The book cover for Chester County Fiction was a collaboration between two artists, graphic designer Larry Geiger and photographer David James. It was a fun process to watch, and the two artists delivered a few different cover versions that we tweaked along the way before making the final decision. I still marvel at some of the covers we didn’t use and thought it would be fun to share them. I asked David James to describe his thought process as a photographer.
Jim: How did you get started on the project?
David: Larry and I discussed the overall "feel" of the cover. He and the publisher wanted it to look very contemporary with a very clean palate and crisp lettering. Larry was great in offering some guidance and bouncing ideas off of throughout the process. But the best thing he did was to turn me loose.
Jim: What was your approach?
David: I took a "museum curator" approach to jump-start my creative process. I asked myself, "If the Smithsonian museum wanted to exhibit Chester County, what is the one and only thing we would send to represent the region?" I sorted through iconic images of the area. barns, horses, fences, mills, rivers, lakes and creeks. I settled on what I considered to be the most iconic, "barns". Now that took care of the "Chester County" part of the cover idea.
Jim: Tell us about the Fisher Price cover? David: I was hung up on how to add "fiction" to the cover photo. So I simply thought, "fake barn". "What is the most iconic fake barn that I know of?” I asked myself. I instantly thought of the old Fisher Price play set that was such a big part of my childhood. So I set out to find one. It took a while but I found a friend who had one. I wanted to shoot the cover play set as if it were a real barn in Chester County. So I shot low angles that would create a perception of driving by any barn in the area. I had a blast arranging and rearranging the cows and horses and roosters. I wanted the cover to garner a double take from a bookstore customer when they saw it then appreciate the tongue in cheek play of the title.
Jim: You definitely provided us with several great choices. David: I went to some of my favorite farms in the area and shot what I felt was a "typical" representation of the area. Plus I shot a few weather vanes because this area has many creative vanes on the tops of barns. I knew this would round out my submissions and give the publisher a choice of which he liked best. I was rooting for the "Fictitious Barn". But the publisher went in another direction and I will allow him to discuss the choice of covers and why he broke my artistic heart with his cold calloused decision . . .
Jim: Ha! When I first heard about the Fisher Price concept, I was definitely taken back, but I have to admit that cover was really awesome. I also liked the book cover Larry designed on his own that reflected an artistic take on Chester County.
After Larry performed his graphic design brilliance, I did share the covers with authors and a few friendly employees at our local independent bookshops to get feedback and the real barn won out. From that point on, Larry worked with a variety of fonts and removed the clouds to give the cover a crisp clean look.
We have two more book signing events before Christmas. Saturday, December 17th from 11am to 3pm at Chester County Book Company in West Chester. Also, we are having a book panel discussion at the Phoenixville Library on Monday, December 19th at 7pm. Please RSVP for the library event by calling 610-933-3013, Ext. 32 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also pick up a copy of Chester County Fiction on Amazon.