Saturday, May 12, 2012

Conception to Cover: the Journey of a Rancher and a Rock Star

My lovely daughter
Every book starts with an inspiration—for some it’s a setting, sometimes a particular character, for others it’s a situation. In the case of “The Rancher and the Rock Star,” my inspiration was born out of a conversation with my daughter when she was still in high school. She loved Elton John, which made her a bit of a musical outcast since he was not remotely of her generation. During our chat she said, “Wouldn’t it stink if you got to meet your hero and he fell in love with your mom?”
The lovely Elton John
Eureka moment—Gray Covey was born. A Juilliard-trained rock star who started out playing clarinet in his school band, something he shares with Kim Stadtler, the heroine’s fifteen-year-old daughter and one of Gray’s biggest fans. When Kim first meets Gray, she’s head-over-heels, but devastated when her singer has eyes only for her mother, Abby.

 “You scared him away. It was Gray, Mom! That was my chance to really meet him, but I couldn’t because every time I tried to talk to him you were arguing about Dawson.”
“Kimmy, I couldn’t make him stay. The truth is he doesn’t belong in our world.” Abby’s heart gave an unhappy thump.
“But, if you’d just been nicer to him.”
“I tried to talk Gray into letting Dawson stay. He just couldn’t. It’s that simple.”
“But, it was my dream-come-true. Maybe he might even have liked me.”
Ahhh, the real truth. It didn’t matter to a fifteen-year-old if her love—not to be confused with a mere crush—was twenty-nine years older than she was. Love was love. Abby had squashed it.
“He’s pretty good-looking in person, isn’t he?” She gave her daughter a hug. At this point, she could afford a little sympathy and a short, shared fan-girl moment. Maybe it would help them both.
“Oh, Mo-om.” Kim buried her face in Abby’s shoulder as they walked. “He’s gorgeous. Gorgeous! And he hugged me and held my hand and everything. He’s amazing.”
And he kissed me and everything … Abby kept that fan-girl moment to herself, laughing instead at Kim’s theatrics.
“Yes, darling, he did. You got to meet him and he was very nice.” And stubborn. And clueless about his son.
“He should have stayed. Or let Dawson stay.” Kim pouted like a pretty princess.
“I admit, I thought that could have been a good solution, but he is Dawson’s dad.”
“That’s just weird and creepy.” The princess disappeared. “I can’t believe Dawson didn’t tell me. Even when he saw Gray’s pictures were all over my walls.”
“I’m sure he thought it was pretty creepy you find his father sexy.”
“Mom!” Kim hid her face again, clinging to Abby’s bicep and giggling. “I suppose it did gross him out. That’s so cool.”
“Young people are cruel.” Abby tugged on her pony tail.
“I’m not cruel. I just wanted a chance. I almost had it.”
“You have a strong friendship with Dawson, and Gray knows you now. He won’t forget you.”
“You think?”
“I’m sure.”

After dreaming up the story, I spent long hours imagining look of the finished book. I admit what I got was nothing like what I’d pictured. TRATRS’s working title was SONGBIRD, and although I didn’t expect my publisher, Avon, to keep the title, I imagined something similarly lyrical. My choice was “Rock and Roll Heart,” but my editor suggested THE RANCHER AND THE ROCK STAR as “more in-your-face-romancey.”

I was dubious. After all, Abby isn’t really a rancher—she keeps eight horses on forty acres in southern Minnesota. I thought perhaps the title sounded a little too much like a series romance, and others had equally strong reactions. One fellow author was succinct: “No!” My mother was far from certain. My crit partners were adamant that it didn’t have anywhere near the appeal of “Songbird.”

It was a fellow Avon author who put it in perfect perspective: “It’s a wonderful title. It has built-in conflict, the alliteration is catchy, and it’ll grab the attention of the cowboy and western romance fans who are rabid for stories right now.”  And, of course, the most compelling argument of all was, “They are Avon and you are not.”

So, THE RANCHER AND THE ROCK STAR it was, and I started practicing the name – rolling it around on my tongue, adding it to my signature line, starting to love it.

 Finally came the cover art. Because I’m slow to learn, I was pretty convinced, again, I knew what to expect. This wasn’t a story that lent itself to a naked torso man. In fact, I described the picture I wanted in detail to my editor. It would be something like this: 
If you look closely--he has a guitar slung across his back.

Shortly after I sent in my cover ideas I got this back:
Clearly a very naked torso man! And, I’m proud to say that my very first thought was, “Wow! Those  jeans are hot!”  After that the concerns hit. Cover model guy is a fair amount younger than my hero. Gray has dark hair. And one crit partner wanted someone to “give that boy a belt.”  But really? There were no other concerns. Jeans play a prominent part in the story. There’s a scene where Abby takes a picture of shirtless Gray walking up from the pasture. And, as another friend said, “Liz, nobody is going to look at his face.”

A little finagling got us the fence line and the guitar in the background. And the first time I saw the title fonts and my name – well, let’s just say tears were involved. The tears of someone who’s fallen deeply in love!

This one has my name on it -- does it really matter what else is there?
So there you have the journey of my book from conception to cover. My mom—who is one of my biggest supporters—sent disclaimers about the cover to her octogenarian friends but included the book proudly. (I love this—a perfect solution for reaching those who wouldn’t have picked up a naked torso man book!) And my new fans have told me that I “lucked out” in the cover department. If that’s not the definition of successful marketing, I don’t know what is. As for me? All I can say is: Thank you Avon. I love my cover!

