Together Apart: An Author’s Note

Together ApartBack when Together Apart was still called Divorced (yes, once upon a time I thought that was a good name for the book) my cover designer had a fantastic, very solid idea for this book.

It would show a photograph torn down the middle, with a woman (that would be Sam) on one side of the tear and a man (Zach) on the other. The people in their halves of the photo would be smiling, because it was shot during a better time in their lives, when they were happy.

You, as the reader, would look at the cover and immediately get the message: things were once rosy for the people in this book, but now those good times were over … except that those cherished times weren’t just over; they were destroyed. Decimated. Ripped down the middle, sundered forever.

By contrast, the cover I wanted — and which I proceeded to fight for through a long series of emails one Saturday between me, my designer, a writer friend who knows a lot about selling books, and the three guys from the SPP — would be less sensational: a man and woman embracing, wistful or sad.

I wanted it to be sexy but not overtly so. I saw something defeated, not spiteful. I wanted the reader to see the cover and feel like there was an ending … not necessarily a breakup.

From a sales perspective, my idea was less compelling. The others thought it didn’t leap off the shelves at all. They said the cover I wanted wouldn’t sell as many copies because it wasn’t catchy or overtly emotional. I argued:

A “destroyed” cover doesn’t fit the book’s tone; Sam and Zach’s tale wasn’t one of fighting and bickering. It’s two people once in love, growing apart. The others said it didn’t matter. The marketing hook mattered more. “You should sell the sizzle, not the steak,” they all agreed.

I resisted, they volleyed back. Alternative ideas followed: burned roses, a couple fighting, photos with faces removed or speared with darts. I hated them all. But what was worse, I began to feel emotionally crushed. I took well-reasoned arguments personally. It didn’t feel like they were disagreeing with my marketing. Instead, it felt like they were insulting me on a personal level, ripping apart and burning my memories.

Even at the time, I was shocked by how much this stupid cover debate bothered me, and how much it started to matter that I got my way. I’ve never fought for a cover. In principle, it seems petty and self-centered. I’m gifted with words. Others get visuals. I tell them what I like and they suggest what they think will work, but if those two perspectives clash, I always back down. I know my stuff, and hire them to know theirs.

But I couldn’t let go for Divorced, and soon realized why: I wasn’t fighting for my cover. I was fighting for Sam and Zach, like they fought for each other.

Divorced was, without question, the most emotionally wracking story I’d written so far. I cried while writing. And again while revising. I had to stop twice for solace because I couldn’t take the intensity. Once finished, I had to rest as if I’d run a race. And then, for weeks afterward, I kept returning to this story in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about Zach and Sam. I’ve spent many hours sharing their lives (not precisely creating their lives; when you write good characters, they wake up and start acting without the writer’s conscious will, and often in defiance of it). They are like my friends.

I felt so bad for my friends. Not only do I know some of their most intimate secrets, I was their architect. What happened to them was all my fault. I gave them life, thrust them into unwinnable conflict, watched them fight for their love, then threw more obstacles in their way the second they started to climb from the muck.

By my hand they suffered. I couldn’t let some cover designer who didn’t even know my friends disrespect all they’d been through. It would be like letting a dispassionate organizer discard a childhood teddy bear because it clashed with the decor. Sure, tossing that bear might make the house tidier … but sometimes love matters more.

I’ve never been divorced. But that doesn’t matter, because Together Apart isn’t really about a divorce. It’s about love. And growing up. It’s about realizing that sometimes, what used to make you deliriously happy no longer fits. Those things, I’ve felt as much as anyone.

I told my designer and my friend that I didn’t care if Divorced sold fewer copies with my inferior cover. I owed it to Sam and Zach to respect the love they’d tried so hard to salvage. I asked: when you grow up and your childhood teddy bear no longer feels right in the crook of your arm as you sleep, do you tear it in half and throw it away? Or do you protect it as you set it aside — reserving a special place on your shelf so you can forever cherish what it once meant?

I don’t always order print copies of my own books, but I ordered this one. I set it on my shelf, in a special place, to be cherished for the time I spent writing it, and for the memory of a bittersweet love affair I’ll remember forever.

Divorced’s cover may not have the POP! of something more sensational, but I did my job. I took care of Sam and Zach … because even after they’d gone their separate ways, they would still take care of each other.

And this new cover makes me sigh and cry and squeal for all the right reasons. I’m grateful to Sterling & Stone for this cover. To me it proves that not only am I in excellent hands, so are my teddies.

If you’re already a Sterling & Stoner, Together Apart is in your Members Area now! If not, you can click here to join now. 

Comments

  1. Way to fight for what you believe in, Sean! I think the cover looks awesome, too.

  2. Jack Worr says:

    I think Lexi wrote that

  3. I’m a Stoner, but Together Apart isn’t in my library?

  4. It is in my library, but nothing happens when I click the mobi link. It just passes me on to another page, telling me that I’m logged in.

    • We’re still trying to figure this out. All the links work for me, but for every person they work for, someone else can’t get the books they want. Weird… Time to email support again, I think!

      • First time I’ve had problems. Everything else have been just fine :)
        The link looks like the others too, so it’s a bit weird. Are you sure there is a file at that position?

      • Okay. I just tested a couple of links, and all with the masked address (download id in the url) doesn’t work. The ones where the url is straightforward works. I’m guessing the latter are not tied into Stripe, the ones that doesn’t work for me goes through Stripe.

        Don’t know if that’s helpful or not, but it’s a pattern at least.

      • Dave Floyd says:

        I have the exact same problem as Anita. I cannot download most of the Stoner library.

      • I managed to download it today. I had tried again, still no luck, but then logged out, and logged back in. That did the trick for me. Not sure what that was about, but it worked.

  5. This cover is beautiful!

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