Last fall, I had the chance to read a little book then-titled The Patron Saint of Beans, by not-yet-debut author Emily Murdoch. Her novel is the story of a girl hidden away deep in a national forest, and when her father finds her, she discovers she’s been living a lie—her mother kidnapped her as a child. Now, thrust into the dizzying real world of shopping malls, high school, and boys, she must hide her darkest secret—or risk watching her new life come tumbling down.
My most vivid memory of reading the book is having to set it down in my lap halfway through, take in deep shuddering breaths, and then continue on. Yes, I was that girl on the train fighting back tears. When I finished it, I immediately emailed her, saying, I love this story so much it hurts. Your writing is powerful, and nuanced, and just plain gorgeous. We set up a phone call and I offered her representation.
When the book went on submission a couple of months later, we had our first offer within a couple weeks, a pre-empt the following week, and we sold to a third publisher days later, despite that these were the days leading up to Christmas! Her editor, in fact, had to call us from a cab to update her offer—while she was on the way to a christmas party. It’s just that good, and I’m SO Thrilled to have had a part in its path to publication, and I’m very lucky to call Emily Murdoch a client!
Part of the reason I wanted to share this story, specifically, is because so often writers want to talk about what’s trendy, where the market is going, what they should be writing, etc, etc. It’s normal to worry that if what you’re writing isn’t “hot”, that it can’t sell. Writers hear agents saying they just want damn good writing and a compelling story, but what they think is that it needs to be rapped up in a flashy dystopian or a sparkling vampire or a space ship.
Emily’s path to publication, however, is proof that when you write a book with a compelling voice and characters that leap from the page, it will rise above trends. So, without further ado, the book formerly known as The Patron Saint of Beans:
Praise for If You Find Me
Within two pages, I was hopelessly hooked. I felt like the story had attached itself to me… This is one of those books you devour.
—Jennifer Brown, author of The Hate List
If You Find Me grabbed me by the heart on page one and didn’t let go till the very last word. Murdoch’s language is lovely, her storytelling gripping.
—Carol Lynch Williams, award-winning author of The Chosen One
Searing…[IF YOU FIND ME] hurt my heart and will probably haunt my dreams—a beautiful book about survival, identity, family, love and so much more.
—Jenny Donwham, author of Before I Die.
I asked Emily a few questions about her cover, and she was happy to indulge me:
1. Did you have an image in mind for your cover? Any stock images or ideas?
Actually, I had no cover image in mind; at least, not until I saw this gorgeous painting by Megan Richard. I even wished I could buy it, but it was already sold!
If You Find Me is stuffed full of tree and stars symbolism. However, as an educated-enough author, I knew the cover image was out of my hands.
2. Did you have any input on your cover?
No. And it can be scary, having no control. I had to trust my editor when she promised she wouldn’t send my novel out into the world with a title or cover I hated. (And she made good on that promise!)
3. What was your instant reaction when you saw the image for the first time?
I cried. And then I had to command myself to stop crying because I couldn’t see!
Not only did I love it straight away, but the fact that I had a novel that was going to be published, and therefore a cover—WOW!
At first, I could only process the cover in three separate parts: the title, my name on a book cover, and the artwork. I kept the file open on my laptop for weeks, and I must’ve looked at it dozens of times. Only then was my brain able to integrate those parts into the cover you see today.
4. Your title changed from The Patron Saint of Beans to If You Find Me. Can you share with our blog readers how this change came about? Did you contemplate other options?
Titles are another item often out of an author’s control. It was the title I angsted over the most, because it’s made up of words, and I wanted it to be my words, if possible.
Sales and marketing were worried that the instance of “Saint” in the title might wrongly lead readers into believing my book had a religious bent. My agent, Mandy Hubbard, was a calming force throughout this time period, even brainstorming some wonderful titles alongside me.
I must’ve sent over sixty or seventy title possibilities to my editor, and I was lucky if they liked even ten of those choices. In the end, I thought of If You Find Me, (it was the last title I thought of!) and finally, the new title was approved!
But I’ll admit, it was tough to let the old title go. That said, there comes a point where art must be mingled with business, and I felt that, if St. Martin’s loved my book enough to take it on and pay me an advance, I needed to trust their business instincts.
Now, I believe the title better does what it’s supposed to do, and I love the way the title and cover work together to represent the overall ambiance of the story.
Many thanks to the talented women of Pub(lishing) Crawl for participating in my cover reveal, and for having me on your blog.
I’d like to end by telling all aspiring writers out there, don’t give up! Keep learning, growing, and believing in yourself and the writing dream. I look forward to seeing your cover reveals one day!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Emily! She was gracious enough to offer a signed ARC for our readers—so don’t forget to enter below to win this Ah-Maz-Ing book!