Today's Spotlight and Interview: Author Lily McKenzie!

Today it is my pleasure to introduce author Lily McKenzie! She enjoys art, poetry and prose as well as fiction. A kindred spirit, to be sure! I was interested to interview her regarding her writing process and hobbies. Please find her interview below:

Freefall available  here .

Freefall available here.

1. Please tell me how you got started with writing and what you enjoy writing most.

I was a high-school dropout, and while I’ve always read a lot, writing wasn’t something I thought about until my mid-twenties. At that time, I went through a year-long deep depression that pushed me into therapy, and that’s when I discovered I had a writing self I needed to midwife. Once I earned a GED, I was able to attend college and my BA was in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. I later earned two masters’ degrees as well, one in the Humanities and the other in Creative Writing.

Poetry was my foundational genre, and continues to be my favorite one. But I was adventuresome and wanted to see if I could include fiction in my repertoire. As you can see I was successful. I now have published three novels, with another on its way, as well as many short stories.

2. What inspires you to write?  Do you have a favorite place to write?

Reading well-crafted poetry or prose motivates me to continue mastering those genres. But I also have an inner need to write daily. It’s as important to me as food! I have numerous drafts in process of poems, non-fiction, and fiction that I rotate among.

As for a favorite place to write, I use a laptop computer, and I settle in different places in our house. I can’t sit at a desk to write. I need a comfortable chair and a window to look out of.

3. Are you involved in any other creative types of work/hobbies?

Don’t I wish I had more time for dabbling in watercolors and acrylics! Playing with color gives me intense pleasure. I’m not trying to be a visual artist, so that frees me to just enjoy the process and not get hung up on the end product. Our home is filled with my creations. Unfortunately, the business of selling books has stolen my painting and collage time, but I will get back to it. My art table is set up in the study I share with my husband and is ready any time I am.

4. What would you like your readers to know about you?

I’m intensely interested in our inner lives. Jungian psychology intrigued me when I was in my late twenties. I read every book I could find by Carl Jung and Jungians. I also have been in Jungian analysis and find that we are continuously evolving. I’ve kept a dream journal all of these years and look to my dreams daily for glimpses into my inner world.

5. Tell me about your most recent book and what you hope your readers will appreciate most about it?

The seeds for Freefall: A Divine Comedy came from a two-day visit I had back in 1998 with two of the three friends I’d travelled from Calgary to Toronto with in my late teens. I wondered what would happen if these four women had a reunion. Would the old bonds still be there and what would they discover about themselves and each other from spending time together? Freefall is a result of trying to answer those questions, but, of course, much more entered the narrative as I watched the story unfold. While the surface narrative is about these four females, the sub-narrative focuses on art’s role in our lives (the main character, Tillie Bloom, is an installation artist), female power, death, religion, and sex. Freefall zeroes in on a fundamental truth: We’re all in freefall, and that’s the real divine comedy. No matter how old we are, we’re still trying to “find ourselves” and discover what we want out of life.


If you’d like to get in touch with Lily, you can find her at her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you, Lily, for being a guest on my blog. It was a pleasure to meet you!

Designing Your Own Book Cover by Kari Anders

Designing Your Own Book Cover: How to Select The Right Image

In Elements of a Book Cover that Sells, I talk about creating a cover that speaks directly to your audience by using the idea of a Single Story. In the following post, I expand on this idea by giving helpful tips on finding the base layer for your cover: the image.

Your image should convey the mood of your story. If you’ve written a fun-loving, silly, woman’s novel, your cover might be an illustration of a lady in heels with a pink background. If your book explores the story of a missing woman, it might have a dark background with a woman running away. If it’s a love story, readers will expect a couple holding hands or kissing on the cover. All these components convey the mood of the book and attract your audience.

If the mood is not evident, you will miss potential readers. When readers go searching for a new book, they usually know what type of book they want to read. If nothing else, they know what types of book they have enjoyed in the past. They will be attracted to images that remind them of another book they’ve read. This relationship connects the reader to an emotion they felt while reading that book. For instance, I had recently finished Where’d You Go Bernadette and was looking for a new read. I saw the novel How to Write a Novel, with its blue cover and illustrations and bought it. Why? It reminded me of Bernadette. That’s it. I wasn’t even looking for a book like Bernadette;I just subconscious equated the cover of Bernadette with a book I like.

Often authors spend energy on trying to get their cover image to be unique, and to stand out from the crowd. While really, they should have been doing the opposite.

You may have noticed that in all of the examples at the beginning of this article, I suggest having images of people on the cover (the woman in pink heels, the couple kissing, etc.). As an author, you may be tempted to steer away from covers that give away too much detail that you’d rather let the reader imagine. One of the reasons I believe readers like books over their film adaptations, is because they get to bring the scene to life using their own imagination. The same applies to the characters in a book. Giving too much detail away can take away this experience from the readers. So why do I suggest books with images of people? Simply, they sell better.

You many see that some covers don’t have the full person or even just avoid their faces on the cover.  You might see only a woman's legs or feet, or you might see her face below the nose.  This allows your readers to still create the characters using their own imagination while still creating a book cover that sells.

The other advantage of showing only a part of a character is that it allows you to simplify your cover.  If you are trying to convey too much information to your readers, it will be busy and overwhelming and distract them from absorbing the story's mood.  Remember, you want to sell them a single story.  Don't try to input double meanings or symbols that the reader will only understand once they've read the book.  Symbolism is for your writing.  You aren't trying to sell them on your cleverness with a book cover.

To convey the mood, keep it simple and focus on a single story.  You want to be obvious with your images but not necessarily literal.  You don't want readers to have to guess or search for what your cover is about.  But at the same time, it doesn't need to be a specific scene from your story to convey the mood, and being too literal can destroy the intrigue you want to create.

Here’s a test: Once you have selected an image, forget your story. Can you create a powerful title on the picture alone?  Does that title do your book justice?  If not, keep looking.

The most common place authors and designers find images for book covers is stock images sites.  There are hundreds of thousands of images to choose from, and they are usually between $10 and $25 per image.   With a stock image from Shutterstock.com or iStock.com, you can sell between 250,000 and 500,000 books before you have to worry about purchasing additional licensing.  There are also sites you can find free stock images, but make sure you read and fully understand the terms of copyright before using an image from one of these sites. DO NOT use an unlicensed image from a Google images search, even if you don't think you are going to sell very many books, as this will most certainly earn you a letter from an attorney asking you to remove it at the least and a lawsuit at the worst.

The advantages of using stock images are selection, price, and availability.  To find an image for a previous post, I used the search terms "girl in front of a ship" and found 42 pages of results.  That's a pretty specific request.  Also, stock image sites are also regularly updating their inventory, and they tag images by a number of categories, including model.  So if you find a model that you like, but the image isn't quite right, you can find other photos with the same model.  This is very useful for a book series.

A drawback to using stock imaging is uniqueness. Stock sites will sell an image in finite number of times, meaning that even though your typography and location of the photo might be unique, another author might end up with the same image on their cover.  Professional publishing houses will spend thousands hiring a photographer and models to get unique images for their covers.  However, this isn't a possibility for most self-published authors.  On freeebookcovers.com, I am building a collection of non-stock images from local photographers I've worked with over the years.   Check back soon for the launch of Original Images, and happy writing!

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Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari's covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.