This book. It touched the deep places inside of me. It became more than a story, and instead, a journey. The circus was palpable, and infused into every crevice and ounce of the novel. Charlie more than tamed the lions, he tamed the soul. Ella became the shadow of myself that walked ahead of me, guiding me page after page until the midnight moon was high overhead and the last page turned to close. The best read of 2016 so far. It engages the emotion, the senses, the spirit of the circus, and the romance that impresses itself on your heart well into the morning light.
Joanne is visiting our blog today with a secret, inside-look into the making of her gorgeous book cover! I'll hand it over to Joanne and then keep reading for book info and a GIVEAWAY!
Take it away, Joanne ...
The Photographer - With the plan in motion, I sought out a sweet friend whose photography is positively stunning.
The Setting – The majority of the story takes place in Virginia in 1890 on the outskirts of Roanoke when it was just becoming a bustling city. The circus would have taken up a multi-acre lot on the edge of town where circus workers would have plenty of room to set everything up. Because I live in Southern California, most known for its deserts, beaches, and freeways, this felt a tad tricky, but fortunately, we live in the mountains where some gorgeous meadows are sprinkled about. With the help of my photographer friend who knew of a great local spot, we dialed in on a meadow just five minutes from home. We were one off-road drive closer to a cover!
The Props – First on the list was a circus tent. This is when it’s doubly wonderful to have a mother-in-law who is not only handy with a sewing machine, but who also has tubs of fabric and a willing heart! The white portions of the tent you see are actually hospital sheets that she cut into strips, and the red is vintage fabric that she’d been saving for years. We looked at a few pictures of circus tents to get the feel for one from the Victorian-era and she got right to work, even adding a surprise touch of ruffles that is my favorite part. My husband is brilliant at making things, so after showing him the finished draping, he built a curved frame out of PVC piping, strung parachute chord for the back, vintage-style rope for the front, and arranged it all to look like a portion of the Big Top. That man is amazing. And the cutest roustabout I’ve ever seen. ;)
The Lionheart - There’s something about that Charlie Lionheart. He’s a huge part of the story and so began the process of finding ways to incorporate his essence into the cover. He’s circus through and through, so having that setting was really special. Also, as a dashing Victorian gent, he not only has a fond affection for his top hats, but there’s a little rumor around the circus that whoever has his hat, has his heart. My hope was that Ella might have that hat in hand on the cover as an extra nod to the romance and Charlie’s oh-so-important character. Which brings us to…
The Big Day– The big day was a big deal not just because we were shooting the cover for a story so dear to my heart, but because getting to that day was a wild adventure all its own! The photo shoot was set for the hour before sunset so it was a wait, wait, wait, go! kind of day. The cover model showed up in leggings and flip flops and with her hair gorgeously done based on a style we’d picked from Pinterest. Next came costume and make up and soon she was transformed into a heroine from 1890. Then we were heading down that bumpy road and within minutes, the photographer was at work with two different cameras—one digital and one film. Film has a grainy, old-fashioned look, and as I sifted through the finished photographs, it was a tough call because digital and its high-resolution look made the most sense. Because the image I most loved was shot in film, I was slightly worried that it wouldn’t fall in line with other modern book covers, but as the story goes, whoever has Charlie’s hat really does have his heart, so the pose on the cover was just too perfect to pass up. Looking back on this experience, God was there each step of the way, helping the process along and there was so much in the little things and all the helping hearts behind the scenes. The response from readers has been as much of a joy!
Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.
Just then a child in the row behind Ella cried out, “Look, Mama!”
Charlie, dressed in his center ring finery, strode into the arena, as strong and strapping as ever. Face powdered and painted with two jagged teardrops under his eyes, he walked with stoic authority, tall boots forging a fresh trail straight toward his audience. Ella didn’t know a single man could hush a packed house with no words, but…then there was Charlie Lionheart.