Probably one of the most exciting and apprehensive times in the long process of writing and publishing a book is the reveal of its cover. The Drago Tree is no exception. And choosing the cover proved far more challenging than I initially thought.
The Drago Tree is set on Lanzarote, a Canary Island off the coast of Morocco. About a third of the island is covered in lava and much of the rest in volcanic ash. Volcanic craters, or calderas, are everywhere. The island is a photographer’s paradise and there must be millions of superb images of its magnificence and its beauty taken by professional and amateur photographers and holidaymakers alike. I wanted to depict Lanzarote on the cover of The Drago Tree, but how could I possibly compete with all those fabulous shots?
At first I thought of capturing a few elements of the story and I asked around on Facebook to see if a local photographer would offer to take a shot. One did, and very generously too. But every time Donal Gray was about to set off with my brief, the day was cloudy, the conditions not right. Months passed and the publication date loomed.
It was then that my publisher started to have other ideas. One night, I asked my daughter, Liz Blackthorn, to see what she could come up with. In a matter of hours she’d mocked up a stylised photo of Castillo de San Gabriel, a small fort in Arrecife, the island’s capital. The image she used was captivating, and the textured effect she applied intriguing.
I sent her design to Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Books. By then I, too, was veering away from a real image and towards something stylised, when Michelle came back to me with a sharp and really stunning shot of the fort. The design leapt up at the viewer, all brilliantly blue and speaking of Lanzarote’s colonial history. I loved it.
I showed the design to some friends. Feedback was promising. As the days passed, I remained sold on it, but something was privately niggling me. It was the same thing that was niggling Michelle. Where’s the drago tree? Everyone was asking, ‘What’s a drago tree?’ We had no choice but to dump the fort.
By this time it was nudging August and I was beginning to panic. I swamped Michelle with images of drago trees I’d found on the Internet. We had a vintage moment, inserted figures of women looking off at views, and I thought we’d nailed it when I found a fabulous photo of a drago tree with a caldera in the background. Feeling optimistic, I sent it to Michelle. When she replied, I was gutted. The image was for editorial use only. We couldn’t use it. Damn. What now?
A few days ago she sent me an email with four mock ups. They all had the mandatory drago tree, and each was interesting in its own way, but somehow none of them conveyed the sort of book The Drago Tree is.
She sent another email soon after, with mock up 5. ‘Something a bit different,’ she said. Curious, I opened the attachment. And there I was, gazing at a single drago tree against a hazy green-grey background. I knew, straight away, that she’d nailed it.
Thank you Michelle Lovi and thank you Odyssey Books. The Drago Tree will be released on 1 October 2015 and available through all good bookstores. Pre-orders of The Drago Tree will be available soon. Meanwhile, to read more about the story and a short extract please click The Drago Tree. And to make contact or to go on my mailing list click Contact Isobel here