Honestly, it all started with a red door.
As I was writing the third book in the Marie Jenner Mystery series–finally called Stalking the Dead–I always saw the book cover as the front of a trailer with a blood red door.
That’s where Marie’s mom lived, you see. And since Marie was going home, what could be better than having the book invite the reader into the place where she grew up?
Hang on, my ever vigilant publisher said. All the other covers are of the places where the ghosts were ensconced. We can’t change things just because you want to, you know. Just send us some photos of the front of the apartment building where the ghost was hiding out.
Hmm. That gave me pause, I must say. I’d gone to Fort McMurray the year before, to pick where the action would take place. Real and unreal. (Yep, made up a couple of them, but I can show you where they would be in Fort McMurray, if they were real.) I took plenty of photos of the small cemetery in the old part of town, as well as photos of Marie’s dad’s place, and of course, Marie’s mom’s trailer. But I took exactly one photo of the apartment building where the ghost became a ghost. Through trees, which blocked most of the detail of the building.
Now, I could have gone back to Fort McMurray, but this thing happened between my visit and the request for a better photo. That thing was the fire that nearly destroyed McMurray. You remember the fire, right? That fire that drove 88,000 people from their homes? That kept many of those 88,000 out of their homes for months. Months.
I’m not that brave, to be honest. Didn’t want to head into what was still a disaster zone, just to get a couple of photos of a building that might not even be there anymore. (It is, just so you know.) So, I contacted Kevin Thornton. (If you have the time and inclination, go check out his blog. It’s fab!) I’d met him at When Words Collide the year before, and knew he lived in Fort McMurray. So I asked him to take a couple of photos for me, if he had the time.
Honestly, I thought everybody’d been let back into Fort McMurray by that time. I truly did.
Here’s the deal, though. He wasn’t home yet. (That frigging fire.) But he told me that he was going to be let back in a few days, and that he’d be happy to take photos for me, when he got there. And he did.
I don’t think I would have done it. If my life ever gets as blown up as Kevin’s did, I think I would say, “No.” Gently, probably, but still it would have been a no.
He didn’t though. He went a took some great shots for me, and even asked if they were good enough (!).
So, I sent them to my publisher, who sent them to the artist, Guillem Mari. And then I waited. (You know the deal. Hurry up and wait.) I didn’t even know there was any trouble until I went to When Words Collide in August. That’s when I found out the artist couldn’t come up with anything that was creepy enough.
After all, we’re just talking about the outside of a four storey walk up, right? The fact that it was still standing through that nightmare of a fire just didn’t translate. I wish it had.
This is what we ended up with.
I love it. I really do, but still…
Kevin’s photos weren’t used for the final cover. Which sucks. I did say thank you in the Acknowledgements, which is something, I guess, but I wish I could do more.
All I can say is thank you, Kevin, from the bottom of my heart. Even through that craptacular spring and summer, you managed to help out a fellow writer.
You are a true gentleman.