The Evacuee Christmas: the story behind the cover art
The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ suggests we should all ignore how a book looks.
But that’s not really how it works, is it? Ten minutes in a supermarket or a bookstore is clear evidence of that, as crime books look like other crime books, science fiction and fantasy can look a bit bonkers, literary fiction can look like anything at all. It’s all done to guide us, the readers, to the sort of book we might like. And it’s a system that works rather well to judge by how rigorously it’s followed.
Certainly historical sagas have a unifying look, usually with a woman, complete with clothes and hairstyle of the period, looking invitingly toward the reader, often set against the backdrop of a faded photograph.
The cover of my novel, The Evacuee Christmas, slightly bucks the trend for a romantic read, as it doesn’t feature an adult at all.
Instead I have two lovely children staring pensively into the distance, not quite looking the reader in the eye.
Actually, the children are only part of what is going on in my book, which has a broader theme of evacuees leaving a working-class area of London at the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, and moving up to a more middle-class town. I’m writing a trilogy, and the second book is set during the summer. The third will be about when they all come back to London, with the content of each book being pretty evenly balanced between adult and child storylines.
Two ten-year-old twins Connie and Jessie, along with their pregnant aunt Peggy, leave the two-up-two-downs of Bermondsey. Along with the rest of the children’s school, they make the long journey to Harrogate, where of course life is very different, with bumps and scrapes aplenty along the way and, for the grown-ups, matters of the heart to sort out.
When it came to shooting the cover image, I had the treat of my lovely editor Kate Mills at HQ, persuading her own daughter Georgie, and Georgie’s friend George, to pose as Connie and Jessie. The kids have known each other since they were three years old and they loved doing the shoot – apart from having to touch each other, that is. Bless!
What was really great for me was that I was shown the picture HQ wanted to use as I was still writing. So, I able to incorporate the clothes they were wearing into the scenes of getting them ready to leave Bermondsey. And as the children look so wonderful, I made my characters look like them too.
As a special thank you to Georgie, as this is Georgie’s very own bear, I incorporated the knitted panda in my book. The panda’s real-life name is Petunia, and so – once I’d checked it was 1939-appropriate – the panda in the book is called Petunia. Even better, as I thought about the panda’s unusual name it gave me an idea for a storyline that I could spread over the three books. That would be a storyline that could interlink the children and the adults. It begins with Connie not being able to spell Petunia and shall end with the doctor at the local hospital realising that she suffers from dyslexia, and of course Peggy, who will have had a bit of a rough time, will realise that the doctor is rather handsome…
It goes without saying, I’m really looking forward to seeing what my cover for the next instalment, The Evacuee Summer, is going to offer up!