My next book now has a cover! Who wants to hear the story behind it?
I’ll tell it anyway.
The stories for most of my covers are fairly similar. It starts with me thinking up a picture of how I want the cover to look. Then I use a camera to capture this picture. It never works on the first try. Or the second or the third or… I usually end up beating my head against the wall for a while until the picture in my head decides it needs to change to match something I have to work with.
Then I have to put a title on it. Me and font don’t exactly get along. It’s not that I don’t like font. I love font. There are so many varieties. But that’s the problem, too many choices that all seem equally good to me. I keep slapping different titles on the cover until one of them screams “I’ll work!” or “Use me before your eyes start watering from staring at fonts.”
The cover for Everything Old was different. I didn’t know what I wanted it to look like. Given the title and description, a picture of old things seemed like a possibility. But I didn’t want really old things, dated was a better word. I needed a picture of old but not necessarily old old things. Who knows what vague means?
I went on a bit of a treasure hunt. I searched my house for things that fit this description. The only actual treasures are a couple of antique books. Both books on the cover are more than a hundred years old. Then I found an old phone and a cassette tape. The cloth and trim in the background are from a craft kit I inherited from my mom. The kit was packaged around 1970. My collected items now represented four decades and two centuries. This seemed like a good start, but how did I want to arrange this hodgepodge into a cohesive picture?
Well, at least twenty different ways, and I didn’t like any of them. I moved things around again and again. I asked for advice, which may have been a mistake. Everyone seemed to prefer the pictures with one of the books open. I took a lot more pictures while trying to prop open a fragile 150-year-old book without damaging it. None of them were quite right. I kept thinking I needed something to tie everything together. Then I had a thought, a memory. I’m old enough to remember when cassette tapes were the preferred media for music but not so old they weren’t popular when I was a kid. What kid didn’t long to pull out all the tape? It was always so tempting. A few times I actually pulled out a few feet of tape before I wound it back up feeling guilty.
Staring at my pile of random items, I realized I could literally tie it all together with the tape from the cassette. I’m no artist. I don’t know if pulling out the tape actually improved my pictures. But I know it was fun. I didn’t need that tape for anything. We don’t have anything that would play it so I’m not sure why it was even still in the house. Tape everywhere, pictures snapped, cover created. Woohoo.
Now the sad part. When I was finished and the tape was finished. I still felt the need to wind it up again. And I did.