Cover Me

I have a new cover.5de59-stcover

I’ve liked all my covers well enough – some more, some less, as is the way of things.

But this cover? I love it. And in a curious kind of reversal, in some ways the cover is responsible for the book.

I wrote this book in 2009 and it was a bit of a mess. I would probably have given up on it but for the fact that I had a grant from the kind people at the Department of Culture and the Arts, and felt beholden to actually produce something.

I wrote it and rewrote it and moved scenes around and moved them back again and deleted them altogether and stepped away from the manuscript and started over – again and again. I tore out metaphorical chunks of hair and really thought the whole thing was dead in the water.

I left it sitting for a while. I’d lost all sense of whether it was any good or not. I felt odd about sending it to my editor. I feared it was still a mess.

Eventually, I shrugged my metaphorical shoulders and decided I may as well just send it and see what she thought.

In July last year I got an email saying they liked it, and wanted to publish it. In February this year. Which is very fast.

Because it was so fast, I thought, well, for once in my life I’ve written a book that doesn’t need a lot of editing. I was relieved but also vaguely uneasy, because I’d thought the book had problems, and if it in fact didn’t, then I had no barometer at all for such things.

Both luckily and unluckily, I was wrong. The short lead time was no indicator of the quality of my manuscript. It was an indicator of there being a slot in the publishing schedule that my book would fit nicely into, if only I could get it ready in time.

‘Ready’ in this case, meaning substantially rewritten, rather quickly.

I almost lost courage. I was sick of the book. I had lost sight of what I was doing. I had no real feel for the characters. I had no faith in my ability to recognise what was wrong with it or how to fix it.

Then two things happened.

The first was that I had a fantastic conversation with my editor, who nudged me gently towards a vision of what the book could be, if I could only find a way to get it there.

The second was this cover, which, because of the tight schedule, was sent to me in draft form quite early in the rewriting process. When I saw it, I may have gasped. It was a cover for the kind of book I love. It was a cover for the book I wanted this book to be.

I converted it into wallpaper for my desktop so it was there every morning, every evening, every everytime I turned my computer on, and I set off, at once inspired – to write the book that would live up to the cover – and anxious – that I couldn’t, that the cover would end up being gorgeous packaging for a lacklustre story.

When the going got tough, I set the writing aside and just stared at the image, reminding myself of what I was writing out of and towards. I watched that figure plunging down and down towards the drowned town. I reconnected with my character. I found the heart of my story. And now, finally, it’s a book.

I’m hoping I pulled it off, but I guess time, and readers, will tell.

9 thoughts on “Cover Me

  1. Meg McKinlay

    Yes, a good thought, though I'm not sure it's an 'artist' thing as such. As far as I understand it, covers for unillustrated books tend to be done by in-house designers using stock photos and that sort of thing and are not often credited.

    I'll check in my copy when I get it back (only have one and it's on loan at the moment).


  2. Anonymous

    An excellent blog post – quite inspiring for me, actually… I too, am visually motivated. Congratulations Meg. (Frances MF)


  3. Meg McKinlay

    Thanks Frances and Kate. Frances, it's interesting – I always say I'm not a visual person, but I think it's a bit more complicated than that. I can feel a blog post coming on …

    And going back to my first anon, I checked on the artist/designer issue and was told that the cover was created in-house using a combination of a number of stock photographs. So there's simultaneously no one specific to mention, and many people to credit.

    The inside cover says the cover image is copyright to istockphoto and Antonis Papantoniou. I'm not entirely sure how AP fits in – maybe the original photographer for the central image? – but I thought I'd put his name here so that if he auto-Googles, he might come along and fill us all in…


  4. Mary Witzl

    What a great story, and what a great cover, Meg. I love the idea of a town at the bottom of the sea — having to swim down to find it.

    It's wonderful that you found so much inspiration in a picture and a conversation, and that they kept you on the right path towards your vision of the book.



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