Don't judge a book by its cover. How many times have we heard this? Good advise for dealing with people, but who doesn't judge an actual book that way? 

Authors know this, but generally have little say when it comes to the dress their precious word-baby gets to wear on its first foray into the larger world. And trust me, like a parent who lets their seventeen-year-old choose her own prom dress, there's much room for horror and despair (cue creepy music).

That's why I feel so fortunate to have an amazing graphic artist designing my book covers. Rebecca Sterling, of Sterling Design Studio, is an authors dream come true. She's eternally patient, insanely talented, and somehow able to take a vague idea you have in your head and take it somewhere even better. She designed my first cover for The Faithful, and recently updated it in preparation for the sequel's release this spring. (And no, I'm still not ready to divulge the sequel's title, but the cover is already designed and it is AWESOME!)

I recently had the good fortune of doing a wee little interview with Rebecca, and wanted to share it with you. And then I'll reveal the NEW and IMPROVED book cover for The Faithful. Here we go:

What led you to the field of graphic design? Is it something you always wanted to do?

 I’ve always been involved in art in some form – painting, drawing, sculpting, etc.—but strangely, never thought I would be very good at graphic design.  However, I vividly remember studying romance novel covers when I was a teenager and wishing I could paint them, but didn’t even know how to begin a career like that (that was back in the day when novel covers were based on paintings – usually by Pino Daeni.)  Many years later, photo manipulation and “painting” software became available mainstream and I fell in love with that medium.

 When did you begin the Sterling Design Studio? Has it evolved differently than you expected?

 Though I’d been making book covers for a number of years, I didn’t have a website – most of my work came from publishers, and word-of-mouth by independent authors.

 About two years ago, after many, many times choosing and sending samples of my work via email to potential clients, I decided I should put some samples online and direct people there.  I must admit, it was slapped together in a weekend, and I haven’t had time to update it much since (due to working a more-than-full-time day job plus doing artwork for two publishers and several indie writers).  Updating the site is on the list of projects to do this year - I have big plans for it. (Smile)

So, it is still a work in progress and will be evolving quite a lot this year.

 What challenges do you face when designing a book cover for a client you’ve never met?

 It has been surprisingly easy, actually.  Any initial fears I may have had about people taking the goods and disappearing have never materialized – all of the clients I’ve worked with have been wonderful.  I suppose the biggest challenge is communication – making sure that we are on the same page and that I’m correctly interpreting the feel of the book as well as the author’s vision for branding.

 You’re also a writer. What kind of stories do you write? Is there a particular genre you gravitate towards?

 In the past, I had a few erotic romances published by some small presses.  However, I requested the rights back to those because I wanted to take my writing name, Kate Sterling, in another direction.  I still have romantic elements in all my stories, but gravitate toward urban fantasy – whether dark or light.  And especially like when I can combine both light and dark in the same book - think “Dresden” and “Sookie Stackhouse”, and the occasional A. Lee Martinez character. (Smile) And even though it might be a bad time to be writing in that genre since the market has been glutted with it for years, it’s still what I love the most.

 You recently quit your “day job” to devote more time to the Sterling Design Studio and to writing. What led you to this exciting step, and what are your plans going forward?

 Oh, my.  For the past several years, I’ve been working in healthcare as an instructional designer, working anywhere from 50 - 100 hours a week, which didn’t leave much time for anything else.  Nevertheless, for the past three years, I had a wonderful director who was extremely flexible and kind, and allowed me to work from home whenever I needed.  That cut down on my four—count ‘em four!—hour commute, which gave me the time necessary to take care of myfamily, my health, and my other business.

 Then on October 2, 2014 (a day that lives in infamy to my reckoning) there was an unexpected meeting called from 3-5 pm, in which my boss’s boss announced that they were restructuring our department, my boss’s job was eliminated, and as of the very next day, we’d no longer be part of the Clinical and Organization Development department, but would be reporting to Information Management (IM).  It was an incredible blow.   From one day to the next, no warning, a great man was cut loose, and we were sent to work in a department known for its inflexibility and micromanagement – and almost zero tolerance for working from home.

 I tried to stick it out, but the commute was killing me, and I could see that more lay-offs were imminent.  Up to that point, I had been making about half my day job salary (though sometimes less) with artwork, and sometimes had to turn business away because I just too busy with the day job. And with the new, inflexible regime at work, I knew I’d have to cut back the artwork even more.

 So I began to wonder… what if I took it full time? What if, rather than commute 4 hours a day to a job I’d begun to hate, I put all my energy into what I love?  A long, hard look at my finances revealed that, with careful budgeting and cashing out my retirement, I would have about 6 months’ worth of living expenses, even if I quit and didn’t make another dime.  Then I started to consider that if all else failed, I could always get another day job doing what I’d been doing before – it’s a pretty big field and I get emails and phone calls from recruiters every day.

 About the same time, I read something from a speech by Jim Carrey about how his father had not pursued his dreams of being a comedian but took a “safe” job, yet was laid off from it after many years.  Jim said that taught him that you can fail at something you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance doing what you love.  That it was better to fail at something you love than something you hate. (You can see a video of that speech here:

 So, I gave my notice on 12/11 and my last day was 12/31.

 Since then, I tend to divide my time between exuberant joy and abject terror. (Smile) It’s a big risk, but I have lots of plans to make my website more interactive and helpful for people, along with more offerings and fun freebies.  I’ve also been writing, and exploring editing and design opportunities with more publishers, and have a number of ideas I’m working on.  But mostly, I’m just profoundly grateful for all the good things I have already—a healthy child, a warm home, work that I enjoy, and the opportunity to meet all the wonderful people  I’ve met on this journey so far.

What would the ten-year-old version of yourself think about where you are now?

That’s pretty funny, since my ten-year-old version was far more confident and laid-back than my 50 year self! She probably would have just said, “cool”, shrugged, and taken it as a matter of course—she would have expected nothing less.  However, my teenage self would have been over the moon!  


And drumroll please, the new and improved cover of The Faithful