You can relax now. After several weeks of pissing and moaning and looking at hundreds (okay, dozens) of websites and covers in bookstores and the local library, I've found my cover artist, Todd Hebertson. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd just asked the good folks at booknook.biz in the first place. When I emailed them looking for the AWOL Dustin Ashe, they told me others were also looking for him and he'd apparently disappeared. Again. I couldn't wait for him to show up and asked for suggestions. Indira suggested two possibles, one of whom was Todd Hebertson.
So I looked at his website and his work was professional, but the images not quite what I was looking for. More weeks, more banal covers, more pissing and moaning. Finally I decided to check Todd out. There's a lot to be said for professional. He emailed me back within the day. He didn't ask for clips or the ms of the book, just a synopsis and technical specs. Not a good sign, I thought. How can he come up with images that fit the book if he's not read even parts of it?
He didn't. The first proof came in a day or two. I loved the layering, the layout and the font and he'd somewhere found a photo of the Krause Music Store in Ravenswood (where the book opens) taken before the huge tree grew up that blocks photos now. But the cover looked like a romance novel: Seraphy had a page boy, wore a suburban car coat, looked like she was on her way to teach kindergarden, and the cover was in shades of orange. Arghh. Try again, I said.
If I'd been thinking, I'd have realized Todd couldn't read my mind and it was not his fault I didn't manage to tell him what sort of image I had in mind (I was used to Dustin, who reads the clips and presto! a brilliant, perfect image appears. If he ever gets to it). I thought about exactly what image I wanted. Make the figure smaller, I said, and in silhouette, and get rid of the orange. Blue or green or gray are okay. I sent a slew of photos of Louis Sullivan's work I'd taken in Ravenswood to give him the idea. And a page of the coded WWII journal that leads Seraphy to the killer (I had fun writing that using a toothpick and instant coffee on watercolor paper).
The second proof was better, but now it was a nasty greeny-yellow I hated and Seraphy was still too big, wearing leggings and her shoulders slumped--not a housewife, but a sad sorority girl. Okay, I said, kill the shrieky green, think Williamsburg blues and greens, make the figure smaller. Look at photos of Adam Lambert and Lisbet Salander (The Swedish version,w/Rapace, not the American one) and make her edgy, not ordinary. Todd was now answering emails in one word. I figured he was about ready to see me off to Devil's Island.
All this has me thinking about word and image. If the artist hasn't read the book (and that would take far more time than usually feasible), how do we tell another person, who has totally different life experiences and visual referents, what we want our cover (illustration, whatever) to look like? What words will mean the same thing to him as they do to us? Todd is of a different generation from me and lives in Utah, while I am in central Illinois, so different cultures. Somehow we did it and he created a cover that expresses the love of architecture and mystery I wanted, and better, the multilayered story. Good on you, Todd Hebertson!