Because I'm self-publishing Them That Go, an Appalachian coming-of-age novel, I'm responsible for lots of things besides just writing the book. One is cover design. Luckily, I know a guy who is adept at Photoshop and who can translate my ideas into something workable. But getting the cover just right takes time. I wanted to use a cabin door on the cover—specifically, the door on this cabin:
The above picture of my grandparents' home was taken in 1946. My grandmother is in front. The cabin isn't in such good shape anymore. Recently, I posted the picture on Facebook for "Throwback Thursday," and several folks thought I should us it as the cover.
But the family cabin doesn't fit the novel. While it's a double-pen cabin with a dogtrot between the pens like the cabin in my book, the similarity ends there. The cabin in my book has a front porch. It has woods in front with a path going to it. A high mountain looms over it. My grandparents' cabin is not in a "holler" like the one in my book, so it's not going to be on the cover—just its door.
Here are some passages from Them That Go in which Annie, the 17-year-old narrator, mentions the cabin:
After I change out of my school clothes, I head deeper
into the holler to see how Aint Lulie is doing. When the weather is warm, she
will either be sitting on her front porch or else standing in her cabin door.
But she is always waiting for me. “Come in, Honey, I swear you’re a sight for
sore eyes,” she will always say.
Annie provides some history of the cabin here:
Aint Lulie’s cabin is a double-pen with an enclosed
dogtrot between the two rooms. The part she mostly lives in was built around
1790 when Absalom Byrne, who’d seen the area a decade earlier when he was in
the Revolutionary War, came over the mountains with his new wife and settled
down. He’d gotten his land patent a year or two before, girded the trees so
they’d die and be ready to cut and build with, and he’d picked out his cabin
spot near a spring and sheltered by the mountain. He’d dragged big rocks near
to where he’d build his cabin so he’d have foundation stones and chimney stones
waiting. That fall he went back to Botetourt County, stockpiled some supplies,
married his intended, and by early spring they had started for their new home.
My grandparents' cabin—at least the pen to the left—was built around 1852 by the previous owner, William Bernard. Later my grandfather covered the logs with clapboards from his sawmill. I don't say whether the cabin in the novel is clapboarded or not.
Annie's description of the interior and part of the outside:
The cookstove is . . . on the
opposite side of the fireplace from where we sit and the stovepipe connects it
to the chimney. Aint Lulie has banked its fire for the night. After I leave,
she will bank the fire in the fireplace and go to bed. She will not let the
fire go out. “Not letting a fire go out is a sign of always having everything
you need,” she says. She is a great believer in signs.
This room where we sit snug near the
fire has all Aint Lulie needs. Besides the cookstove and fireplace, there’s her
bed, a chest, a pie safe, a table with two chairs, a rocking chair, a cupboard,
a washstand near the back door, and rows of shelves along one wall where she
keeps some of the things she’s canned. Two iron skillets and some pans hang
from the wall near the stove.
She keeps her clothes and her flour
barrel and things she doesn’t use everyday in the other room, which also has a
bed and dresser. As far as I know, no one has ever slept in that bed during my
lifetime. But the bed is ready should it be needed. When I once asked her why
she never builds a fire in there, she replied, “It’ud be a waste of good wood
with nobody in there to keep warm.”
Some things from her garden—potatoes
and cabbages and apples and dried herbs—are in the loft where it’s cooler. If
it gets too cold, she climbs the steep steps and covers them with an old quilt
so they won’t freeze. She keeps her slop jar in the dogtrot, for privacy I
reckon. But she mainly uses it only at night or if it’s too cold or rainy for
her to go to the outhouse.
The room where she does most of her
living has a front door and window that both face the road, which you can’t see
because of all the trees. In the old days, a pasture and some cleared cropland
was there, but there’s no longer a need for such. Scott would have cleared the
woods and pastured his cows there if he’d lived, but that won’t happen now.
Aint Lulie’s back door faces her garden spot and the mountain, and
there’s a narrow path that branches on the right to the outhouse and on the
left to the spring. Aint Lulie still uses the spring sometimes even though she
has the pump near the house. She’s not one to let go of the old ways.
A main theme of the novel is about staying and going. According to Aint Lulie, "There's always been them that go and them that stay in ever' generation." People use a door to come (and stay a while) or to go. The door is important in a few scenes.
So, what does the front cover look like? Here 'tis:
The novel should be available in a few weeks. Stay tuned to this blog for updates.
Labels: Appalachian Lit, book covver, cabin, writing