Book jacket for The Flat Woman by Vanessa Saunders. The cover is bright pink and depicts a mannequin head, the eye area is covered with the title of the book.

Flat Out Fantastic: A Cover Reveal for “The Flat Woman” by Vanessa Saunders

Today The University of Alabama Press reveals the cover of The Flat Woman, an experimental novel by Vanessa Saunders, which looks at climate change through the lens of feminism. Winner of the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, The Flat Woman is scheduled for release in November 2024. Preorder now!

When contemplating her cover, Vanessa thought a lot about the audience for her work. “While I would hope that people of any gender would read my book, I believe this project resonates most with a female-identifying audience.” For this reason, Vanessa asked for a pink cover and an image that reflects the novel’s central theme: female effacement. She was pleased with how the cover designer, Matthew Revert, expressed themes of disembodiment in her book by choosing a female mannequin, not an actual human face.

“For me,” Vanessa said, “the story at the heart of this book is my own story. This novel was a vehicle to help me process my experiences. There were several abusive and/or predatory relationships with men in my early twenties. I spent a long time looking closely at these bad experiences and the small moments in my life that led me to them. The book came out of that self-reckoning.”

“What surprised me was this: while this was supposed to be a book about male violence against women, the story also centers my villainy.” 

In the world of The Flat Woman, seagulls are falling dead from the sky as a result of the failing environment. Instead of taking accountability, the government blames seagull terrorists, a group of psychotic female eco-terrorists. They claim these women murder birds because they are sick and deranged. Meanwhile, the megacorporation Pop’s Cola owns most of the hotels, prisons, and grocery stores in the country, polluting the world furiously with black ash.

When her mother is incarcerated for seagull terrorism, the woman is forced to navigate an unkind world alone. When she begins a relationship with a climate change activist, she begins to question her inaction around the issues that matter. This piece focuses on the question of individual responsibility in a time of mass catastrophe.

The style of the piece is dizzyingly quick, influenced by Vanessa’s poetry background before she converted herself into a fiction writer, as she said when we spoke on the phone, “out of necessity.” Of her novel, Vanessa said: “When I rewrote this piece, I tried to create a text that demanded a new kind of reading experience. One that expresses our absurd, fast, and unpredictable modern world filled with screens, disasters, and polarization.”

Photo of Vanessa Saunders, author of The Flat Woman.

Vanessa Saunders is a professor of practice at Loyola University New Orleans. Her hybrid work, fiction, and poetry has appeared in Seneca Review, Los Angeles Review, Sycamore Review, Passages North, and [PANK] among others. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she received her MFA from Louisiana State University.

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