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.

Welcome to the New Site!

Hello! You’ve found me! If you’ve visited the site before, you’ll have noticed some big changes. I’ve been busy this summer Making new books and working on this site. The beautiful new format is the design work and technical wizardry of Jenny Medford of Websy Daisy. I told Jenny what I was looking for, and she came back with something that I didn’t even realize I’d always wanted (she’s spooky good that way). I love how it conjures up a hidden storefront in a side street that you’ve wandered down by chance, a dusty little shop full of oddments and curiosities and antiques that are probably haunted…

Illus. by C. Green for The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens


There is much afoot in my writerly life these days. In addition to the new site, I’m hard at work on a new series. My first book for middle graders, Premeditated Myrtle, launches in May, from the wonderful team at Algonquin Young Readers. I can’t wait for everyone to meet my new heroine, and join in her misadventures in Victorian criminology. We have a spectacular, very very secret cover by an Incredible Famous Artist, and I’m told that will go public next month, so stay tuned!

I’m just about to turn in revisions on the second Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery, and get started working on Book 3. But I’ll still have plenty of time for school visits and workshops, so check out the Events page for where you’ll find me in the next few months, or to schedule an appearance.

I also have all-new professional portals on Pinterest and Facebook, which you’ll find at the social links at the bottom of every page, or on the Contact page.

gratuitous cat photo


This blog is where I’ll be periodically posting news and information on upcoming events and bookish things, thoughts on the writing process, and random musings on various other projects. Make sure to subscribe to posts to stay up to date.

Thanks for stopping by!



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