Queen Cover Art... behind the scenes!

Hello dear readers!

I thought it might be interesting to do a post on the cover art for The Queen of Water.  Many readers have been excited to discover that this is a photo of Maria Virginia herself on the cover. Here's the scoop on how that came to be...

During the 6-year process of writing the book, we had plenty of time to imagine what the cover might look like.  I thought it would be good to incorporate a photo of Maria Virginia as a teen, to remind readers that this is a true story, that Virginia is a real person.  We did have  a few wonderful photos that were taken over 15 years ago by photographers of a French magazine for a feature article on a Queen competition in Otavalo (Maria Virginia doesn't remember which mag and doesn't have a copy of the mag-- only the photos.) Here's one of the photos, which was used in an Otavalo newspaper article from years ago:

Maria Virginia envisioned a book cover that somehow incorporated the gorgeous Andean landscape-- she saw the cover as vibrant and colorful. (Earlier on, she'd come up with the title A Dream in the Andes-- Un Sueno en los Andes-- which we decided to change at a later stage).

After getting the contract and turning in our final revision, we were really eager to see what Delacorte came up with... (Typically, with my book cover process, the design dept comes up with something and then sends it to my editor, who sends it to me, for my feedback.  They also show the cover idea to the sales team and other editors in-house to get their opinions. Different publishing houses seem to have varying degrees of author input in the cover design.)

Anyway, flashback to before we even got the contract: A few years ago, Maria Virginia was in town, and about to return to Ecuador in a couple days.  As a last-minute favor, our friend Ken Burgess (photographer by hobby at the time) set up a few lights and a white drape in his living room and took a bunch of shots that we intended to use as future author photos (for promotional purposes-- back flap of the book kind of pics)...  *if* we ever got a contract for the book, of course (little did we know we had many more revisions ahead of us!)

Here's one I really like:

Isn't she radiant?! Her secret to youthful skin is taking only cold showers, which I'm way too wimpy to do (thus the lines that fan out from the corners of my eyes... too many steaming hot showers)! 

So here's the photo that I almost didn't send our editor because it didn't look very author-photo-ey... I decided to add it at the last minute because I loved how introspective Maria Virginia looked.

It was a complete surprise to us when our editor emailed us this cover soon after:

They touched up her face just a bit-- "powdered" her skin and plumped up her cheek to make her look more like a teen than a 30-something woman.   She felt a little shy at first at the idea of having her photo on the cover-- she hesitantly asked if I was sure people would want to buy the book with her face on it.  I assured her, yes!

Later, my editor mentioned that the design dept had originally planned on having an original painting (which they'd commissioned) on the cover.  When the artist completed it, my editor and her colleagues felt that although it was very beautiful, it was unfortunately too young-looking for The Queen of Water, which is geared toward older young adults and adults. (Unfortunately, I don't have permission to post the photo of that cover here- sorry!)

I agreed that the initial cover concept looked younger than the intended audience.  Also, the girl's outfit didn't reflect Maria Virginia's indigenous Otavalena Quichua clothing, which is important in the story, since it relates to her identity issues. We would've wanted to be sure that the girl's clothing on the cover accurately represented the culturally-specific clothing that Maria Virginia and other Otavalena Quichua women wear-- solid white blouse with wide lace ruffle around the neck and forearms of the blouse, a ring of flowered embroidery below the lace of the neck, gold bead necklaces and coral-colored bead bracelets.  If you go to Otavalo, you'll see that although there are slight variations on the smaller details, that women stick very closely to the basic clothing that you see Maria Virginia wearing here:

See how the colors of the embroidered flowers, the faja (waist wrap) color, and the lace texture/pattern vary, but the other elements are basically the same? (Oh, and the anaco (wrap-around skirt) color can vary-- either dark blue or black).  Women often add a fachalina-- a cream or black wool wrap-- knotted over their shoulder and/or folded on their head.

                     Me, Maria Virginia, and Alex (*before* the anaco unraveled!)

As a sidenote, Maria Virginia dressed me up in an outfit like this for a night on the town in Otavalo (an outing which ended with my anaco accidentally unraveled, pooled at my feet, as I stood in my underwear in a restaurant... not my best moment!) Extreme embarrassment aside, it was actually a really interesting "research" experience-- it helped me feel more "inside" Maria Virginia's body as we wrote the scenes involving anacos. You can read about it here!

Laura  * P.S.  I also want to add that the reason for featuring my name first was a purely practical one-- a decision that Maria Virginia and I made together after thorough discussions.  We felt that since there were already many English-speaking readers who were familiar with my name, that it would be simplest to put my name first. That way, in bookstores and libraries, the book would be alphabetized near my other books, and my reader base would be alerted to the book release.  Maria Virginia's goal (which I share) has always been to have our book reach as many readers as possible, and we agreed that having my name first would facilitate this.  We're hoping that this book will be translated to Spanish and available in Latin America (where there's little, if any, name recognition of me and my books at this point). If the translation happens, we'll push to have Maria Virginia's name first on the cover of a Latin American edition. I just wanted to clear that up, since I honestly feel weird about having my name first when it's a story that she actually lived through.  Okay, thanks for reading!

G'night again!