Nothing in my life can ever compare to the thrill of meeting my newborn daughters for the first time. However, seeing my manuscript become an actual book, with a cover that proclaimed me as its author, came pretty close. Like Anne Bradstreet, who called her book the child of her brain, I feel a tenderness akin to that of motherhood for my novel, Ms. Murphy’s Makeover.
I remember the morning that Jack, an artist for Black Opal Books, sent me some possible cover designs. I had told him I wanted to explore the daffodil image in the book. These golden perennials, a symbol of hope and rebirth, and the subject of a beautiful poem by Wordsworth, seemed a perfect way to convey my story of a woman who blossoms into a new life. Following my suggestions, Jack produced a single open daffodil, pointing heavenward against a sky-blue background. Underneath the title, Ms. Murphy’s Makeover, my name appeared. I was an author! My first name was misspelled, but Jack said that was easily corrected. Once the correction was done, I was over the moon.
My family was not. My husband absolutely hated it. My daughter said the skyward- pointing flower suggested a religious experience, not a women’s journey. But in the end, it was my sister Rosalie who cast the deciding vote. She was scathing in her disapproval. “Jacqueline. That cover tells me nothing, nothing, about your book,” she complained. “It doesn’t make me want to read it at all.”
As always, I listened to my sister. I sent Jack back to his drawing board. “This is a book about sexual awakening, among other things,” I explained. “A collapsing marriage. A difficult work environment. And then, a cosmetic makeover. Perhaps an image of a woman’s hands with red nail polish, removing a ring?
A woman in a plunging neckline, wearing a dress as scarlet as Hester’s letter, was the next option Jack sent! I was crazed at the sight. This cover proclaimed soft porn, or maybe not so soft porn. My character, Charlotte Murphy, would never wear such a dress.
To my surprise and delight, Jack had read the book, and he agreed with me. In one scene Charlotte wears a black dress, over the objections of her husband.
A black dress silhouetted against a champagne background, Jack suggested, would be sexy, yet classy. Much better, my husband said. Daughter and sister agreed. And so, the cover was born.
Recently, seeing that familiar image in a stranger’s hand almost was a religious experience. A perfect stranger had selected my book in a public library! Rosalie was right. Perhaps, you can judge a book by its cover.