“Your House” was the working title of my novel. This came from a scene in which Melba Burns, a mid-life go-getter, says to her shy, imaginative young boarder Matt, “My house is your house.” It’s the moment she surrenders to his goodness and her need to have that richness in her life.
As titles go, “Your House” was a flop. My creative team yawned. I decided to try “Finding the Right Distance” based on one of the quotes at the start of the book: “The secret to any relationship is finding the proper distance.” This elicited warmer yawns. So I set off to find the cover art.
Hours and hours on photo websites yielded one gorgeous scrawny apple tree out of focus in a field of tall green grasses, in focus. It would cost $1,500. And nobody I mean nobody liked it but me. This was one haunted looking apple tree which spoke to the hauntedness of Matt Garry, the young protagonist, at the beginning of the novel.
I wrote numerous persuasive emails to my creative team, pitching the virtues of this photo. They good-naturedly said that they could live with the title and the cover image. But I knew in my heart it was wrong. They ought to love the public face. I went back to the drawing board in search of a new title.
“Guest House” was among the dozen or so new titles I sent to the team for consideration. It comes straight out of the Rumi poem quoted on the intro page. “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival…” The team went nuts for this. “Guest House” held the essence of the plot. I asked the universe to please provide the “human, connected, suggestive of relationships” cover art that my team visualized. Heaven knew I couldn’t find it.
And then came a Facebook hello. From Jeff Fuller, my boyfriend from thirty years back. Who was a graphic designer. And who said, “How about this?” He sent the cover art for “Guest House,” the heart-red cover, the luscious apples with lichen-covered branches, the farmhouse that is a main character in the novel. Jeff had never even read the manuscript! The photo cost $8. I cried for several days.
Then I said, “Yes.” My team said yes. And “Guest House” flew out of my worried hands into a larger realm. A realm where assistance comes in the nick of time from the most loving of sources. Jeff and I are dating again, pretty much smitten to pieces with each other. I asked and I received. The world looks very bright.
Scrawny apple tree image thanks to Getty Images.
Heart-red farmhouse cover image thanks to Dreamstime.