|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.”
A SONGBIRD GETS ITS TITLEAfter 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.
THE COVER IS UNVEILED
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!