I Literally Do Not Want To Be Literal

I hired my cover artist.  She is an amazing, truly gifted individual who is kindly putting up with my crazies without so much as a grumble.  As we’ve previously established, readers, I’m “nuts-over-this book”… so her ability to work with me…well, lets just say, that’s says a lot about her good will and tolerance.

When we first started bouncing our ideas around through e-mail, I was very literal.  My book is about tapes, so, naturally I was on board with “lets put a big honking tape on the cover.”  Actually, okay, that imagery was what I’d always imagined.  A tape, with the film threaded into a heart.  It is, after all, the basis and heart of my story.

Then we did…and I was…not loving it?

No.  I didn’t love it.  I didn’t feel like I was looking at the cover of my book.  It was pretty, it was close to what I wanted, basically–she nailed it (she’s very talented, by the way)…so, the blames all my own, my vision changed.  I did something called my research.

Covers, in my genre, are very rarely literal beings.

Take, for instance, the best selling novel, THE HELP.  The original cover  that first drew the crowds and accolades is a soft buttercream yellow with three birds resting peacefully on a fine wire laced across the page.  It doesn’t have a maid or a vacuum or  a book, even though those were things that constructed the crux of the story.  No, none of those things are pictured.  It sends a different message.  I read it as this: some little birdie told me and the fine line they’ll walk to tell the truth.  My mother sees it different than I do–something about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–but I wasn’t getting it her way.  My point is, Stockett didn’t spelled out, it’s not showing you a snap shot of the story…it’s engaging you, piquing your curiosity.

TWILIGHT (insert: groan and me asking if you’re tired of my obsession yet) isn’t about an apple per say, but the battle of temptation, the forbidden fruit, is a beautifully cryptic message.  That was Stephenie Meyer’s goal, she said so herself.  Visit her website to see some of the literal drafts she 86’d in favor of the epic one she decided on.

That brings us now to the newest book cover I’m mildly obsessed with is, THE TASTE OF SALT.  A stack of sugary sea glass resting on weathered driftwood planks.  It’s a lovely way to show affinity for the sea and is visually stunning as the glass variates from pale pink to aqua–a perfect compliment to the dried out boards they lay upon.  But, the book isn’t about sea glass or driftwood, it’s about addiction and family.  Yet, the book sings of the ocean–which is a component, the protagonists much loved career–only, the water is not the soul focus.

My book is set in the Olympic Peninsula.  A place full of trees and salt water, moss, and meadows of emerald grass–all visually stunning, all worthy of being put on a book cover celebrating the glory of natural beauty.  But, I decided I wanted lavender on my cover.  Which, by the way, was a total accident.  I was just puttering around Shutterstock.com trying to find something that would hone in on the story.  And it wasn’t really until I saw the picture that I felt it.

Do I talk about lavender in my book?  No.  Did Kathryn Stockett talk about birds?  No. Do Bella and Edward walk around picking apples all day ?  I don’t think so.  While I feel slightly…off…about abandoning ship and going in a totally different, unexpected direction…I have no doubts. (I should also add that I felt terrible guilt over putting my cover artist through the ringer–she is sweet and accommodating, I’m crazy and unsure but serious and dedicated.  Of course I felt awful about the bait and switch…poor girl).

Here is a little known fact, something I’ve failed to mention and even left out of my book:

In the heart of the Olympic Peninsula, the Dungeness/Sequim area more specifically, there are plentiful family owned “you-pick” lavender farms.  Endless fields of sweet smelling purple florals. There are markets and festivals because of these luscious blooms that perfume the air every July.

July also happens to have deep significance in my book–but you won’t find any hand-feed spoilers here, folks.

So, long story short, it fit.  Rather perfectly.

But, even with all of that serendipity oozing off the open pages on my computer, I never drew the parallel until I read the word that sold me the vision.  Devotion. The lavender flower is a gift of devotion (thank you: research).

Click, Click, Click!  I had a moment!  I asked myself, ‘isn’t that’s what my story is about, the devotion a mother feels to her child…always?’  My answer: Yes, actually, it is.

Here I am…Saturday night, 28 years old with a good looking husband…and I’m buying fonts.  I spent the day trolling a bookstore, not to buy, just to look. I’m clicking away  e-mails on the microscopic keyboard of my iPhone to the cover artist, what about this and can we do that.  In a word, I’m devoted.

So, someday if you pass over the thumbnail of a lavender bunch on a vintage burlap sack, that may just be my story inviting you in.  Inside and out, you’ll find devotion.

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