A lot of girls dream of the glamour of being a cover girl. The thought never crossed my mind—ever. The closest I have come was when Teri Hofford, a brilliant photographer, took some glam photos of me. These photos, for the record, made me very nervous and uncomfortable. This had nothing to do with Teri and everything to do with me and my self-consciousness. The exercise was necessary.
My resistance to being a cover girl changed with the publishing of our first book Along Comes a Wolfe.
Along Comes a Wolfe started as a self published book. We had the image of a wolf on the cover as Wolfe was one of the main character’s names. However, when we moved forward with Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, a hybrid publishing company, we new changes were coming—including the cover design. The wolf was gone. We were okay with that.
The journey to the new cover was a process.
Heather (our hybrid publisher) sent a mock up cover for us to see. Dave and I really liked what Heather presented. We had never just given a task to someone else so it was interesting to see what she came up with. When Dave and I left the call he messaged me privately and asked my thoughts—like what I really thought.
My first reaction was honest and positive, just as it had been with Heather. “Honestly Dave, it looks cool. I like how sharp it is visually. I love the textures. The maroon color. It’s polished.” A little too polished I thought. Then there was a long, long, long pause. Finally I broke the silence. “It’s not menacing enough.” The story is a murder mystery yet the cover felt visually clinical to me—strong but clinical. Dave and I needed time to think.
Asking the questions
Sitting on the couch, in my small home, legs crossed, sweat pants, messy bun (not cover girl glamorous at all) I started asking myself questions. I asked if my knee jerk reaction that the cover needed to be more menacing was accurate. I asked who is a menace to the victims in this book? Who is a menace to the antagonist? What objects or situations are menacing? What do I personally find creepy or unsettling? I pondered for a long while.
Confessions of a closet weirdo
My weird is loud and proud. It’s not in the closet. You’re about to learn something about me that a lot of people don’t know. I don’t even think my closest friends know (well they may if they read this). The image of smeared lipstick grosses me out. It actually unsettles me. David Lynch is known for using that imagery in his films—Yuck! I don’t like it at all. I like lipstick and I like when I take a sip of coffee and leave a lip print but the mess of it on someone’s face, and around their mouth, clown like smeared makes me uncomfortable. With that in mind I kept moving forward in my brain with this cover idea.
Make up! Props!
I pondered a little longer. I got up, went to my drawer and took out my darkest MAC lipstick and applied a generous amount to my lips. I walked over to where I keep my clean, white, garbage bags. I took one out and kissed it, leaving a lip mark like one you may see on a love letter. I pulled it away—studying it. It wasn’t smeared. It was pretty, like an Andy Warhol silk screen. I pressed the bag against my mouth one more time, dragging it this time. Smeared. Gah! Gross. I could feel the look of disgust on my face. I snickered.
This wasn’t creepy enough. How could I make it more creepy and menacing? And, here’s where some of you may judge me but like I said, loud and proud baby—
You can’t unread the following.
You’ve been warned.
With the most casual shrug I put the bag over my head, took a deep breath, pulled it tight and took a series of photos. I lifted the bag off my face like a balaclava and peaked at the image. Crap! The camera wasn’t reversed! I got three photos of the other side of the room. Shit! I did it again this time aware of the way the camera was facing. The fact that I did this twice without thinking of how weird it might actually be says something about where the limit of creative problem solving lies for me.
I sent Dave a text. It read I did something weird tonight—This isn’t it. I sent off the image of the two lip marked photos. Those were followed by two more images of my face pressed behind plastic. The text that followed that image was okay call mental health…
Dave loved it. He later told me that he never winced once at the weirdness of the image nor did he pause at the idea of my face in it. He passed it on to Heather. Heather gave a quiet ‘wow’ when she realized it was my face under the plastic that would go on the cover. Maybe she judged me or maybe she just really liked it. In any case I managed to make a creative menacing image that sat very well with my writing partner and my publisher. Excellent.
There is a process for everything. Albert Einstein said If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes defining it, and five minutes solving it. He’s right.
And that’s the story of how I became a cover girl, sort of.
- The lipstick is called Velvet Teen which if you read the book has its own accidental
symbolic meaning. Pretty cool.
- I’m not into auto-asphyxiation. I felt it should be said.
*The original story was posted in part on OCTOBER 24, 2016