Friday, December 4, 2015

The Other Doll Project, Part 1

So I made my own dolls. Well, kind of. I didn't make them from scratch. I repainted some fashion doll heads and put them on the bodies of different dolls. And I dressed them in various outfits and took some pictures.  The purpose of this odd little project is to promote the novel I'm publishing soon, A Bitter Pill to Swallow. These are my characters.


And here they are with some quotes from the story.

I have been working on these dolls since the fall of 2013.  I always had an idea of what my characters looked like, and being a visual person, even drew illustrations of them. The dolls are like my drawings come to life. Creating them helped to inform my writing process, as well as my cover design. Look closely and you'll notice that Janina's doll dresses are referenced in the patchwork of the jacket she wears on her cover.

The whole project was quite involved. But this is only half of it! Part 2 of this post is coming soon. In the meantime, follow me on Tumblr to see more of the art I've created to go with my story. I plan to post one image per day until my book is published.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Cover Design, Part 2

In my previous post about my book cover design, I shared my process for creating the 5" x  8" paperback cover of my forthcoming novel. But that's not all I've been doing. I also decided to create alternate cover designs for different markets. I was always fond of the cover of Nick Hornby's short story anthology, Speaking With The Angel, and I think it was unconsciously an influence on my concept.

I sketched out a rough draft one day while I was on my break and having lunch at Subway.

Later I refined my drawings and colored them in using markers and colored pencils, a technique I learned in design school from Ryan Kapp.

And here are my covers now.  Below each one is the blurb that will accompany it.

Devante's life has been changed forever by tragedy, and he can't deal with it. He can't sleep without having nightmares and feels like his life isn't worth living anymore. His parents send him to a special boarding school for kids with emotional problems. There he meets Janina, who makes him feel less alone in the world. But will Devante's traumatic memories and Janina's strict parents come between them? Set at the end of a cold Chicago winter in 1994, A Bitter Pill to Swallow is the story of a boy and girl whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.

Janina isn't sure she'll ever have a normal life or a boyfriend. This is the fourth year she's spent at a special boarding school for kids with emotional problems. And then she meets Devante, the cute new boy who refuses to speak. For the first time, she feels like she has found someone her age she can relate to. But will Janina's strict parents and Devante's traumatic memories get in the way? Set at the end of a cold Chicago winter in 1994, A Bitter Pill to Swallow is the story of a girl and boy whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.

Dr. Gail Thomas fears her career may end before it even begins. She has just done the unthinkable: quit her medical residency. The facility where she had been working was a cruel place. Incompetent staff constantly mistreated the children and teenagers in their care. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, Gail goes to  work at a therapeutic boarding school run by an idealistic psychiatrist. Her new boss’s unusual methods and troubled young patients put her skills to the test. Set at the end of a cold Chicago winter in 1994, A Bitter Pill to Swallow is the story of a determined young woman claiming a place for herself in her profession and unraveling a medical mystery.

The beauty of self-publishing is in the creative control I get. It's nice to have the freedom of self-expression. It's nice not to have to ask for permission. In some ways I feel as though creating book covers with Black characters on them is a revolutionary act. There are very few novels in the Young Adult genre that have Black teenagers on them. When they do appear, they are often in silhouette.

When I showed my cover designs to some other artists to get feedback, one of them said that nobody wants to buy a book with a Black girl on the cover. Nobody? Really?

Tell that to the enthusiastic fans of Daniel José Older's new YA Novel Shadowshaper, which features a captivating Afro-Latina protagonist.

Or to Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill.

I decided not to do what I had all too often done before, to try so hard to make my work "universal" and "relatable" that I exclude myself from it. And I am happy with the result.

The three special edition covers will be a feature of the hardcover version. And there is more book-related art to come, so come back in a few days to see my next blog post about it. Or visit my new Tumblr.
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