Lon contacted me about a guy named Sam Reaves. From his website, Sam was raised in small Midwestern towns but has lived in or around Chicago for most of his life. He’s also lived or made extended journeys in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East…and fluently speaks five languages. This is something I wished I could do (I barely remember my French and German!). He’s worked as a translator and a teacher, been president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and has published ten novels, seven as Sam Reaves and three as Dominic Martell. He currently resides in Evanston, Illinois. His work has been traditionally published, but he’s re-releasing some of it through Amazon.
Lon sent me some cover art he did for Sam, and one of them really grabbed me: A Long Cold Fall. I love “dark” and “weird” and I love that body position of the girl! And to be placed in that particular position…well, something isn’t right. In fact…something is far from right…there is weirdness afoot…and I am a fan of weirdness! And it’s placed high into the air. Add to that the title. The word “fall” is in there, and while the body is falling…its position is so…peculiar…so high above the ground. Is she falling? Is she suspended?
I contacted Lon about this cover, and this is what he had to say:
“Sam was referred to me through the mystery writer Chris Knopf. We decided to do one book first to see how it goes. He was taking an older print series and translating them to e-books. A Long Cold Fall was the first. The title is a play on a suicide and the time of season the action happens. After we completed it, he decided he wanted to release all the books in the series at the same time.
“A Long Cold Fall is the most ethereal cover. The book opens with a suicide jump. I did several versions and Sam liked the version we now have.
“There were some comments from friends about the body position, so we went back and forth with the angle. I tilted it back slightly, it gave it an odd feeling of falling but also floating, which upped the creep factor. Using the Chicago skyline in the background but not really indicating a place from where the fall begins creates visual confusion. Is she falling or flying? I always thought about it as the classic line ‘I saw my whole life flash in front of me.’ It is a sense of stop action, the moment in the descent when everything slows down right before the final crash. There is a certain beauty in that moment. We know what will happen, but everything seems so calm.
“It is interesting to note that since all of these books (four total) focus around the same character who, while not a professional detective, always seems to find himself in the middle of these mysteries, made me feel I needed to create some type of identifier that ties them together as a series. I developed a circular monogram that is in the same position on each book and picks up the color theme of the cover. A simple device that instantly lets a potential reader know that this is a Cooper MacLeish Thriller.
“Sam was great to work with. He had definite ideas, but basically let me go my own way.
“I think on all levels, the results were very positive. Another positive was I read all the books and enjoyed every one which made my job that much easier.”
Thanks, Lon, for your insight!
Well, then Lon put me in contact with Sam, so I asked him some questions, and here is what Sam had to say:
Sam…your thoughts on cover art?
“Get a professional. That’s what everyone told me. Don’t try and do it yourself. You need a good professionally done cover to sell an e-book.
“I had actually done it myself (with some help from my graphically gifted wife) for a previous novel I’d published through Smashwords, and I thought it hadn’t come out too badly. But by the time I had gotten back the rights to my first four novels, a series originally published by Putnam in the early nineties, and was ready to put them up as e-books, I had decided that professional covers were probably a pretty good investment. You gotta spend money to make money, they say. So I went looking for covers I liked.”
“I looked at a lot of covers. Some were brilliant and attention-grabbing; some were hideous. And yeah, the amateur ones didn’t make me want to click on Buy. The majority were just, well, ordinary. I wanted something that held my eye for more than a second or two.
“And here they were: a series of covers done for my friend Chris Knopf the crime writer. Slick, original images, colorful and dramatic. I e-mailed Chris: Who does your covers? Chris got back to me right away with Lon Kirschner’s name, adding that Lon was terrific to work with; he would actually read the books and custom-tailor an approach. It sounded like I couldn’t do any better than that.”
Have you ever worked with a cover artist before?
“I had never worked with an artist before; in my experience publishers just sent the author a proof as a fait accompli. I never felt I had enough clout to question it. I contacted Lon and sent him the first book in the series, my debut novel from 1991, A Long Cold Fall. The title is a pun on the season of the year and the method chosen in the apparent suicide of a woman who opens the book.”
Had you any specifics you did or didn’t want to see in your cover?
“The only definite idea I remember expressing to Lon was that I didn’t want a cover with another generic shot of the Chicago skyline. The first image he sent back was striking, the body of a woman in midair, silhouetted against a twilit sky. I loved it; my only reservation was that as depicted, more or less upright with arms spread, she looked more as if she were being borne up to heaven than as if she were falling. I asked Lon if he could make it unmistakable that she was falling. He said sure.
“The result was the dramatic image that now grabs prospective readers of A Long Cold Fall. I think it’s a great cover that captures the key image of the book.”
What did you like the most in working with Lon on this—or any other cover?
“Working with a professional who clearly took an interest in the book and made a real effort to come up with an image that fit the story made the experience a pleasure. Lon has now done covers for all four of my Cooper MacLeish novels, and they will be out there grabbing readers, I hope, for years to come.”
Thank you both for your time and effort, Lon and Sam! It’s been a pleasure!
Lon Kirschner may be contacted at:
Book Cover Site: http://www.lonkirschner.com/
- Kirschner Cover Art: “Clowns,” by F. P. Dorchak (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Kirschner Cover Art: In Pinelight, by Thomas Rayfiel (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Kirschner Cover Art: Grace, by Howard Owen (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Cover Artist Lon Kirschner Interview (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)