Years ago, I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It was the historical account of Christopher McCandless, a young man who graduated to great promise from Emory University in the early 1990s only to abandon any semblance of identity (he literally burned all forms of identification) and left his home and family behind to hit the road on a cross-country trip. Chris ultimately ended up living out of an abandoned bus through a snowy Alaskan winter north of Denali National Park and, while incredibly resourceful, he ended up making one tactical mistake–he ate poisonous berries–and ended up perishing shortly before the spring thaw. His journey, both physically and psychologically, was introspective and meditative.
When I first started writing Green Bay Outsiders, my current work in progress, I knew one of my characters was going to be a Vietnam War veteran so I delved into stories that highlight the experiences of such men and women. Although Sylvester Stallone often serves as the butt of jokes because of the many atrocious movies he has made during his career, many other films he has made have significantly more merit, including the first “First Blood” movie. The film, released in 1982, approximately a decade after the end of the Vietnam War, shows a war veteran displaced by the trauma of his experiences overseas whose buddies back home are dying from various ailments and who can’t find a home for himself back on American turf.
Readers browsing Amazon’s online book store (the Kindle store) for their next read will make their purchasing decisions based on several factors. The cover has to be attractive. The book description should be compelling. And then there are reader reviews. A book with seven reviews is likely going to be perceived as less interesting than a book with seven HUNDRED reviews. The latter will be perceived as one where readers are heading in droves in pursuit of a great and wonderful story, whereas the former–the book with seven reviews–will be perceived as one read only by the author’s mother and a handful of friends.
Back at the State University of Binghamton, where I was a creative writing student in the mid-1990s, I wrote a short story called “Shakespeare’s Night on the Town”. It wasn’t a very good story–overly moralistic (hey, I was raised Catholic!) and slightly naive. It was also a very long story. I told my professor, Liz Rosenberg, that I struggled to write short stories. “Maybe you’re a novelist,” she responded. I have never forgotten she said that. It resonated at the time, and it continues to resonate now.
I’m a huge Star Wars fan and it was a big deal when Disney, which owns the rights to Lucasfilm, released Rogue One last December–the first Star Wars film that wasn’t part of one of the trilogies. I thought Rogue One was pretty fantastic for two reasons: one, because the characters had distinct lives and identities of their own, and secondly, because the story ties in closely with the original Star Wars film, “A New Hope”, that came out in 1977. In that film, of course, the Rebel Alliance destroys a planet-killing space station known as the Death Star. Luke Skywalker, the Rebel pilot and Jedi Knight in training, pulls the trigger that does the deed.
One wonders how the evil Empire could have constructed an engineering marvel such as the Death Star while leaving such an absurd flaw that leaves the entire station exposed to the devastating impact of a single shot. That story is the one told in “Rogue One”. My novel, Green Bay Outsiders, has something in common with the relationship between those two movies.
A huge thanks to everyone who contributed feedback on the three proposed cover design options for Green Bay Outsiders. In all, more than 30 people offered really great and insightful perspectives. Admittedly, the favorite book cover design among my readers was almost neck-and-neck between two of the three proposals. With that said, the final choice is the result of suggestions made concerning ALL three covers. So with that said, here’s a list of choices I made based on reader feedback: