Making a Book Cover: Premeditated Myrtle

I am so excited to finally share the now-public cover for Premeditated Myrtle! The Big Event was hosted at Middle Grade Book Village, so please head on over there and check it out!

All the links (pre-order, etc) should now be active, huzzah! (Sending giant thanks to my in-spouse social media manager, CJ, for his help! He has further words on the subject today at borg, so check that out, as well.)

MG Book Village has the pertinent information, but I’ll add some further details here.

Book Cover Afficianados will no doubt recognize the art of Brett Helquist, probably best known for his work on the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books. Brett was my editor’s first choice for the Myrtle Hardcastle covers–and you can see why!

The process of Making this cover was delightful and fascinating, particularly since I had all the fun and none of the work.

I have consultation rights for these covers–honestly, I thought that meant they’d show me the covers and ask if I was OK with them. But in fact, I was invited to offer input from the very beginning. Back in January, I spent a lovely afternoon on the phone with my editor, Elise Howard, Googling book covers we loved together, talking about her vision for the books, and sharing my hopes for the cover.

Soon after that, Elise asked for detailed descriptions of characters and settings from the book. Although Brett had read the manuscript, this provided some extra details that might not have made it into the text itself. I took the opportunity to stress the singular importance of the book’s muse, our late cat Sophie, the real-life inspiration for Myrtle’s feline sidekick Peony (and her portrait made it into the book, too!).

I also sent this period photograph I stumbled into during a research foray. This unknown Young Lady of Quality is from Pennsylvania, and I don’t know anything more about her than that—except when I saw her face, I saw Myrtle looking back at me:

I first saw an initial sketch for the cover, with the request to suggest modifications for more period hairstyles and clothing. I fell in love with Myrtle’s perfect expression and her sense of Positive Forward Action immediately, and went to Brett Helquist’s website and Instagram for the suggested changes:

All Brett’s own work + my presumption

That focused face comes from his work on Martina & Chrissie by Phil Bildner, and the bodice collar and neckline from one of his many Victorian illustrations. I felt that this would get the idea across much better than me trying to explain anything–or, heaven forbid, drawing it. (And if you haven’t yet been to Brett’s website or IG, go there now! It’s full of all kinds of delightful eye candy. This is my favorite! Or maybe this one. Or…)

What impresses me most about this truly gorgeous artwork is the incredible attention to detail–all of which calls back to something from the story. I want to point out every amazing feature right now… but I’ll restrain myself. You’ll have to wait and read the book to discover just how perfect everything really is.

…always a peek of cat

Myrtle Hardcastle and Peony are coming to bookstores and libraries near you in May 2020.

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