If Dreams Should Die

Don’t judge a book by its cover.


In personal life, definitely.

To sell novels? Without doubt, the cover attracts the reader as pollen-laden stamens draw bees (and the other pollinators, yes, yes)


I’ve spent weeks trying to find the appropriate cover for my latest novel, working with the brilliant Matthew Richardson – who has a terrific record as a designer– and the equally gifted Matthew Connolly, who has not only published two of my previous novels but created beautiful video trailers for all three.


And of course I consulted my writing group: prize-winning novelists and poets who are my most stringent critics.


If nobody judges a book by its cover, why should I care?


The first potential cover used a fabulous photograph taken by Stewart Sanderson – but the consensus was that it didn’t say enough about the novel. I’m going to use his photo for the cover of a novel provisionally called. Through a Glass Darkly. It’s too good not to use.


Then we went through a sequence of images of teenage girls … my protagonist is a near-15 year old, and the antagonist is her disturbed mother. The images were gorgeous but … too old, too glamorous, too misleading.


Conversation with publisher:

“Are you wedded to the title?”

Me: (thinking this novel has had the title When the Killing Comes Home since c 2016) “No.’

“What then?”


I run through titles I’ve wanted to use for other novels, eg my first, Morph. I wanted to call it You Made Me but Jackie Kay, who had read it and was my supervisor objected that it sounded like coercive control. She was right, of course. I owe the title Morph to my good friend Viccy Adams. She had read it too. Thanks, Viccy!


My other consistent and invariably generous reader is Linda Anderson.  She recognised in this latest novel my conviction that the stories we tell ourselves are richly creative, or destructive, and urged me to focus on the way story-telling enabled my young protagonist to keep her sense of self alive, despite multiple foster-placements.


The new title is The Making of Cassie Clearwater.


And amazingly, Matthew Richardson and I independently found the same image for Cassie.