Cover design is happening

Terrific news from my publisher last week. The cover design for This Wild, Wild Country is in the works.

I’m not going to give too much away just yet. But I can talk a little bit about the cover design for The Long, Long Afternoon. I get asked a lot about the cover. Who created it? Did you get a say in it? How is a book cover decided?

Getting the cover right is crucial, both for the author and the publisher. The author wants a representation of their vision for the book. Once the cover is revealed, the book finally becomes real.

The publisher, of course, has another motive: sales. A cover needs to pop, it needs to stand out from the crowd of books on a book shelf. It needs to appeal – but not necessarily to everyone. A good book cover entices the kinds of readers who will love the book, not all readers everywhere.

Author and publisher will work together on a design that both are happy with. While the publisher has the final say (after all, they’ve got the publishing rights), they won’t want an author to be upset about the cover. It is normal for covers to go through several versions – even the text placement needs to be carefully thought out.

Above is the first concept proposal for The Long, Long Afternoon’s hardback cover that I got to see. Alot of the elements are already there. The broken plate, the curtains, the flowers. But I was still able to make changes and comments. I ran the cover past my family, and my sister suggested adding the stain on the cupboard that could be food… or blood!

The final cover really stands out from other crime novels. It is bright, sunny and charming… but the broken items, the burnt turkey and the knife prominently sticking from the chopping board give it an air of unease. The kitchen looks lived in, but abandoned. The food has been lovingly prepared, then left to rot. The geraniums are peering in, ready drop their blood-red petals all over the scrubbed sink.

I’ll tell you a secret. Can you see the shadow of a man in the light streaming onto the floor? He’s hard to spot, but he’s there…

Fresh footage from Altamont

Today, few people have heard of the Altamont Free Concert, which took place on 6 December 1969. It was supposed to be the “Woodstock of the West” – a gathering of Hippies, drop-outs and music lovers from California and beyond.

Instead, it turned into a bleak, violent and deadly event, which was later dubbed the end of the Hippie era. Meredith Hunter, a young festival attendee, was killed by several Hell’s Angels, who had been hired to provide security during the event. There were reports of rapes and other violent episodes.

Carlos Santana plays at the Altamont Free Concert

The Altamont Free Concert plays a minor role in my new novel, This Wild, Wild Country. It is the reason my band of Hippies abandons California and heads towards New Mexico, where they hope to rebound from the experience and renew their ideals.

The US Library of Congress has just released some new footage from the festival, showing 60s rock legends such as the Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana and Grace Slick. The footage does not throw any new lights on the events of that night, but it shows the stark contrasts that defined the – and perhaps contributed to – the slow decline of the Hippie movement.

The era created some incredible talent and revolutionised so many aspects of society, but it was also marred by chaos, conflict and fragmentation. The Hippies threw the rulebook out of the window. But then, where do you go from there?

3rd draft submitted

Phew….

I’ve just submitted the third draft of This Wild, Wild Country to the fabulous folks at Manilla Press. I can’t say much about it yet, but my second novel will be set in New Mexico in 1970 and feature a murder in a Hippie Commune.

It’s been tough writing the Hippies. They are so easy to ridicule, yet they really tried to do something different. I wanted to take them seriously for what they were aiming to achieve, rather than mocking their style and slang. Hope I’ve succeeded.

Hippie slang sounds cliched to us now, but it was totally real, man. Just check out this rad advert for bongo drums. Far out!

Source: Lileks Tumblr