Lost With Me: The Birth of Nikki & Damien Stark's Upcoming Cover - J. Kenner

Lost With Me: The Birth of Nikki & Damien Stark’s Upcoming Cover

In case you missed it, Lost With Me, a new full-length Nikki & Damien book will be out next fall (yay!).  I’m super-excited about this story, which features all the emotional depth you’ve come to expect from a Nikki & Damien Stark novel, plus all the heat … and, yes, edginess and an encroaching danger. Things are heating up for Nikki and Damien and their family and friends  in more ways than one!

But this post isn’t about the book, but about the cover, because this is one of the few covers for which I was there for every step of the process … and I thought that it would be fun to share that process with you!

Spilled red wine out of Waterford crystal glass with strand of pearls
The final, lovely cover for Lost With Me (Stark Saga #5)

Isn’t it pretty? The photography is by Annie Ray of ARC Photography (who also shot some of the calendar images for my upcoming Man of the Month series),  and the cover design is by Michele Catalano of Michele Catalano Creative (who also designed the actual calendar!). Both are incredibly talented women who made the process a dream!

So how did it start? Well, with the idea for the story, of course. I’m not ready to give away too much yet, but there’s definitely danger lurking in Stark World, and I wanted the cover to reflect that. Not only danger from the outside, but emotional, internal danger as well. (Don’t worry! There’s an HEA! But, drama, folks. There’s lots of drama and the characters we love are seriously tested and put through the wringer in the story!)

How to convey all of that with an icon, though? Because if you know the series, you know that these aren’t covers that have couples or gorgeous guys on them. It’s always an icon, and always with some meaning to the story.

If you’ve read Anchor Me (book 4) then you know that we ended on what I’ll call a Happy Note And Then Some. And I think the cover reflects that. The wine glasses by the spa-style bath can be seen as representing the calm before the storm … and Lost with Me definitely brings a storm.

So after bouncing around many ideas for icons with Annie and my assistant Melissa (a broken emerald and diamond ankle bracelet, a shattered glass) we all ended up falling in love with the idea of  spilled red wine in crystal. Why red wine? Well, the crystal goblet suggests wealth and an emotional heat, and if it’s red wine, well, it looks a little like blood, and if it’s spilled wine … well, that definitely signifies danger.

But while the book does have that touch of danger, it also has deep emotional resonance and–let’s just say it, shall we?–lots and lots of sex. Thus, the pearls to represent that sensuality and erotic heat. Yes, pearls. (Surely you all remember the pearl scene in Complete Me), although we also considered the emerald and diamond ankle bracelet from the book for a while, too!

Then the task was how to put that all together, and Annie did an amazing job. I brought the pearls, a diamond bracelet and the glass to her South Austin studio (the glass is Waterford, and was part of my grandmother’s collection that she gave to my husband and me for our wedding).

We toyed with this idea — see the diamond bracelet on the stem. But just not the right impact for the story …  Not to mention that getting it to photograph properly was going to be a challenge! (And we didn’t have an emerald bracelet!)

Before the shoot, Annie did several test shots, wanting to get the spilled wine right. Because it’s not as easy as it seems!

She ended up using something called Thick-it in colored liquid — which gives the right effect — and keeps the wine from running all over creation! (For those who wonder, yes, the color did come out of the string for my pearls! Which are not real, and which I got a few years ago through a Groupon deal! Every girl needs a REALLY long strand of pearls!)

The paraphernalia of making “red wine”

Once we had the wine right, it was a question of setting the angles–getting the placement just right with the glass and the pearls!

Getting ready to shoot …

Trying different strands of pearls — looking for the best effect!

THAT’s not enough “wine”!

Annie adds more “wine!”

Once we had the look we wanted, Annie captured it on camera. And because computers are awesome, she was able to do some adjustments in the studio so we could see something close to the final version (she did the detailed clean up later).

Pretty cool!

And once we had the final image, we sent it off to Michele who turned it into its own unique cover, but still keeping in the same style as the previous Stark books!

And, voila! The transformation from image to cover:

It takes a team to make a great cover! I think mine rocks!

Be sure to pre-order Lost With Me! And if you have friends who were fans of the original Nikki & Damien books, be sure to share with them and spread the word that another book is in the works!

Buy Lost With Me


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