GOING UNDERCOVER…

Part-way through what I hoped would be my final rewrite of Project Overkill the penny dropped that I’d need a cover. Even at that stage I was sure I knew the sort of thing I wanted but had the advantage of knowing an artist, and I approached her for ideas.

Cherie once owned a graphic design business in London and subsequently moved to Shrewsbury to open a delightful ‘individual’ shop where you could buy anything from unusual greetings cards to a dolls’ house. She was always busy when I went in but still made time for my doubtless gauche and naive questions.

When I outlined my thoughts she suggested I visit Waterstones and look at covers of titles of similar genre to my own. Excellent advice, but Overkill is intentionally cross genre before reaching its central plot. So I decided instead on a cover that would depict a scene from the novel. I wanted strong female hands above a computer keyboard, with a swishing black tail somewhere significant.

A week later Cherie produced an excellent working version of what I’d asked for and a few good reasons for why it might not work. Suitably chastened and knowing her life had recently become even busier I retired to lick my wounds and reconsider. I still wanted something from the book but this time felt a portrait of one of the main characters at a pivotal part of the plot would be right.

 

 

I Googled around; downloaded; retouched, and came up with this. I loved it! It was just right! This was Marcia at her moment of truth when her life would never be the same again. Full of joy and confidence I furtively showed it to a couple of people. ‘It looks a bit graphic’ was one response [even though I’d toned it down considerably!]; the other was ‘what is IT?’. I explained ‘IT’ was Information Technology; everyone knew that. ‘Are you sure?’ came the reply.

Suddenly I wasn’t. I needed advice again and by great good luck a friend knew a local graphic artist called Joel Stone. Hesitantly I contacted him and we met. After telling him my life story and showing the ‘IT’ cover he asked if he could read the novel to give him a feel for the content. It was finished by now and I sent it to him. He read it; asked a few questions; talked about captions and produced this. The monochrome effect would suggest night and duality and black and white was also very appropriate because there is plenty of both sorts of ‘magick’ in the novel. The pentacles were my idea I think but Joel engineered them perfectly.

 

 

 

I followed his suggestion to kick his cover around with the other ideas I’d had in mind and let him know the outcome.

Someone I know from my book club took a look and said Joel’s was the one she’d take off the shelf. I then showed the options to some friends and family and received no end of flack from my daughter.

“I don’t want my father having an 80s porn star on the cover” she said of the ‘IT’ image. ‘You’ve spelt ‘magic’ wrong said someone else, and was unimpressed when I explained it was the correct spelling for this book. My daughter’s partner, after I told him a bit of the plot and my early wish for a cat produced on his own initiative a selection of feline options expertly put together on Photoshop. I still have them as a memento; they are very good.

The heat went up. Like me, all of them are individuals with their own opinions. Someone walked out of the room in exasperation and my agent took me aside to patiently explain the cover decision was normally outside the talents of the author. That is why publishers have their own people to work on them before showing the writer their final decision. A third suggested that using the ‘80s porn star’ version would need a rewrite and that in no way would they want to be associated with it.

Ninety minutes later, feeling I was sweating blood, I asked them which they would choose from what they had in front of them. Unanimously it was Joel’s. I thanked them, genuinely, and at the same time promised myself I would never put myself through this again. If ever they read this they’ll probably echo the same sentiment.

Since publication the book has been reviewed favourably and people have told me the cover is memorable. It is. He was right. They were too. I wasn’t. The experience doesn’t tell me how anyone else should choose a cover for their book but it tells me how I should. Easy: go with Joel. That’s why he has me again for The Shrewsbury Murders. Here’s his latest blog about it: http://bit.ly/YEOV9G  Already it’s proving a challenge! In addition he wants to take me to task for my Facebook comments about The Dark Knight Rises so I may well be in double trouble when soon we meet.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! If Ms. J S-C has me back I’ll see you again early 2013.

 

 

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