Over the years when I imagined artwork for the cover, I knew it had to be in the tradition of “women’s art.” A friend had a wall hanging made of fabric with three generations of women, their arms entwined, which I often envisioned on the cover. But after finalizing the title, I realized the cover art had to convey the three women using imagery rather than actual figures. What to do?
Then I thought of Mimi – Mimi Babe Harris, a friend from high school in Rochester, New York, an accomplished artist whose work over the last five decades has encompassed a wide variety of media and who has taught art at the college level. I loved her work – because it was all about women and because it was skillfully executed, vibrantly colorful, ever so witty. So I picked up the phone. When Mimi told me about the quilts she was making, I knew that’s was the concept. And I loved the examples of the work she emailed.
After Mimi read a couple of chapters and we agreed on contract terms, I asked her to create some quilt patterns using three colors: purple for Mary Louise, blue for Carole, and pink-red for Christy. Meanwhile, I emailed Mimi’s examples to another artist-friend from high school, Johanne Chandler Renbeck. Jo’s response to the floor-quilt with the huge daisy was practically a command: “Go with the flower.” Indeed, all three characters flower, each in her own way, in the course of the novel, and the flower became a recurring theme throughout the book. So Mimi agreed to incorporate that into her design, with the suggestion that small hearts could burst out of the center of the flower. Her mock-ups blew me away. Yes, yes, yes. But when I unrolled the actual artwork so I could have it photographed, I gasped. The hearts in the center of the flower popped out so vibrantly, as though they were in 3-D. I cried I was so thrilled. Mimi hadn’t just succeeded at conveying the concept, she had exceeded it — by executing the artwork so beautifully, so powerfully.
No wonder everyone who sees the book responds so positively to the cover. It makes people want to buy the book. What more could an author want – especially for a book about a controversial topic!
My words of advice for anyone who plans to self-publish a novel: Don’t settle for just any cover art. It pays to have an image truly reflect the essence of your book. And if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who’s a talented artist, the process of collaboration will not just deepen your friendship, it will also enrich the artistic value of the image.
Susan Elizabeth Davis