From the start, I named my soon-to-be-published novel, “Girl Running.” I had neither plan nor any notion for a sequel. When I ended up writing the sequel, I focused a lot on the protagonist Leila’s artistic bent, and I titled the story “Portrait of a Protégé.” It fits the theme of both novels perfectly—in fact, at one point, I considered combining the two stories into one tome, but it would have been so very unwieldy. Marketing-wise, two separate novels is better. For continuity, I decided upon Portrait of a Girl Running for the first story. I also had an idea for each cover, both comprising a watercolor concept—go figure, Leila is a watercolorist. One painting of a girl running and another of ‘the protégé’ as depicted in the second novel.
But then I had a big idea…
Since the story within a story works for me (that is, I really like the concept), I came up with the character James Grayson and encapsulated Leila’s story within his. Consequently, another cover-design concept struck me. And I could still make it work with the sequel by illustrating a painting in progress, by a man’s hand. Problem was, when I worked up the layout for Girl Running, the title seemed absurd and out of place—it didn’t fit with a man’s forearm and stack of papers. So, I changed the title to The Step-Up Man. It fit the story very well—in fact, there is a literary piece in the novel with the same title.
Then, it was time to work on a cover for Portrait of a Protégé (since I plan to publish both stories near-simultaneously). I knew what I wanted. I had the cheesy thrift-store prom dress, I knew the pose I needed, I knew the angle I wanted it photographed from. I wasn’t entirely sure about the lighting, but when my husband suggested, “Just let me try something,” I was game. The result was amazing—it wasn’t the bright background I had planned, and it wouldn’t fit with my original idea, but I loved the lighting effect. It’s dynamic and eye catching, just what I need for a book cover. Yeah, I knew it didn’t really go with the cover for The Step-Up Man, but I was so inspired that I got busy painting it. I’m very, very happy with the result.
When I started messing around with a promotional flyer for the two books, placing them side by side, it hit me full force how ill-paired they are. I may be a novice publisher, but I know enough to realize that a novel and its sequel should at least carry the same theme and some conceptual similarities, so even though I really liked the cover for The Step-Up Man (and the title), I decided to paint something that would look good beside Portrait of a Protégé. The same girl, of course, and the same chiaroscuro—but then The Step-Up Man would be an absurd title. So back to Girl Running…and because the covers are so similar, I tagged ‘Portrait of’ back onto it. I even thought I might paint a girl running, like I originally intended, but compositionally, that didn’t work for me. Besides, the ‘running’ is as much metaphorical as it is literal.
So, now, here is the official cover for the official title of my upcoming novel, to be published this fall.
Let me introduce you to Portrait of a Girl Running, along with its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé.