste for Butter Chicken Curry, 3.5-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6). And, yes, a year's subscription to Maxim. Can you explain?
Horner: Yes, that's me. I wrote that book-in-a-tin that says LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY real big on the front. Designed it too! I'm a one man band of inappropriateness. I couldn't use the name Doogie Horner because I didn't want people to think I was making a doctor joke, so I used a pseudonym. I don't know why that other weird stuff comes up under stuff other customers bought. The Tupperware makes sense, but the others seem random.
Right now I'm writing, designing, and illustrating a book called Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (HarperCollins, 2010), which is exciting because it combines all my interests; it's also exciting because it's bound to be the most thrilling book of the new millennium.