I started typing a long reply to Brian in the comments section on the previous entry and decided that a quiet Saturday morning, 10 days out from publication, is as good a day as any to start the annual tour blog.
Brian made some interesting observations about covers, and I found myself writing:
Covers matter. It may be true that one can’t judge a book by its cover, yet people do, all the time. I know I do. And I firmly believe that it was the cover of WHAT THE DEAD KNOW that helped that book break out. It managed to be mysterious enough for my primary audience, crime fiction readers, yet it also appealed to people who don’t generally read mysteries.
And in the case of LIFE SENTENCES — the cover rescued a title that was going to be jettisoned. I had been asked to try to find something a little more poetic. I never mind such requests. Titles, like covers, are part of the book’s marketing and publishers are well within their rights to fuss over those. Besides, I suck at titles. At any rate, I was dutifully trying to find a new title for the book when the cover art arrived. I loved it from the start. Good girl that I am, I quickly shot my editor an e-mail saying I loved it and I would try to come up with the new title soon. Although, I added, I couldn’t help noticing that the cover worked with the title I believed to be a placeholder. (The cover’s at www.lauralippman.com, which the “My Website” link above will take you, if you’re curious.) Because while, on first glance, it’s a somewhat melancholy picture of a young girl, it also feels a little like a mug shot.
John Irving, via T.S. Garp, said famously*: We are all terminal cases. LIFE SENTENCES isn’t about prison terms but about all those stories we accrue over a lifetime, the polished anecdotes in which we explain ourselves to others — and ourselves. But those stories can become traps, too, glib little prisons that gloss over pain and ambiguity and nuance. For example, I love to tell the story about how a boyfriend broke up with me — over chicken fried steak, a food I detested, and the first solid food I had since dental surgery days earlier — by announcing he was moving to Guatemala. It’s a funny story and it’s essentially accurate. But I’m not sure how true it is. Let’s put it this way: I think he did the right thing. He needed to get away from me and that meant getting far away, to a place where I couldn’t/wouldn’t follow.
Meanwhile, ‘fess up: How many people here do, in fact, find that covers matter when buying books. And who among us has a glib anecdote or two, a story buffed to such glossy perfection that it’s a little less true than it should be?
*In the spirit of The Memory Project, I relied on my memory in quoting this. Now I’m going to see if I was right.