Trumpicana: The Story Behind the Stories

A tour of the 45 day process that resulted in our Trump-inspired satirical novella.

The Foreground & Setting

There was no shortage of material.

Trump’s exposure in the media continues unabated. The diatribes, the scandals, the derogatory nicknames: the media-as-entertainment industry covers Trump without respite.

In this transformational moment of our political culture. I suggested to my partner, Presley Acuna, the idea to hold a mirror up to the process through satire.  It seemed like a piñata waiting to be dismembered.

While dining on Asian delicacies in Manhattan's Korea Town, we decided to move forward with the concept of a novella. The date was May 20th. We shared ideas about what to write. We agreed that whatever it was, it must be pertinent, poignant and snarky.  And it must have a message.  We recognized that one of the most critical components would be timing. If we delayed, we’d miss the opportunity to expose the man with the giant combover, through satire, for what we believe to be his fatal flaws.

We put pen to paper, and bounced ideas back and forth about covers, titles and the structure of our novella. This led to the question – what should we name our novella?

Independent Publishing vs. the Traditional Publishing

In the Spring of 2015, Presley and I launched an independent publishing house, named Percussion Publishing, and proceeded to develop and release two projects.

My thriller, Vault 21-12, came to market in the summer of 2015, and Presley’s work, which debuted in January of this year: The Day & The Hour, an apocalyptic thriller.

Both have been well received and our idea of controlling our entire publishing process under a common imprint was working out nicely.  Our independent publishing vehicle enabled us to conceptualize stories, hire designers and execute projects without the need to go through the bureaucracy and politics of traditional publishing.  It was the perfect vehicle for our germinating concept of a collection of Trump satires.

And time was of the essence.

Choosing a Title and Cover Mock Ups

The challenge was connecting our stories. one set in the very near future and the other twenty-plus years down the road. to the title and cover, to make a cohesive concept.

This led to the first mock up: Satirical Shorts: Politics in our Time and Beyond. This, however, was too broad and lacked any direct reference to Trump visually.

We needed something humorous, that reflected the wit of the content within, and which would be relevant to the bizarre proceedings masquerading as ‘The Race to The White House.’ Presley found a terrific comb-over / hair visual and we toyed with it, but after much tweaking. we felt that blending it with the White House visual just wasn't pithy enough as a commentary.

We moved from fixating on Washington DC per se, and focused on the ‘shorts’ aspect in a new angle for the visual.

But that wasn't quite right either.  It lacked punch.  We decided that adding an image of Trump’s face would be more on target.  We soon discovered that many satirical works feature real-life pictures of Trump, which was surprising to us, thinking about things like litigation risk. But it is a free country, with First Amendment rights, and Fair Use journalistic principles, so we calmed down and got creative.

We decided to try layering in orange smoke as background to an image of The White House. But this was not quite right either.  It just wasn't cohesive.

Then something happened.

Perhaps it stemmed from seeing too many pictures of Trump and his orange spray tan, but this last cover got us thinking about Trump and the color orange. Could we connect the two in a clever way?

That prompted memories of a series of kid's collectibles from the late 70’s, named Wacky Packages stickers. These were popular and funny and played on brand packaging.  Like this one.

The gears of our imaginations started turning.  Oranges… Tropicana… Trump’s orange spray tans…  Trumpicana.

The Cover Conundrum

We were fortunate enough to be able to work with a talented cover designer from our previous projects, Jessica Jaffe, and she did a fabulous job of conceptualizing the overall look and feel of our book's front and back covers, however. we still needed an iconic image to be the centerpiece of our novella's cover.  

Finding someone who could manage the graphical challenge of illustrating Trump in a manner conducive to our satires was the illusive seed floating in a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. With one week to go, we had nothing except for a well-designed cover treatment about Trump… with no Trump visual. The first official, ‘Oh Shit,’ moment was at hand.

Out of pure desperation, in the insomnia-ridden hours of the next night, I took a chance.  I searched for the best caricature drawings I could find on the web and e-mailed three different artists. One responded with a note asking for more details. I sent an outline of the concept and after some back and forth negotiation, I was able to secure the services of Jason Seiler, a world renowned illustrator and caricaturist.

He went to task on Wednesday, June 29th. Over the course of the week, he posted several iterations of his developing visual.  Here’s what he shared, step by step, on Facebook:

The Trump orange was ready to fall from the vine and when it did, it plopped perfectly into place as the centerpiece of the book's cover:

TRUMPICANA: 100% Freshly Squeezed Satire

Available on Amazon/Kindle ($6.99 / $2.99)

I am proud of the final result.  It's quality from cover to cover.  Presley and I invite you to review our work.

If we strike a nerve, and we find that interest warrants a second volume --and stories for the sequel are already in the works -- we plan to give ourselves a bit more lead time, to develop Trumpicana, Vol. 2.