Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress won't be on the shelf until February, but its cover has already caught many an eye. The story about a devoutly Baptist Southern belle who wants to preserve the illusion of her family's monied past (despite the loss of the money part) sounds fantastic. And that cover? It intrigues. Here's Mark to tell the tale:
"I don’t start thinking about a jacket early on in the process, but the art department at Little, Brown asked if I had any ideas. I told them that I was very happy with the jacket of my previous novel, One Mississippi. A lot of readers told me they picked up that book because they liked the image on the cover, the cool green.
"One Mississippi’s cover (below) was an expanse of green lawn, with part of a boy who is mowing the lawn. I loved the typography and the design. I wanted the new book to look like a sister to the previous book.
"I suggested that if they wanted a graphic image representing the story of Georgia Bottoms, they might put a Viagra tablet on an old lace tablecloth. Thank God, they had a better idea.
"When I first saw the cover, I was shocked. To be honest, after six novels, I have grown accustomed to really hating the first concept for the jacket, and working through as many variations as the art department and the editor will tolerate, in order to come up with something nobody hates. Usually when nobody hates it, there you go. I have been lucky to be at great publishers with great art departments, but my books are unusual and a little hard to illustrate.
"In this case, though, the final product is surprisingly close to the first rough sketch I saw. The color was different, a kind of olive green. We adjusted the type some, and the art department used its mysterious dark arts to improve the image and make it feel multi-dimensional.
"But when I saw it, it worried me, because it was the first concept I saw, and I really liked it. And that’s not supposed to happen. So I didn't trust it. Eventually I realized, it’s terrific. Don’t toss it aside just because it’s the first one you saw.
"We talked about the color, and they came up with this hot bordello red that looked wonderful. And we fiddled with the type a little bit. They all took my suggestions. They’re very good that way at Little, Brown. They really want you to have a finished book that makes you happy.
"It’s a stock photo. I have a feeling I’m going to be asked about them everywhere I go, and I've found out that they are Manolo Blahniks.
"I really like this cover image. I think it does what a jacket should do... it intrigues. Who is this girl and why does she have her fabulous shoes propped up on this old granny sofa? I think the best cover images set a scene... remember the hardcover image on The Prince of Tides, designed by Wendell Minor (left)? In a way, this little image of the woman’s shoes has a scene-setting quality that reminds me of Wendell Minor. I like it.
"About the second minute I was looking at the image I noticed that at a certain distance the shoes have the effect of a couple of hoods on Klan robes. As always in my books the fact of race is always somewhere at work in the story so I like that echo.
"I think the image makes the reader want to find out, who is this girl with the very stylish shoes, and why has she plopped down this way on the chair?"
Thanks, Mark! That is exactly the question that popped into my head when I saw this cover (well, that and 'Who makes those shoes?!'). I hadn't noticed the Klan echo, which I find even more intriguing.
What do you all think of this cover?
Melissa Walker is the author of four Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy and Lovestruck Summer. She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily and the new awkward-stage blog Before You Were Hot. Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com.
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