The cover of Lisa O'Donnell's The Death of Bees struck me instantly. The varying shades of blue, the illustrated scene, the wobbly title font -- all lovely together. Here's Lisa with the story behind the cover:
"What I had in mind for the cover was a photographic image of a dead bee lying in a heroin-stained teaspoon, but I thankfully never shared that idea with anyone, not even the publisher. Book covers clearly are not my department.
"I trusted Harper 100% to come up with the best cover for the book. The beautiful illustration of the US cover is by designer Richard Ljoenes. It was the first cover Richard produced for The Death of Bees and it’s also been adopted for the Paperback release in the UK. I’ve actually had readers stroke it in front of me. They go crazy for the raised font.
"The understanding of what I had written overwhelmed me and I was flattered that someone was able to illustrate such perceptive insights into the book. As authors when you write a book you feel like it belongs to you solely, but the illustrator for your cover must tell their own story and invests the same passion for the work as you do. They are the gatekeepers to your world.
"I’ve been a very lucky author and have always been included in all aspects of the publication process. It was the same at Random House in the UK. When the image was available Harper Collins sent it to me straight away. I remember opening the file and feeling a slight squeeze. I didn’t know what to expect, but I fell in love with it immediately and I was relieved to be honest. I’d been getting on so well with my editor I’d have been loathed to say 'I hate this' and on some level I was worried I might, fortunately that wasn’t my fate.
"The publishers always wanted to put the girls on the cover and though I wasn’t sure about that at first, my head was definitely turned when I saw the design. Everyone wanted to convey the playful grimness of the premise, but I didn’t know how effective that was going to be, that’s why I was nervous when I opened the infamous JPEG, but it was love at first sight. I adore what Richard has created.
"The visual influence of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt (hardcover edition, left) inspired Richard. He wanted a similar bold, minimal, graphic approach. For the title treatment he aimed for something a little Tim Burton-ish...eerie, but elegant and playful at the same time.
"I was immediately drawn to the two shadows of Nelly and Marnie. Are they walking towards the graves or walking away? It doesn’t matter because in the story they are trying to do both. There’s also something very dangerous and dark in the cover and yet at the same time, playful. I especially like the way the artist illustrates deathliness beneath the weeds without the reader having to see a dead body.
"My favorite thing about the cover and I didn’t notice this straight away is the inclusion of the dog on the back. Jason Arthur of Random House in the UK astutely observed and noted in my first draft of The Death of Bees an absence of Bobby across the story. He was like 'Where’s the dog?' I had introduced him at the beginning in the original draft and then I forgot all about him. In the second draft however I decided to use him as a comedic devise wherever I could. As a result Bobby becomes as important as everyone else in The Death of Bees. To see him wagging his tail on the cover and sniffing at the ground made me laugh out loud when I consider how he might never have made the cut at all and there he is amidst the lavender, the almost forgotten terrier. I love that Richard did not forget him."
Thank you, Lisa! I love the full jacket wrap and the dog's inclusion. Perfect.
What do you guys think of this cover?
Melissa Walker is the author of six Young Adult novels, including the new paperback release, Small Town Sinners (pictured). Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissacwalker.
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