Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cover Story: Lesley Livingston and the cover of Wondrous Strange

Before I get into the little ditty from Lesley Livingston, I just want to say that this cover has to be, easily, one of my favorites. Not only does it have a gorgeous model, but the photography, coloring, and general layout is fantastic. I have been looking forward to this book since I came across Lesley's myspace a month or so ago. What really attracted me to click on her space, was the cover art of WONDROUS STRANGE. I hoe you enjoy reading the story of how this cover came to be, I know I sure did!

1. How did the cover of WONDROUS STRANGE come to be?

If anything, I think it came about because I managed – without actually realizing it – to somehow mightily please the Goddess of Awesome Cover Art (she who is appeased only by the midnight dances of fledgling novelists under full moons, accompanied by chants of 'please-don't-let-my-cover-suck-please-don't-let-my-cover-suck'...)!!


The first I ever saw of my cover for WONDROUS STRANGE was when I opened up an email from my editor at Harper Collins, Laura Arnold (a goddess, herself), and... and... and there it was. There she was. And slowly the dawning realization seeped over me... Boy. That SO does NOT suck...

In fact, it was perfect. It was everything I could possibly want in a cover design for this book. The tone was right, the mood was exact, and the staggeringly beautiful young model they found to represent Kelley, my MC, was. just. perfect. Brilliant.

I have to say, it was the strangest sensation! Because it was absolutely NOTHING like what I had imagined it would be. And it was EXACTLY right. The model was even the same age as Kelley!

I spent the next few minutes on the phone with my (yet another goddess) agent, Jessica Regel, getting giddy about the thing. This was the raw photo, mind you – without the title or anything, and it still had to be touched up and color balanced and all that – but we were both pretty sure right off the mark that we LOVED it! So we called Laura and told her as much, and I was very touched by how thrilled she was that we did!

When I asked Laura about the process behind getting such a gorgeous shot, she told me it went something like this:

My brilliant designer (and – you guessed it – goddess) hired a photographer (also a goddess – obviously!) whose online portfolio she really liked; the photographer held a model casting session and hired the girl (goddess!) you see on the cover; and then about a week later, had an all-day photo shoot.

Because (at that point) I had been signed to a 2-book deal (it's now officially a trilogy! Yay!), they decided to shoot both covers at the same time so they could use the same girl. So they built two entire sets, covered them (and our lovely model!) in glitter (which doesn't really show up in actual shot!), and had a rack of designer dresses ready. Most of the day was spent shooting on a mossy-bank set (book 2) and then at the very end of the day they shot on the mirror-lake set (book 1).

Laura also told me that they were all gathered around the monitor watching the shots come up on the screen and she and my designer, kept looking at each other and saying, "I can't believe how beautiful this is!"

Yeah. I REALLY hit the jackpot, let me tell you!

Now, I know you had asked me if I had any early versions of the cover that we could post to show the progression but, the truth of it is... I don't! What you see is pretty much exactly what was first presented to me. And I'm well aware that such a thing is really somewhat rare!

2. Were you apart of the decisions about the cover of WONDROUS STRANGE?

I was consulted before casting and shooting about what qualities would I really want/ not want to see in whoever they chose as "Kelley", did I picture her auburn hair as more strawberry red or a deeper shade (deeper), things like that. Laura had also asked me to send along any pictures or images or impressions that had inspired me as I wrote (I forwarded a couple of pre-Raphaelite paintings and a few other scattered images that I had drawn on while writing).

That was pretty much it. I would get the odd email update as to what stage things were at. (I chewed my fingernails and refreshed my email almost constantly for weeks...)

And then, when she sent me that first image, Laura asked both me and Jessica for any notes to pass on to the designer (there were very few – mostly just stuff that was going to be dealt with in touchup anyway).

I have no idea what would have happened if I had hated it. I think there would have been a lot of discussion then with my editor. But, thank the Cover Art Goddess, I didn't have to find that out! I hope I never do!!

3. Is the final cover what you had in mind for WONDROUS STRANGE?

I really don't know what I had in mind. I'm a very visual person, normally, but I think I kind of mentally shied away from coming up with a strong idea on my own. I was just so excited to see what the HC team would come up with. They did not disappoint.

4. Is there anything you would want to change about the cover of WONDROUS STRANGE?

Not a single darn thing. My design team GOT my book.

5. Are you happy with the final product?

OH YEAH. Now, I know authors who were not as fortunate as I have been thus far. And I know how hard it has been for them. Lately, there has been some truly breathtaking artwork appearing on bookstore shelves – frequently in the YA section! It's a marvelous trend. But, of course, I've also seen really ugly cover art and I've seen bland cover art. I've seen cover art that bears little-to-no relationship to the story inside. Cover art that depicts people or situations that do not even exist in the novel. It happens all the time.

So I thank my lucky stars – and the people responsible for the cover of WONDROUS STRANGE – every single time I look at it. It's funny, you know... I think every author daydreams about what their very first book cover will look like. It's something that is so often out of your control and yet, in some ways, what goes on the book is almost as important as what goes in it. I hate to say that but we all know that books are so often judged by their covers.

Now, just for a bit of fun, I thought I'd share with you a little ditty that is sometimes bandied about at literary conventions. It's about inappropriate cover-art and it's called...

"There's a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book!"(sung to tune of "She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain")

There's a bimbo on the cover of my book...
There's a bimbo on the cover of my book...
She is busty, blonde and sexy,
She is nowhere in the text, she
Is the bimbo on the cover of my booooook!

Cheers, and thanks again for asking!

Lesley Livingston
Author of WONDROUS STRANGE, coming in December 2008 from HarperTEEN

1 comment:

Chloe Whitehorn said...

How about some credit (ie names) of the photographer and designer? Yes, they're goddesses. But goddesses with names?