Friday, November 19, 2010


Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

TGIF. This is my first Friday blog and I can only hope I can fill the mighty Keds of the wonderful Shane. I know Meredith the magnificent, my co-Friday blogge,r will hold up her end. Now, I just need to step up.
I have officially arrived. Getting to pick the artist for a cover is like a screenwriter having casting approval or a low-level accountant with the power to choose a publicly-traded company’s auditor. It just doesn’t happen. Except if you’re Stephen King maybe or Janet Evanovich. So if I’m out there interviewing artists, you know I’ve hit the big time. Naturally, I’m in a good mood about that and ready, willing and able to think inside and outside the box to come up with a gripping cover for my new book (still being referred to as “the book”).

I loved the artist who did my first two books and I never met him or her. I don’t even know her name to thank her for rendering my beloved Koko so closely based solely on a description. I don’t want her to think I didn’t appreciate her choice of color or font or never suggesting I go with a pseudonym instead of the eleven letters and one space in my given name. She was a perfect fit for my first series which was light and a little Lucy Show meets Columbo. And her covers invited readers to the party.

But the new series is darker. Set in Los Angeles, the protagonist, a new detective named Michael Morrow and his tainted by the Rampart scandal partner are suddenly on the task force for a serial rapist turned murderer. It’s a red ball. By that, I mean it is a media case. The victims, from good neighborhoods and families, are young, beautiful and ruined. For this, a different ascetic is needed. Something that reflects the darkness of the crime and the spotlights of the location.

At first, I though a crime scene photographer would be a perfect selection. I’m not sure why, but actual photographs as the cover of a book is rare except in the true crime section. Ann Rule has used mug shots on several of her books to great impact. I took my new video camera to the actual spot where my imaginary victim was found and walked the crime scene the same way I think the detective would. I added some crime scene tape, flags for evidence spotting and a chalk outline for the body (she is remarkable similar in shape to me). Maybe one of the stills would work. Done by someone with actual skill at this sort of thing since my five minute movie had a Blair Witch Project shake to it and an audio track that included me explaining to several homeless men what I was doing and no I didn’t want to earn a quick ten dollars. I didn’t know audio was automatic with the start button.

So who? Most crime scene photographers are just techs who take pictures as part of their jobs. There usually aren’t dedicated photographers. But there are others who could get that picture. Too bad Arthur Fellig or Weegee isn’t available. Considered the master of getting the first shot, he was a journalist whose has had some of his work bought and hung by the Museum of Modern Art. He’d be good. If I could convince the publishing house that a crime scene photo (staged, of course) would make for a good cover, Weegee would be my guy if he were still around.

Maybe my cover should be a newspaper front page. The Los Angeles Daily News. It always feels more local to me than the times. Or even the Los Angeles weekly could run a cover story. It would make sense. The serial rapist has been dubbed the Club Kid Rapist and the weekly includes all the bands and events at all the clubs plus an article or two. To belay fears, the club venues could include parking lot escorts, mandatory valets and subsidized rides home. It’s colorful with headlines and multiple stories. Too many? Would they be a distraction from the title and the plot? Maybe.

What about something completely different? While on vacation recently, I fell in love with a sculptor named Tolla. All of her work have multiple meanings. My favorite, Give and Take, not only tells a tale about balance in the universe but both the title and the underlying meaning might work for my new book. Give and Take? A good title? One person Michael Morrow, fighting to find the killer, the other, a killer one step ahead and forever shifting the case? Would it work for you? Or am I just talking myself into spending like crazy on a piece that speaks to me? Isn’t that what the cover is supposed to do? To speak to the reader? To whisper, pick me up and take me home? Yep, that’s what it’s supposed to do.

Thanks for reading and letting me know why you choose the books you do. Is it the cover? What about the cover?



Meredith Cole said...

TGIF Gabi! Great first Friday post. Love the sculpture. Isn't it fun to think about designing a cover? It really sets the mood for a book, and makes a huge difference to me when I'm browsing for a new read.

Shane Gericke said...

This IS a great Friday post. You have more than filled the teeny shoes of what's his name who used to squat in this space.

I like the newspaper photo thing. News photography is an underappreciated art, particularly in this day of videos. You just can't beat the emotional impact of a you-was-there photograph.

And it's so nice to see two cool people moving into my old slot. Yay, Fridays!

Graham Brown said...

Great Post Gabi - FYI if I had to design a cover it would end up having stick figures and no one would know what the heck it was supposed to be. So Ill stick to my part: writing. As CLint Eastwood once said - "a man's got to know his limitations."

Shane Gericke said...

I'd love to design covers. Art is kewl.

Gabi said...

When we get to pick our covers, we'll know we're 'big time.'

Gabi said...

We still miss our Shane.

Gabi said...

You have no limitations, Graham, but I don't want you distracted either. Thus, art school and girl watching are off the list.