The Making of a Book Cover 3.0

The seed that gave rise to Jessica and Callihan’ s story was an experience I had when I was a working actress in Boston. Like Jess, I booked a job at a theater over an hour’s drive north of Boston in the middle of the winter. Like Jess, I called in to a radio station when I got home one night to try and win a contest. Like Jess, I ended up chatting with the DJ, who invited me to call in again, and again. Unlike Jess, I did not fall in love with Nik Carter, but I did truly appreciate our flirtatious late-night chats.

After I decided that Jess’s story would be about her and a DJ, I wanted to put both main characters in a situation where falling in love over the phone would be a positive thing, and meeting in person would be tricky for them emotionally for some reason. What I ended up with wasn’t exactly what I’d planned (Pantser writer here) but I hope you’ll be as happy with the result–after I wring your heart a bit–as I am.

To the Cover Design!

I used Pinterest boards again to communicate with designer-and-author-extraordinaire Lana, as well as sending her character descriptions. Cal’s board includes his Portuguese heritage, flowers and their meanings (which inspire his tattoos) and his ever-present hoodie (telling you why would be a spoiler, so I won’t).

In earlier books we learned that Jess does choreography for Shakespeare Boston shows, but here we learn more about her passion for ballet. Her Jewish heritage is part-Russian Ashkenazi, part-Moroccan Sephardic, and I used the actresses Emmy Rossum (hair and face) and Emmanuelle Chriqui (skin tone and body type) as inspirations.

I knew I wanted this cover to have a purple background; that felt right for the winter-into-spring setting of the book. With the theme and the title, I knew I wanted a vinyl record on there somehow. Initially I had the idea of a ballerina spinning on top of a record, like on the top of a music box.

Lana had a different idea. As you can see in the initial sketch below, she suggested having Cal spin an outsized album between them.

I loved the color palette she chose, as well as the way she incorporated the record album, but there were lots of details to iron out. Jessica’s hair is described as having a life of its own, so it had to get bigger (we all wanted bigger hair in the 80’s, after all) and her breasts needed to be larger (for plot reasons). I also wanted her to be more petite and him to be more muscular. For reasons that are spoilery, I wanted the reader to only see the right side of Cal’s face, so I had her flip their positions.

Additionally, I wanted to make sure he didn’t look too contemporary, so I directed her to the website Boston DJ Julie Kramer created to collect the many photographs she took at WFNX in the 80’s and 90’s.

Lana did some sketches, and many emails back and forth across the many time zones ensued regarding 1) the details of Cal’s attire, 2) how I wanted Jess to be shorter (Lana had to remind me that she’s en pointe so she looks taller), 3) their skin tone (which somehow got much darker in one version) and 4) the monsters in Lana’s son’s closet.

Then after much discussion, we found a look for Cal we could get behind. The last thing was figuring out where the tag line should go. Without hesitation, I picked the one on the right, and we had our cover!

Let me know what you think! And get ready to read this this heart-rending but happy-ending retro romance, where it may be the last year of the eighties, but the tale is only beginning for a beauty and her guardian angel.


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