Blue Moon Bay, by Lisa Wingate, has a cover image that made me long for sun and water and a wispy dress. I had to find out more about the book and what's inside. Here's Lisa to tell the tale of that arresting image:
"When I’m writing, I’m always having those swept-away moments, during which I’m living within the setting of the book. It’s like dropping off to sleep for a few minutes and having a really great dream, then waking up in the real world again. This can be such a bummer when the settings are glamorous and the real world offers up piles of dirty laundry and breakfast dishes in the sink.
"I never know when those daydream sequences will take over, but those are the moments that usually come to me when I imagine the cover. In Blue Moon Bay, because the setting is a quirky little community along a picturesque but mysterious lake, most of those moments involved the main character, Heather, spending time by the water. The book is set in the off-season, during winter, so I imagined solitary moments—the sort in which there’s not another person in sight, and you’re alone with your thoughts.
"The art department asked for input and one of the things that came to mind at that time was Heather’s love-hate relationship with her failure-to-launch brother’s obnoxious golden retriever, Roger. Roger was one of my favorite characters in the story. He has no agenda, and in a family struggling with unrevealed secrets, he’s the only one who’s not mad at anybody. He’s not the least bit worried about the family mystery, but he does have a hand in solving it.
"Usually when it’s time to offer cover suggestions, I search the stock photo sites and find photos that fit the idea in my mind. I found a photo of a woman in a jacket sitting on the end of a pier with her arm around a big, hairy dog, and it seemed perfect, so I sent that in, along with a few others.
"I later learned that the art department had hired award-winning cover designer Ann Gjeldum for the project, and she had just lost her beloved dog (the big, hairy sort, like the one in the photo). She really 'got' the connection between a woman and a pet. She worked extensively with the dog idea on the first round of covers, but many things seemed too skewed toward the humorous elements of the story. Even the more dramatic covers didn’t quite convey the mysterious and contemplative side. [See two dog options, below, along with other early tries.]
"There’s always a moment when a new cover shows up on email, and I close my eyes and hold my breath as it downloads (I live in the country, so until a couple years ago, you could suffocate, doing this on dial-up). When I opened my eyes and saw the [final] cover of Blue Moon Bay, I was literally fascinated with it. I kept looking at all the elements—the light shining through, the dress, the dock, the way she was taking each step cautiously, as if she were walking into the unknown. You get the feeling that this woman is only moments away from something life-changing, from a moment of discovery she both fears and craves. The cover deftly conveyed so many elements of the story. I loved it immediately.
"I have made suggestions on covers in the past, but I really didn’t have any on this one. It was simply striking from the first. The only concern I had was that the cover was a summer scene, while the book is set in winter (Texas Hill Country weather can be mild, but we don’t stroll the docks in sundresses here in the winter). There was an important dream sequence in the book, so I rewrote it a bit to include the summer scene there.
"The cover changed greatly from my original suggestions, but I love the look they came up with. After the fact, I talked with the art director at Bethany House, Paul Higdon, about the process. He shared several earlier renditions, in which Ann had played with the idea of using the dog. It’s interesting, isn’t it—the difference in mood conveyed by each of the preliminary covers, and then by the final cover. The final was the result of a third round of revisions. Paul’s reaction to the cover was, 'When I saw this one, I said this is it. Let’s work with this.'
"The final cover was derived from a stock image. Paul referred to the end result as a 'Tweaked found image,' and he shared a few of the secrets behind it. The woman’s hands and dress were altered, and the background was changed. 'We also emphasized the sunlight going through her, almost as if she is walking toward a spiritual awareness,' Paul said. They then put the cover together and sent it to the sales force, and the guys in sales loved it. Laughingly, Paul added, 'It’s mostly men who do our selling, so if they like it, we know it’s going to be like, ‘Buy me.’'
"As an author, that’s what the cover said to me when I opened the first .jpeg of the final version. It whispered, 'Pick me up and open me. There’s a mystery here, but there’s something wonderful at the end of it that you’ve got to see!' I love it when a cover tells me a story. I hope that the cover speaks to other people too."
Thanks, Lisa! I think most of the original tries are also lovely, but the final is by far my favorite. The sunlight is perfection.
What do you guys think?
Melissa Walker is the author of six Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy, Lovestruck Summer, Small Town Sinners and the upcoming Unbreak My Heart (pictured). She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily and the awkward-stage blog Before You Were Hot, as well as the blogger for readergirlz.com. Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissacwalker.
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