In traditional publishing authors rarely get a choice about their book cover. Created ‘in-house’ at the publisher or outsourced to designers, the cover is largely seen as the purview of marketing and sales, so even famous authors don’t get much to say about it. Therefore one of the unexpected pleasures of self-publishing was discovering that every aspect of the book could and would be the way I envisioned it. I was very glad about that, not so much because I wanted complete control, but because having spent five years creating the story and weaving in metaphors, unsurprisingly I had a strong feeling about the ethos of the book and what might work on the front.
However, it wasn’t until after my photographer Steve Varman began to do mock-up designs from the hundreds of photos he took that I really began to get excited. Not only was there much to choose from in terms of kinds of images, but for the first time, I was working as part of a team – a great thing after so much solitary work. Steve and I bounced around ideas, which initially was him trying to make real what I had in my head. To my utter amazement he did this quite quickly – a sign not only of a great photographer but also someone on my wavelength!
Eventually together we came up with a short list of final candidates. These we circulated to a small group of friends to see which one felt like a winner. Almost unanimously, people voted for the chosen cover, the first in the line-up above, the image of Eva contemplatively looking out the window. Steve loved the t-shirt photo, but a few people said it looked like teenage vampire/genre stuff. Meanwhile my personal favourite – because it was the original idea I had for the cover – the image of a stuffed bear and scattered toys, apparently suggested a child had gone missing or died. I didn’t want to steer the reader to second guess plot or to have many preconceived notions, so in the end, the contemplative image stuck – and I have to agree it’s a very good representation of what’s inside!
I think this series of photos is art in itself. It shows the way Steve and I played around with ideas and images. Using a 41 t-shirted torso was just one possible idea for the cover, and as I’d found the tee randomly, it seemed too serendipitous not to try and use in some way! Despite how great the photos came out, the 41 tee still lacked the gravitas and introspection of the book, and those we asked for opinions thought the image spoke more of a young adult novel than a work of literary fiction. I’m very glad we photographed the series, however, because I love how it turned out and maybe I’ll get to use it someday.