Interview - Phonics and Phrenology

Two further questions and answers from my aforementioned author interview.Enjoy!

6) Silly question: The cover art of your first novel, Redemption Corps, portrayed the hero as bald. Now the cover art of your second novel similarly suggests a certain deficiency in the hair department on the part of your second major heroic character. What’s going on with that?

Ha! No conspiracy. Bald men are not taking over the future. This all comes down to the way in which the artwork for novel covers is commissioned. The publisher sends a brief out to an artist for the cover of a novel. I’m asked to write a section of that brief with advice, information and extracts from the work in progress to guide the artist. They work closely with the brief but are ‘artists’ in their own right and so the execution of the cover illustration is down to them. An artist called Jon Sullivan did my cover for Redemption Corps and Stef Kopinski did Atlas Infernal. Both artists did a fantastic job. I will be working with Jon again on the cover for my third novel, Legion of the Damned and hope Stef will produce the cover for any future Czevak novels. As for the baldness, I’m responsible for Major Mortensen’s – it’s part of his character’s back story. As for Czevak, his hair (or lack of) never came up as a significant issue in the novel and therefore is not part of the brief. I think that since Czevak is such an intellectual heavyweight in the novel, perhaps Stef decided to flag this with a Professor X / Mace Windu-style dome. What can I say: it suits him.

7) For the record, how do you (each reader will no doubt have their own ideas on the matter!) pronounce Czevak? See-vak? Zee-vak? Zeh-vak? Or some other way?

You are, of course, correct: it doesn’t matter how the reader specifically pronounces the name. It will not interfere with their enjoyment of the novel. I have heard several different pronunciations – for example a ‘ch’ sound at the beginning – like Czech. The 40k galaxy is broad and wide, however, with a good deal of room for diversity and interpretation. I personally interpret the name phonetically as ‘Zeh-vak’. It has a Slavic, no-nonsense feel to it while at the same time being suggestive of someone unusual and possibly exotic with the silent ‘c’. Even the ‘z’ sound that leads the pronunciation has a rare, superlative quality: there’s only one ‘z’ tile in Scrabble and it is worth 10 points! The ‘v’ and the ‘k’ produce a harsh, angular and ultimately satisfying resonance that lingers after the name. This degree of forethought might seem unnecessary but names are important to writers because they are important to readers. Gaz is the apprentice to an electrician, whereas Sebastian lectures in the Classics at Cambridge. If the names were reversed, then Gaz the Latin lecturer or Sebastian the ‘Sparky’ might strike people as unusual enough to pause and comment on in real life. If the names were reversed in a novel then such a detail might actually threaten the reader’s wilful suspension of disbelief and therefore their enjoyment of the text. Czevak’s name is unusual and therefore attracted my attention. If he had been called, I don’t know - Rob Sanders -then I doubt I would have written about him at all!

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