Sunday, July 24, 2016

The (Wine-Fueled) Journey of a Book Cover

My Muse and I haven’t been on great terms for the past few weeks. With the release of the Shadows of a Fading World anthology and the novelette Captured Possessions, I foundered, even though the third novel is well underway. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to resurface from this artistic void and finish the story. Maybe it was time to move on to something else? I wiled away the hours playing Oblivion and thought about working on other stories. As my husband and mom both pointed out, even Hemingway took a break from time to time. After all, I work full-time, am involved in a number of volunteer activities, and am running the PR for my own imprint. Finally, the characters of the third novel came back to me, even stronger than before. 

In recent weeks, I’ve appeared on Wendy Van Camp’s No Wasted Ink blog, and have become hooked on searching for my family tree on What began as a trip to the town where my great-grandmother grew up has sprouted into a new novel, and while I’m still in early stages of research, it’s brought me a lot closer to my family history—something I didn’t pay much attention to before. 

To be fair to the Muse of Words, in order to release Captured Possessions, I had to come up with a cover, so the Muse of Graphic Design had to take center stage for a while. I had long envisioned a certain image as I worked on the story: Eyes of flame looming in the clouds above a dark sea—either becalmed before or after a storm. I was so certain of this image that I bought the images from a stock photo site. However, when I got around to working with them in PhotoShop, the cover looked nowhere near as good as I had hoped. 
What followed was a lot of silly mayhem. I tested and bought numerous images—some were ridiculous but I couldn’t resist trying them out. Then a new vision struck: at first, I saw a close-up of a galleon’s rigging, the words emblazoned around it. I found several excellent images of galleons from the time of Spain’s war with England. Just as I was about to give up (it being after 1:00 a.m. and there was enough pinot noir to knock out a sailor)—the perfect image appeared. It spoke to the lead character and how alone she felt throughout the journey north to England, as well as showing the abandonment of the ship she was on after it was severely damaged after an explosion from a nearby ship within the armada itself. 
Here’s the story of how I got there: 

If you design book covers, what’s your process like? How drastically different are the covers that come to mind, or do you stick with one image and see it through no matter what? Do you share your ideas out on social media channels to gauge interest (or have contests to help decide), or do you rely on your inner circle of people who know your writing best? Which book covers have you found to be the most striking, and why? 

(post originally published February 23, 2014)