I was commissioned by author Carol L. Wright to illustrate a cover for her cozy mystery novel DEATH AT GLENVILLE FALLS. Her story was set in a small New England town, where the protagonist runs a cute used bookstore. The client sent me a very detailed brief. Some of the specific elements she requested were:
- Interior of Gracie's Garret bookshop looking from the middle of shop toward the bay window and door.
- a few books strewn on the floor; some have pages torn or cut out, also strewn on the floor.
- a knife stabbing one of the opened books
- at least one overturned chair (or part of a chair). It could have a broken leg.
- a yellow tabby cat somewhere in the store
- enough of a view of the exterior through the window to get a sense of the small town atmosphere
- If possible, it would be nice if we could see the sign for the bookshop through the window. (Gracie's Garret/New & Used Books)
- Door to the store should have a shop bell above it that rings when the door opens.
- Perhaps an open/closed sign on the door
- A pressed tin ceiling
Here are the three roughs I sent her:
The client decided that #3 was the closest to the bookstore she imagined in the story. However, it needed to adhere more closely to the layout she originally described. At one point in the story, the cash register falls on the floor, preventing the door from being opened. So it was important that the room be arranged correctly.
The client and I went back and forth on the layout of the shelves, doors and window. I'm a little embarrassed by how long it took me to get what she was asking for! I'm just not good with verbal descriptions of places; like, if someone tries to tell me driving directions, if there's more than 2 steps it just goes in one ear and out the other. Here's one of my attempts at getting the bookstore layout, but this one wasn't quite right either.
The client was kind enough to draw a blueprint of the shop for me, which helped a lot! Finally I figured out how to make the layout, window, door and cash register all work together in a way that was accurate to the story but also looked good visually.
Next I sent a color rough. The client asked for autumnal colors outside the window and warm wood tones inside the shop. In order to offset all that orange and brown, I chose a cool robin's egg blue for the walls and chairs. Some golden light streaming in through the windows helped keep the cozy, nostalgic feeling, and also let me highlight the tabby cat.
I was approved to go to final!
Here is the cover with the final design. I think it turned out really nicely! That's definitely a bookstore I'd love to spend an afternoon in with a chai tea and a good book.