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The Magical Story of a Book Cover Design

Illustrated Novel Cover

One of the joys of writing is how it connects you to other people. The discussions we have in my writing group are deep, thoughtful, and caring. My publisher, Stephanie Larkin, of Emperor Books is a constant source of encouragement and energy.

However, figuring out how to design and promote the book has been less fun. It requires a lot of cold-calling and asking for attention, which can feel shameful.

One unexpected joy of publishing came with the cover design of Against the Grain.

I had to reach out to people who live or lived in Northern California to find images, and I ended up having warm exchanges where they introduced me to other people.

That was how I happened upon Brian Maebius, who designed the cover for the hardcover version above. I’ll tell you later how I nearly drove Stephanie crazy with our paperback cover design, which is also beautiful. I offered to pay Brian, but he refused. Such is the devotion redwoods inspire. And such are the people who love them.

It was a community that connected like the mycorrhizae connect the trees underground. It’s hard to explain how much this means to me, especially as our country seems to be coming apart at the seams. Here, in his own words is why he did it.

Brian Maebius

“I attended a graduate program in Scientific Illustration at UC Santa Cruz in 2000-01 (The program is now part of CSU Monterey Bay.  My wife and I rented a small cabin surrounded by redwoods in Lompico, near Felton, CA, a short drive to Santa Cruz campus.  It was such a neat experience with the misty fog, salamanders, banana slugs, trillium, ferns and towering trees. We had to climb 150 stairs up the hillside from our parking spot near the creek to get to the cabin.  I’m always happy to contribute to any author/artist that promotes conservation of such a unique ecosystem like the coastal redwoods.

Cypress trees

We have a related tree in the Texas Hill Country. The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is closely related to Montezuma cypress in Mexico. It grows along the rivers and creeks around Dripping Springs. Some are 800 years or older.  I’ve planted quite a few in the grotto and along the creek on our property. They’re not quite as tall as coastal redwoods, but they should reach 120 feet one day!  Another fascinating and related tree is the Dawn redwood, Metasequoia, rediscovered in China in the 1940s, and previously known from Cretaceous fossil record.”

Once again, thank you, Brian.

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