A Dark Cover, Lightened Up

history of usLeah Stewart wrote one of my favorite books about friendship, The Myth of You and Me. Her latest novel, The History of Us, is about three grown siblings who return to their childhood home to face a family secret. The cover is striking—and like the covers of her last two books (The Myth of You and Me and Husband and Wife) it features people wearing red coats.

Here’s Leah to talk about the cover design that was, and the one that came to be:

“My cover story is different for this book than any of my others, because it was my first experience of having a cover change during the publication process. I had only a vague image in mind before I saw any cover designs—the book’s original title was Elsewhere, and I think I was picturing a city skyline with a mist around it. (One of the concerns about that title was that it sounded like a fantasy novel, which may be borne out by my image of a misty, magical city.) When I imagine covers, they rarely have people on them, even though my covers all end up having people on them. I’m not sure why I don’t picture them that way. Maybe it’s because when I imagine my characters, it’s the way they think that comes to mind, rather than what they look like.
original history of us
“The first cover for the book, which was on the advance copies, was mostly black, with a nostalgic-looking photo of three children on it. The characters in the book are three adult siblings, and I loved that cover because I thought it captured the book’s theme of how childhood influences our adult relationships. There was some concern, though, as the copies went out, that perhaps the cover was too dark. At one point there was discussion about making it blue, but I loved the black and asked them to keep it, and they did.
“As the process went on, though, the concern about that cover won out. The designer came up with the cover which is on the book now, which is much brighter—it has a lot of sunlight in it and the dominant color is red. They wanted the red in it to make a link with my last two books, both of which have a great deal of red on the cover. In fact, all three feature people in red coats. (Recently I bought my first red coat, not even thinking about the covers, and my friend said, ‘Now you match your books.’) I think the final cover is lovely, with its emphasis on the parent-child connection, also important to the book, and its dappled light. Response to it has been very positive. Still, I’ll always think fondly of the original cover, because it was my first love.”
Thanks, Leah. I do like the idea of seeing a book and thinking “Leah Stewart!” because of the consistency of the red coats (and even Leah’s debut, Body of a Girl, has a lot of red in it, though not a coat). But the original cover design here is very evocative, so I also understand feeling nostalgic about it.
What do you think of these covers?