Deb Susan’s cover reminds her of her father … and her son

When I signed my contract with Minotaur for the first three books in the Shinobi Mystery series, I accepted that my cover art was out of my control. And I made a decision:

Whatever my cover looked like, I would love it.

Many authors compare their books to children, and seeing my cover art bore many resemblances to the birth of my son. I didn’t know what my son would look like (in fact, I only learned his gender a week and a half before his birth) but I knew–without question–that I would love him, no matter how funny-looking other people might find his face. (As it turns out, he’s very handsome–but it wouldn’t have mattered to me.)

I made the same decision about my book.

Whatever it looked like, I would love it.

I told myself this over and over … and yet, some fear remained. Would I love it the moment I saw it, or would I have to learn to love? Would the emotion be instantaneous, like holding my son in my arms? Or would it come slowly, like learning to drink my coffee without added sugar?

I didn’t know.

I did know that series covers often share a style or a vibe, and that the cover of Claws of the Cat would set a pattern. The subsequent covers might or might not look similar – but whether or not that happened, I knew the first one would set the tone.

My fabulous editor sent me a concept sketch before the photo shoot for my cover. I was hooked from the moment I saw it. Minotaur’s decision to feature the neko-te – a weapon favored by female ninjas (“kunoichi,” in Japanese) delighted me beyond measure. For the record, the English translation of “neko-te” is “claws of the cat” – and that isn’t coincidental.

When my editor emailed me the finished cover, I actually cried. Claws of the Cat Cover (50)

I loved my “baby’s” face immediately and completely.

I carried my iPad into my husband’s office at once to show him my beautiful cover art. He took one look at me, in tears, and thought someone had died. (In fairness, the last time he’d seen tears in my eyes was several years before–and someone HAD died, so it wasn’t an altogether unreasonable assumption. Shows you how often I cry.)

One extra secret I haven’t shared about my cover before: my father died six months before I started writing Claws of the Cat. He knew about my passion for fiction, and writing, but did not live to see my work in print. In addition to books (he loved mysteries) and sailing, my father’s great passion was raising roses and also cymbidium orchids. Among the orchids, his favorite ones were green with reddish-brown spots at the center … exactly like the orchids which appear on the cover of Claws of the Cat. Orchids which didn’t appear in the concept sketch my publisher sent me.

It was the orchids that made me cry when I saw it, because they fit the cover perfectly and also because they remind me of my father.

He would have loved the cover as much as I do.

Have you ever had a cover remind you of something important, or something you love? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

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18 thoughts on “Deb Susan’s cover reminds her of her father … and her son

    • I think he is, Kathy. He and I were very close, and seeing this cover actually healed the wish that he could have seen me finally reach publication. Those orchids – put there by someone who had no idea what they actually meant – made me realize that, in some way at least, I think he knows.

  1. Oh my. That is some cover story!! I think you had/have a great attitude about your cover and everything else. I don’t think a book cover, even my own, has impacted me in that way…although I do love to look at them and wonder where the inspiration came from!

    • Thanks Amy 🙂 I love your cover, by the way. The teacups in the window are such a striking image. I’ve wondered, too, what it must be like to design book covers for a living. It amazes me to see the kind of creative responses cover artists have to a writer’s work.

    • Aww, I’m sorry I made you sniffly!! But it kind of made me sniffly to write about it, too. It makes me happy, also, though, and does every time I see my cover. It’s like Dad is right there with me.

  2. Susan, that is such a lovely story, about both your father and your son! I’m sure your father would adore your cover, and it’s lovely that you can think of him each time you look at it. xo

    • Thanks Dana – I wish Dad had been able to read the book – he would have thought a ninja detective was really cool. That said, there is an aspect of Dad’s personality in the book too. As he got older, whenever he didn’t like something, he’d look at you and make a “HM.” noise. I took that characteristic and gave it to one of my characters, as a deliberate nod to him.

  3. Susan, what a beautiful tribute. It is a wonderful feeling to see one’s cover and feel layers of secret connections and be reminded of people we treasure in our hearts–thank you for sharing them with us.

    • I definitely feel fortunate to have such a special cover – complete with a “secret meaning” that even the cover artist couldn’t have known when it was created. It makes this debut even more special! I’m glad you liked hearing about it, too 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather! I believe he is. I’m also so happy that my mom is still around to see my release – in fact, the book is dedicated to her and to my son.

  4. Susan, thank you for sharing your story. Something similar happened during my daughter’s graduation that assured me my deceased father was there with us. I’m sure the mystery orchids are a sign of how proud your dad is of you right now. What a wonderful reminder of his love for you!

    • I’m so glad you had a sign of your father’s presence at your daughter’s graduation, Julianne! Those moments are so special, and definitely to be treasured. Congratulations to you and to your daughter, too – graduations are special and memorable times!

    • 🙂 Thanks Kelly 🙂 It made me happy to share it (and a little weepy too – but it’s a good kind of weepy). I’m really glad you liked it.

    • Thank you Lisa – I love it, too. The best part is, there was a flower on the concept sketch, but it was a totally different kind and used in a very different way. So seeing this one, like this, was just a fabulous surprise.

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