An author’s source of inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes, it is a picture. One that immediately stirs the author’s imagination. What kind of a story can be weaved around a decrepit doll from a bygone era attired in a dirty, tattered, old-style dress? A doll with a shattered face and empty eye sockets. An eerie, creepy doll that stands alone in a spooky, dilapidated room with skulls. A doll designed to make the flesh tingle.
Every story has a starting point. For Not Dead, the question became whether the doll was good or evil. An enticing answer for the reader to discover. Just as a tale has a place where it begins, so does a cover. After all, the book cover is the window to the story. And in this case, the story was about the doll.
The mystery is how I went from a picture of a Halloween prop to the cover of Not Dead. It wasn’t easy. I have designed many book covers, not only for my books but also for books by other authors. The cover for Not Dead was the most challenging. The reason, the doll.
My attempts to use the picture itself for the cover didn’t work. There wasn’t enough color to make the picture or the doll pop. The only option was to extract the doll from the background and create a new design centered around the doll. This was a time-consuming process as the color of the doll’s figure, especially the hair, blended into the background, making it difficult to get a distinct image.
The extraction was only the first step. Once I had the doll’s image, my next problem was the hand tucked next to the dress. It didn’t look right. To fix it, I created a new hand and arm. I enhanced the damage to the broken eye socket and cheek. I added an eye to the other eye socket. I wanted the difference between the eye sockets to become even more prominent. In the book, the doll has an eye.
The next step was finding the right image for the background. This one was perfect. It conveyed what I wanted to project, spooky and eerie. Except it had a monster which I didn’t need. I removed it.
Since this was a story about dolls, I needed more dolls.
A house in a rural setting was a significant scene in the book. I liked this image because of the fog and light shining from a window.
I was almost finished. I had all the images and was ready to assemble the final design.
I set up my blank template. The background image was added first. Once it was in place, I positioned the doll in the center, so the eerie glow was around the figure. I merged the faces of the two dolls and the house in the woods into the background, muting the images. As a final touch to the design, I added fog around the bottom of the doll. Using a creepy style font, I added the title of the book, then my name, and it was finished.
And this is how I went from a doll standing in a room to a book cover that visually portrays what the book is about.
“Where is the line between reality and insanity? For a small-town Texas police chief, the answer waits in the unearthly fog that shrouds his town.”
I’m always “On The Hunt” for new stories. If you have a question or a comment, please let me know.
Anita Dickason is a retired police officer with a total of twenty-seven years of law enforcement experience, twenty-two with Dallas PD. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics officer, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.