In a perfect world, every book would have a perfect harmony of story, title, and cover. Of course the world isn't perfect, even with a book named One Perfect Rose.
It's often difficult to recall how I've come up with a story, but I actually remember the origin of the plot for OPR. I had been writing my Fallen Angels series, which was built around four men who had attended Eton and became close as brothers because they all needed a family. Other friends appeared so the series got longer as more intriguing men appeared on the scene.
Having written six books (in what was originally conceived as a trilogy <G>), I felt it was time to wrap things up, but I'd become intrigued by Stephen, the Duke of Ashburton, who was the older brother of Lord Michael Kenyon. Their father had pushed them into estrangement, but in Michael's book, Shattered Rainbows,Stephen tries for reconciliation, and basically puts the pieces together when Michael hits rock bottom.
One thing Stephen said in that intense conversation was, "drop the Shakespearean melodrama." Hmm. Stephen liked Shakespeare and the theater. Which led to him falling in with a traveling theatrical troop when he runs away from home after receiving a chilling medical diagnosis.
The theatrical troop included an adopted daughter who had been given the name Rosalind when she was rescued from the streets. Hence, Rosalind became Stephen's perfect rose, and I instantly had a title! I've very seldom had a book gel so well and quickly.
The title lent itself to the original cover: a scarlet rose on a white background. As a launch for a new program, the book was produced in a small, mass market sized hardcover. I was on tour in St. Louis when the book was released; when it hit the New York Times list, my editor sent one single perfect rose to my hotel room. <G>
The quality of that hardcover was great–the paper and binding still look brand new twenty years later, unlike typical mass market paperbacks. My editor had a copy of my signature embossed on the original cover. I was not thrilled with that–my signature is not a thing of beauty. But it was distinctive! When the mass market came out later, it had more normal typography: prettier and easier to read.
Years passed, I got the rights back to OPR, then resold them to Kensington, my current publisher. They created a very pretty cover, though it always make me think of a Western dance hall girl. <G> But the red gown was striking, if anachronistic, and there a guy there, too. (Who looked rather like a saloon gambler, a good fit for the dance hall girl. <G>)
The wheel turned again. Earlier this year I got the rights for OPR back from Kensington so I could release my own indie editon. For the first time, I got to create my own cover, working with my designer, the amazing Kim Killion. One Perfect Rose is seventh and last in my Fallen Angels series, and Kim had created wonderfully branded covers for all six earlier books. OPR needed to have that same look while also being distinctive.
The hardest part of cover design is finding the right image, and much searching is required. I like having a couple as a clear signal that the book is a romance, and I want the image to be emotional rather than merely lustful. (One reader described my covers as "the moment before the kiss," which I like.) Image hunting isn't easy, but once a suitable image is found, a good designer can crop it, change hair and clothing colors, or drop against a different background.
Here is the image I chose from iStock.com, with their watermarks all over it. It's much more Georgian than Regency and her raised knee looks rather silly to me, but I loved the intensity as they gaze at each other. The man looked rather young for my Stephen, but the image had the emotion.
So Kim bought rights to the image, cropped it down to focus on the couple, gave him more whiskers, and made her blonder. What took longest was choosing the color for her gown and the title band that runs down the left side. I wanted a rich, dusty rose rather than a more usual red, so that took us several tries. But this is the result, and I love it!
So that's the cover odyssey for One Perfect Rose, spelled out in detail for those of you who get a kick out of such things. What do you think? Do you prefer an object, like the rose? A hero, a heroine, a couple? Or anything as long as it's pretty?
There are no wrong answers. <G>