I have a thing for fiction with food on the cover. There's something both comforting and elegant about, well, a bag of peppers. And comfort and elegance are not two things that go together often in my world. So I had to ask Jael McHenry about her cover for The Kitchen Daughter (out today). Here's Jael:
"The original title I had in mind when I was writing the book was Simmer, and in my mind the image on the cover was always a pot. Like a red enamel pot on the stove with a little blue flame under it, and some steam escaping from under the lid – the book is about ghosts that come to the kitchen when the main character cooks, so I had in mind this ghost-like vapor cloud drifting up out of a pot, on a dark background.
"My editor asked for some ideas to show the art department – other covers I liked, other images. I sent an image of a pot like I was thinking of, and some other neat images I found. Mostly minimalist stuff, interesting shots of burners, kitchens, vegetables. A red onion on a purple background, that kind of thing.
"When I first saw the cover, I thought 'That is a great cover!' and then 'But maybe not for my book…?' At first I thought it might be too sexy, which may sound like a weird thing to say about a bunch of peppers in a bag. But the shape of the bag is the shape of a woman, so it’s not so farfetched. The more I looked at it, the more it grew on me. It really requires you to take a second look. Is it a bag? Is it a dress? And those colors are just beautiful colors. The red, the gold. It’s so eye-catching.
"I was curious if a few things could be changed, and I asked about them – what if the bag were off-white instead of black? What if it were apples instead of peppers? – and that’s when I found out it was a photograph. It was kind of all or nothing. My agent suggested I sleep on it, and when I woke up the next morning I thought, 'Wait, if it’s a photograph, can somebody else use it first? What if someone else gets this cover instead of me? I better make sure no one can steal MY cover!' And that’s when I realized I was totally in love with it. And I let my editor know right away that I wanted to go ahead. (And made sure we had exclusive rights.)
"There were a couple of font tweaks, and we moved the title up a little bit. That’s all. (See the two side by side below, final on the right.)
"I feel so lucky to have this cover! I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it, and I always have to ruefully admit that all I did was say yes.
"But in addition to being a great, eye-catching image, it does fit thematically with the book, in ways that didn’t occur to me at first. This particular combination of dark red and yellow-gold has an Italian vibe, which fits with the characters. And the bag itself, it suggests a woman’s shape, but only through absence. The absence of certain people in this book is as important as their presence. And the shadows cast by the bag give the whole thing a ghostly feel. It’s just such a rich image."
Thanks, Jael! I love all the meaning that's nestled in this cover, as well as the subtle color and font tweaks that make the final cover pop. I didn't notice the shape of a woman at first, but now I see it very clearly and it makes the image even more lovely, I think.
The book itself is making a splash, too. O, the Oprah magazine, says, "McHenry writes passionately about food and foodies... While Ginny is wonderfully single-minded about cooking, her fresh, sharp story has as many layers as a good pâte á choux."
What do you guys 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 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.