I’ve been working very hard to wrap up Pussycat in Peril. As y’all know, I really love my pussycats and have a lot of fun writing these stories. The covers are fun too. From the start of the series back at Loose Id, I wanted the covers to have a comic book feel to them because in my head these women are superheroes. Larger than life. Able to leap tall buildings, yadda. I remember giving the artist pictures of She-Hulk and other similar comic book heroes, but also pictures of Pam Grier as Coffy. No, I’ve never seen Coffy, or any blaxploitation film. My mama was having none of that, but I have seen the posters and screen captures and they are bad-ass to the extreme. So I wanted me some of that.
The Pussycat book covers, more than any others have a style book. The backdrop must be an international location. The Pussycat books are in a way a tribute to what I loved about romance novels when I was a youngun; they allowed a small town girl like me to travel the world and I thought that was hella cool. So those exotic locales must be incorporated as well. The heroine has to be an active figure, no damsels in distress, and she has to have a weapon. That hasn’t been a problem thus far, but will be in the next Pussycat book, Diamonds on the River, because she’s a jewel thief and doesn’t do weapons. My son wants one of my books to have a woman with an missile launcher. So I have to keep that in mind. He also wants me to write a book with a boy defeating an evil monster that eats the children in his village. Yeah, this gig is a family affair.
Anyway, back to Pussycat in Peril. I’ve really struggled to come up with a concept for this book cover. I bought a stock photo a while back, and it’s good, but it doesn’t really capture the vibe of the story. For one thing, I really want this heroine to be wearing a hijab. For a lot of reasons, but mainly authenticity. They’re stranded in the mythical North African city of Laritrea under siege by a ISIS type group. It would be normal for her to wear a hijab, and she wears an abaya to conceal her rifle as she’s a sniper. I want him to wear a keffiyeh, though they’re not common in the region, primarily because of all those sheikh books in the 1980s. I hated those books with a passion and made my hero, who is Egyptian Arab as unlike those stories as possible. For one thing, my hero is an American Marine, born and raised in Tennessee. So yeah, you can see my problem. A stock photo, with a man and a woman, she must have a weapon and both must be in traditional clothing. The main problem with her is that in most stock photos when a woman has a gun she’s also half naked. I guess it’s supposed to soften her aggressiveness or something. But having fired a semiautomatic weapon I can tell you, hot shell casings are very much a thing and if you get one of those down your bosom, well, yeah, not fun. Also, if she’s wearing a head cover it would be ridiculous for her to be half dressed below the neck. The struggle is real.
Since I started self-publishing, nailing down the cover image I want is one of the first steps in writing a book. I keep an idea folder on my computer and I start by storyboarding the cover and sometimes the scenery. I’ve started doing this on Pinterest as well. If you’re interested in this process, check me out on Pinterest. Sometimes we have to make changes when Whit and I don’t agree on the concept, or the image doesn’t work for some reason. He’s very particular about the type of photos he works with and it took me a minute to grasp the technical aspects of cover art. And then there are those times when he just doesn’t like the picture. No technical reason. He just thinks it’s ugly. Given all that, this is the first book I’ve written in a while that didn’t begin with the cover. As I said, I found some stock, but it didn’t really grab me. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally found the pictures I want, with emphasis on pictures. This cover is going to require four, possibly five stock photos. Whit’s going to have to do a lot of meshing. Unfortunately, Whit hates meshing.
In a word folks, this cover is going to be amazing. Watch this space. With any luck it’ll be out before Easter!!!