And for everyone who’s asked (and many have) – nope, don’t know Mr. Model. Yes, if I ever meet him, I’ll give him your numbers.

What about you? What kinds of covers do you love? Are naked torsos not your thing? Do you like scenery? Do you like couples?  I have copies of THE RANCHER AND THE ROCK STAR, featuring my naked torso man, for two commenters today.  I’m so happy to be debuting as a contributor to Get Lost in a Story—I need to share the love!


Rachael Johns said...

Can I have your daughter? I want ideas like that?! This book sounds awesome. Will add it to my TBR list.

Gillian Layne said...

Congratulations! It is a great story, and I love reading about your journey. Looking forward to reading more. :)

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

Not only am I in love with your story, I'm crazy about how you got there! The background is just as good as your fiction!! Congrats all around!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Rachael!
My daughter is pretty cool -- she's now an equine veterinarian and she unwittingly hands me plots all the time. There's a lot of her in my books--probably because she's one of my biggest heroes. How 'bout a story about a young racetrack vet who sees a doping scandal and doesn't know how to stop it? I also stole her lemon-of-a-Chevy Suburban for my current story--she thinks it's hilarious.

I sure hope you enjoy TRATRS if you get the chance to read it! Thanks so much for coming by!

LizbethSelvig said...

Thanks Gillian! That's so nice of you. I really appreciate it. Hugs!

LizbethSelvig said...

That's so sweet, thank you! It's been fun to share the inspiration for TRATRS -- I don't know if my daughter will tire of me yapping about it, but I'm still her mother so embarrassing her is my greatest talent! Thanks for being here this weekend!

May said...

Wow... that's a great idea. :)

Well... I like YOUR cover. Think it looks great. :) I usually like a bit of scenary with the couple...

Joanne said...

Congrats on the book. I love learning about writers and their ideas from conception to the actual book. This story sounds wonderful. Can't wait to read it.
I really like the naked torso covers. It gives me something to ogle when I'm finished with the book.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Hi Liz! I love the story of how The Rancher and the Rock Star was born.:) Thanks for sharing! I confess I really like the cover. Something about all the elments together, I think. I'm not generally drawn to the naked torso covers. :)

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to reading it!

Stacy said...

What a great journey, Liz, from the initial idea to the cover art. And I absolutely love the book (just recommended it to a friend recently). BIG congrats on your first release. Can't wait for the next on!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I'm always intrigued how stories are born. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Liz.

I loved hearing where your story idea came from. I like the title a lot ... it's already the movie poster, as Blake Snyder used to say. Great way to connect with your audience.


Nancy Holland said...

Hey, Liz! Still hope we might end up title-near-twins. Love the cover. Most of all, love the book.

Donnell said...

Oh, I absolutely love to hear how books are born and yours sounds fantastic, Liz. Your daughter has excellent taste by the way. Sir Elton John truly is... a rock star. Swooning as I think of Can you Hear the Love Tonight. Wow... Ideally I'll get to read The Rancher and the Rock Star on my way to TX this week. Hugs!!!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi May!
Thanks so much for the compliments -- I'm with you, I like scenery too, along with some scenes or "things" from the book. But, I like this cover plenty. I like that I got most of his whole body, and I love how colorful it is! I'm so glad you stopped by today -- hope you get a chance to read TRATRS and enjoy it!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Joanne,
I love learning about writers' inspirations, too, and it was fun to share the things that led to this book. I'm so glad to hear that you like the naked torso -- it proves I was right -- Avon knew best. And ogling sure is fun! Thanks so much for stopping by--I hope you enjoy the book!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Susan!
I think you and I are kind of on the same page with the covers -- I love well-built guys and the first torso covers were awesome. Now there are so many of them I was afraid I'd just be one the crowd. But, I got such pretty colors and a full set of nicely-jeaned legs! So I was drawn to this too. So glad you agree! Thanks for being here today!

LizbethSelvig said...

Thank you sooo much for all the support. Wow, it was a gas when I knew other people were simply reading the book -- to have people recommending it is an honor!

LizbethSelvig said...

Thanks, Brenda! And it's so wonderful to "see" you here all the way from your new home in the Southwest! Thanks for coming by.

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Greta, thank you so much -- that's a great way to look at it. I thought of the title as conveying the story--but connecting with the audience is even more important!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hey Partner! Oh, I hope so too! It would be so cool! And, believe me, this book wouldn't be what it is without you -- so, thank you!!!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hey Donnell!
Funny thing is, she's still a huge, huge fan! And I love him and his music too. In fact, Jen and I just went to see him live here in Minnesota just two weeks ago. We've seen him several times and now going to his concert was more special than ever. So, YOU have great taste! I hope you enjoy the book. And thanks so much for inviting me to be part of the wonderful crew here at GLIAS!

Anonymous said...

Hi lizbeth ! Love your cover but I prefer couple covet:). To see a chemistry between the couple in the cover I could imagine the couple frOm the book comes alive :DAretha zhen, arethazhenATrocketmailDOTCOM

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Aretha!
I don't blame you at all for loving to see a couple on the cover of a book. After all, that's what a romance is, right? I honestly do hope that one of my next covers will have my heroine on it too! Thanks so much for coming by!

bn100 said...

Great excerpt and post. I like all kinds of covers, whether it has people on it or not. The cover for your book looks very nice.


Tammy Yenalavitch said...

I love all kinds of covers - Naked torsos too. You have a great cover and I would love to win your book.

Jacqui Nelson said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Liz! Interesting and inspirational. I'm with your daughter -- I'm an big Elton John fan as well.