What’s in a Book Cover?

Fling_fullcover_4-13-15 copyIn a recent interview, I was asked to discuss the cover art for Fling! and how it pertains to the story.

It gave me an opportunity to explore more deeply the role this particular cover has in embracing the novel’s contents.

I knew that I wanted to get the Venus of Willendorf image somewhere on the cover because her shape resembles Bubbles’ body (Bubbles is the irrepressible 90 year-old character that steals the story), and it has a central place inside the sphere.

I’m not sure what process Kelsey Rice, the designer, went through in coming up with the cover, but she captured the overall feeling of the book. The contents are somewhat offbeat and quirky. The cover mirrors those qualities. I also love the way Rice inserted text that hugs the partial sphere: “A madcap journey of an aging mother her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinatory heart of Mexico’s magic.”

I also think the colors capture the feeling I wanted to convey about Mexico, including the mysterious, almost phantasmagoric quality of the country. The black surrounding the sphere has minute flashes of light that suggest the heavens and how we all emerge out of darkness, just as these characters do.

What’s in a character’s name?

I was having dinner with friends the other night that had read my novel Fling! They wanted to know how I came up with the main characters’ names—Bubbles and Feather. When I tried to pinpoint the moment when the names tumbled onto the page, I couldn’t.

When I worked backwards, I realized that all three generations of women, from the youngest, Feather, to the oldest, Feather’s grandmother and Bubbles’ mother, were named Heather, just as I was originally named after my mother, Lily. Since it would be too confusing to have all characters using the same name, I had to distinguish them. Heather, the grandmother, retained her name. The shift from Heather to Feather was easy because of her hippie/new age origins and interests. It was clear she was going to be out there in many ways, floating like a feather through life.

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I think Bubbles came to me in one of those moments when the character actually named herself. Heather would have been too staid a name for this character. It didn’t capture her effervescence and overflowing life force. Bubbles also is rotund, like the ancient statue of the Venus of Willandorf, an image that’s on the front and back cover of the book. So the name captures some of that quality as well. But the word bubbles also has a negative aspect, which the character also does: she acts at times as if she were trapped in a bubble and it prevents her from interacting fully with others at important times.

Once the main characters’ names became clear to me, so too did their personalities and how they needed to be developed. In many ways, the foundations of the work fell into place at that point, though, of course, I still had many hundreds of words yet to write.