It would be fair to say that I’m not good with nudity. I can just about cope with other people’s, mine I find difficult. Making my body available to people in any way creates challenges. I have a lot of issues with my body, so inviting people to look at it or to accept my skin is tricky. So, yes, that is my new book cover, and yes, that is my back.
I’ve never considered myself cover material – I’m not the kind of slinky, glamorous entity that normally goes on covers. Last year, I decided to challenge this, to see whether my publisher, and readers, would be willing to tolerate me on the front of a book. It was not an easy thing to do. Given the subject matter of the book, I clearly needed to be lying down. For the Pagan aspect to come through, I needed to be lying on something natural, which meant outside. I don’t have a garden. I also don’t have a decent camera. Evidently, this was going to take a team, and the right place.
I took the project to Druid Camp, in no small part because it’s a safe space for me. Skin is acceptable there, and I knew no one would have an issue over my removing clothes. Plus, it’s a friendly, supportive environment full of people with skills. Getting the paint onto my back and the photos was a team effort, and a lot of trust on my part. It was a strange and exposed sort of thing to do, but it left me feeling stronger and less fearful.
I put this image out into the world with some nervousness. I tell myself that it will be ok because I am well used to people criticising my appearance. Only a couple of weeks ago on Twitter, a chap asked ‘why the f*ck would anyone want to go near you?’ I’ve had people telling me how ‘funny looking’, fat, and unattractive I am my whole life, this cover will not change that, and it will likely bring more of the same. I am used to thinking of myself as ugly, it is part of my sense of who I am. What makes me nervous, truth be told, is the risk of being found attractive. I find a measure of safety in being the sort of person very few people would want to touch anyway. It is simpler, and unthreatening. People affronted by my body have never even tried to hurt me by then using that body unkindly. Other people’s desire has not always worked out well for me and part of this wider process of testing my edges is about trying to establish that there isn’t something about my body that justifies abuse.
So here it is: awkward painted mammal by the light of a summer sunset, on the lush meadows of Druid camp.