Behind the Cover: The Story of a Fierce Heroine
by Anna J. Stewart, author of Gone in the Night
One of my favorite days is when I open my email and get a look at my latest romance cover. All those hours I spend filling in the AFS (that’s Art Fact Sheet for those who haven’t had the torturous pleasure) pays off in spades. My faith has not been misplaced. The art department “got it” and…it’s gorgeous! Right?
I’m one of those very fortunate authors who has been thrilled with all my Harlequin covers. My first full-length book for Heartwarming? A complete homerun. My first two romantic suspense titles? I was giddy! You can imagine how excited I was to see the cover for my third story, Gone in the Night. Once again, I clicked Open to see what they’d come up with for Allie and Max’s book and…
I was speechless, which is not a natural state for me. The shock literally had me believing I was seeing things. Allie’s cover was…well, nothing like I’d expected, nothing like I’d hoped. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the cover, it just wasn’t…Allie. I probably should have realized something was up when my editor’s accompanying note said, “Tell me what you think.”
What did I think? Oh, boy. Um. First, where was my hero? As fond as I am of my heroines, let’s face it, heroes sell books. It never occurred to me they’d put Allie on the cover alone. Or that my psychologist Snow White-inspired heroine would look like Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Needless to say, I had some issues. So I did what any middle-aged woman in my position would do. I cried to my mother.
She knows Allie because she lived through my writing Allie’s story (poor Mom). My mother, however, liked the cover…just not necessarily for Allie’s book. So I went to my critique group and then one of my beta readers. We all agreed. This wasn’t Allie.
I emailed my editor and said, “I think we need to talk.” And so she called me. And both empathized and sympathized with me. For the first time, I asked if there could be a redo. She listened to my reasoning: that the image portrayed on the cover wasn’t at all the heroine I write about in the book. Allie is unassuming in her strength. She keeps that part of herself under wraps; it’s part of her character arc and growth and, well, she’s just not that physically aggressive. My main concern? Do readers connect with the character based on the cover? If so, then they were about to be seriously disappointed.
So I sat back and waited. Long story short, there wouldn’t be any change. But you know what? I was okay with it. Here’s why.
This is a business. A publisher will always do what is best for sales. I’d relinquished control of a lot of things when I decided to go with a traditional publisher. That they were willing to discuss a change says a lot about their dedication to their authors. I only have a few books with Harlequin, so far. That they would take a second look impressed me, and to be honest, that was more than enough. It also gave me the chance to step back and consider their viewpoint.
I write incredibly strong and independent heroines. I write heroines who don’t need a man, but when they find the one they want, they will fight tooth and nail to get him. They possess an inner strength, a determination to get through their story however they need to, and it’s that inner strength that the art department tapped into. That image of Allie you all see? The tough girl who will take care of business? That’s who she is on the inside. It’s who she strives to be and who, by the time she reaches The End, she’s ultimately become. The woman on the cover is the after version.
So, what lessons did I learn through this illuminating process? First, to pay very close attention filling out the AFS. Second—sometimes, someone outside sees your characters, your stories, your fictional world, in a way you don’t expect. Sometimes it won’t work out well. In the case of Gone in the Night, though?
It’s become one of my favorite covers. Not because it’s one of mine, but because it’s one of a kind. Because Harlequin and their artists had the faith in my story, in my writing, in Allie, to take a chance and go outside the box for a relative newcomer. So thank you, art department, for giving me insight into my heroine that I don’t think I ever would have had without this slight (ahem) emotional upheaval. My faith is restored.
Bring on the next cover. I. Can’t. Wait!
About Gone in the Night:
A childhood terror rears its ugly head in USA TODAY bestselling author Anna J. Stewart’s latest Honor Bound romance.
Psychologist Allie Hollister is still haunted by the unsolved death of her childhood best friend. She never expects her past to meet her present when a young patient is abducted and the cold case is reopened. Allie knows she shouldn’t get involved, but the child’s uncle, firefighter Max Kellan, needs her as much as she needs him.
Once, Max simply wanted to put his past to rest; now he demands nothing short of justice. As he and secretive, sexy Allie track a lethal criminal, their chemistry is an undeniable adrenaline rush. Their attraction will be put to the test when they confront their most dangerous threat yet: the truth.