Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Behind the Cover for A Borrowed Dream

Back by popular demand!

Yes, it's true.  So many of you have told me how much you enjoy my blogs about the cover design process that I plan to blog about each of my books' covers. I'm undoubtedly prejudiced, but I think the covers Revell has given me are gorgeous, and I continue to be fascinated by the amount of work, attention to detail, and sheer artistry that goes into each one.

While a number of people are involved in the creation of each cover, major kudos go to Art Director Cheryl Van Andel, who's responsible for the entire process, and graphic designer Dan Thornberg of Design Source Creative Services, who turned Cheryl's ideas into the cover you see.

The process always begins the same way, with a questionnaire that each author completes. In it, we describe our characters -- not only their physical traits, but also their personalities -- and the basic setting of the book. We're also asked if there are any landmarks that play a prominent role in the story. You'll see how that information is used in the design.

Catherine Whitfield, the heroine of A Borrowed Dream, is a beautiful brunette who's also the town's schoolteacher. Though she was once a carefree young girl, her mother's death has left her with a deep sorrow.

Cheryl and Dan took that description into account when they chose Jenna as the model and again when she posed for the photo shoot.
Though Jenna's smiling here, she's much more serious when she's portraying Catherine. Does that sound as if she's an actress? Perhaps ...

Once the model is chosen, the next step is finding the right clothing. As a teacher, Catherine normally wears skirts and blouses, so Revell gave me a choice for both.

While each of these blouse selections has its own appeal, none of them felt right for the time period. Fortunately, there were other choices, including this one:
To my delight, this design was virtually identical to one I'd seen in my favorite historic costume book. It was perfect for Catherine.

Next came skirts, and again, I had a choice.

I had no strong preference for one over the other, and neither did Cheryl, so she let Dan decide which would work best. As you'll see, he experimented with both during the photo shoot.

As is often the case, the photo shoot for A Borrowed Dream's cover took place in front of a plain white background.
Notice that Jenna is wearing the first of the skirts here.

And here she's in the second. Don't you love the bare feet?

Here she is again in the second skirt.

I liked each of these poses, but there's no doubt that the one that was ultimately chosen is my favorite. Why? It captures both Catherine's somber side and her optimism.
And so, with the photo shoot complete, it was time for Dan to work on the background.

As part of the author's questionnaire, I mentioned that while a schoolhouse might be good in the background, it needed to be made of stone, not a frame building like the schoolhouse on the cover of Tomorrow's Garden.

Dan found a wonderful stone building to use as the starting point for the background.
Notice that I said "starting point." If you compare this to the schoolhouse on the cover, you'll see a number of changes.

  • The whole picture has been flipped, so it's facing the opposite direction.
  • The Texas flag was added to the flag pole.
  • The bell tower was removed from the roof.

But what's a school without a bell? To add more interest to the cover, Dan created a free-standing bell that would be easier for the pupils to ring. He started with a bell.

When Cheryl sent me the next picture, I wondered how it had been used, since there are no birdhouses on the cover.
Then I realized that Dan had used one of the fence posts to create a post for the bell. Clever!

Now that the basic elements were complete, he added grass, bluebonnets, and clouds. With the addition of the title and my name, the cover was complete. Or was it?

There's more to a book cover than the front and spine. Back cover copy is almost as important as the cover itself in helping readers decide whether or not to buy a book. Fortunately, Revell has a staff of experts to write the back cover copy and choose all the elements that make it as appealing as the cover itself. I'm always amazed at how well they capture the essence of a story in only a few paragraphs.

With everything approved, the cover was ready for printing. But, wait! Did you notice that something changed between the photo shoot and the final cover?

Yes,  Catherine's skirt became blue. Not only does the blue complement the blouse better than the original gray, but it highlights the bluebonnets and the title. This is yet another example of Dan and Cheryl's attention to detail and their determination to make this an eye-catching cover.

Did it catch your eye? I hope so. And I hope you enjoyed reading about the whole cover art design process. It's one of my favorite parts of the journey from raw manuscript to finished book.

I've included more information about A Borrowed Dream along with an excerpt on my web page.  And if you'd like to order a copy, here are some buying links:
Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors


  1. I am always fascinated by what goes into your covers! I love this cover and can't wait to read the book!

    1. One of the many great things about being a Revell author is being involved in the cover art process. Now comes the hardest part -- waiting to hold the first copy.

  2. My goodness, what a huge and complex project it is putting together a cover for a book. Amanda Cabot's book covers always compliment her novels beautifully. Well done.

    1. Revell never takes short cuts on covers (or any other part of the publishing process), and that shows in the finished product.

  3. I'm impressed. I know a lot of publishing houses (including some of the big ones) don't put this much work into a cover. You're very fortunate to publish with Revell...and they're fortunate to have you as an author as well.

    1. A lot of work and money goes into each cover, particularly historicals, since they need to rent the costume or, as in the case of Waiting for Spring, have one custom made. And you're right -- I feel fortunate to be a Revell author. Everything they do is top notch.

  4. I love reading about the covers and seeing all the details going into it, thanks for sharing! Cannot wait to read this!!

    1. Kristie -- Isn't it fun seeing how a cover is developed? I'm always intrigued -- and a bit amazed -- by the process and am glad you enjoyed reading about it.

  5. Great article. I've never been quite than involved with my cover process. But I still think they do a great job with my covers too.

    1. Revell does a wonderful job on all our covers. I particularly like the one they created for These Healing Hills. It captures the essence of the story beautifully.

  6. I enjoyed reading about the cover, although I must read the large prints.
    A Borrowed Dream in large print has a beautiful schoolhouse on it, like I
    attended. I have enjoyed all your books and waiting for a Tender Hope. I have rechecked Paper Roses out from the library. Thank You, Pearl Bird

    1. Pearl -- I'm so glad you've enjoyed my books. Like you, I prefer large print books, because they're easier for me to read. (The hard covers are nice, too.) But the covers on the originals are the best!