The Evolution of a Book Cover – Part II – “The Trouble with Scarlett”

I’ve just delivered the manuscript for the second book in my Garden of Allah series – “The Trouble with Scarlett” – to my marvelous editor Meghan Pinson, at My Two Cents Freelace Editing and so now I have turned my attention to the creation of the cover.

I was so pleased with the work Dan Yeager did at Nu-Image Design that I went back to him for this project too. I didn’t have a specific image in my mind but I did, at least, have a clue about what I wanted.

As The Trouble with Scarlett is set against the casting of Scarlett O’Hara in the movie version of Gone with the Wind, I knew that I needed a cover which incorporated a Gone with the Wind feel, but I didn’t want it to look like a romance novel. I didn’t want any prospective reader to think that it was a GWTW knock-off or parody. But I did want it to appeal to GWTW fans. As I couldn’t use any of the actual images from the movie, I needed Dan to come up with a GWTW-y feel.

Also, as Gone with the Wind was a landmark Technicolor production, I wanted this cover to reflect that. Whereas The Garden on Sunset was set in the sepia-tinted late 20s/early 30s world of the early talkies, this new book opens in 1936, the dawn of the Technicolor era so the cover had to reflect that.

I also wanted the title to be a GWTW-y style font. Not necessarily the same one used on the cover of the original book or in the movie, but something else which evoked it.

“Right!” said Dan. “Got it.” And amazingly quickly, he came back with:

First up was the font. I’d asked for a GWTW-y font but got the same font he used on my first book. He reasoned that this is part of a series and it’s better to have a cohesive look to the whole series, and one way to do that is to keep the same font throughout. Okay, fair enough. Good point.

I did like the colors he used. The vivid sunset and silhouetted tree were very reminiscent of that famous shot from the movie. But it looked a bit too romance novelish to me. Plus, the couple looked like they were out of the court of King Louis XVI of France, not the Civil War. So I decided to go with something else.

One of the key scenes in my novel takes place during the first night of filming on Gone with the Wind when they recreated the burning of Atlanta by setting fire to old movie sets (including King Kong and, ironically, a Marlene Dietrich movie called The Garden of Allah). It’s a very cinematic scene and as fire is a recurring image in my book, I wondered if perhaps Dan could recreate that famous shot of the stand-ins for Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh caught in front of those enormous, fiery movie sets.) And he did:

That is what I asked for but I didn’t like it as much. It didn’t say Gone with the Wind as readily as the first version did. Plus, changing the font from yellow to blue, the title got lost in the background. I follow a blog which analyzes book covers and the mantra there is MAKE SURE THE TITLE POPS OUT. So this version was a no-go.

But it did help me to realize that the cover needed to communicate in a single glance that this is a novel about the movie version of Gone with the Wind, not the book version. So I told Dan to go back to the first cover but come up with something that says: “HOLLYWOOD!” And as this book is about the casting of Scarlett, not Scarlett & Rhett, we need to replace the figure of the couple with a single silhouette of Scarlett, preferably something along the lines of As God is my witness… as in “As God is my witness, I will be cast in the role of Scarlett O’Hara!”

“And please,” I addded, “just to humor me, change the font to something GWTW-y. I’ve been picturing a cover using that font for a year. I need to know that it’s the wrong way to go.” And, patient man that he is, Dan complied.

Okay, now we’fre were getting somewhere. I liked the newspaper headline, and I liked the Scarlett silhouette. While I liked the new font, I decided Dan was right, we need to stick with the original. This looked too much like a blatant rip-off Gone with the Wind wannabe. Also, the red sunset and the blue sky made for too much going on in the background.

I decided that this book (and this series) is about Hollywood and so the cover needs to reflect that. The Hollywood aspect of the cover needed to be emphasized more and the GWTW aspect needed to be emphasized less. I was also concerned that Dan may have lifted the new Scarlett silhouette from a screen capture off the movie which, copyright-wise, is a no-no. So I asked Dan to ditch the blue sky, choose a different font color to make the title pop better, feature the headline more, and pull back on Scarlett.

So close! So close! I liked everything about this but two things. The new Scarlett looked more like an ink blob dripping off the newspaper headline, and the trees in the silhouetted horizon were obscuring too much of the headline.

I sent Dan back to the drawing board just one more time and I am now very excited to present the cover for my next novel:



Book two in the “Garden of Allah” series
by Martin Turnbull

Summer, 1936: Gone with the Wind is released by first-time author Margaret Mitchell and becomes an international sensation. Everyone in Hollywood knows that Civil War pictures don’t make a dime, but renegade movie producer David O. Selznick snaps up the movie rights and suddenly the talk around dinner tables and cocktail parties across the country is fixated on just one question: Who will win the role of Scarlett O’Hara?

When aspiring actress Gwendolyn Brick finally gets her hands on the book, it’s like the clouds have parted and the angels are singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Only a genuine southern belle can play Scarlett and didn’t she spend her childhood listening to Mama’s stories of Sherman’s march and all those damned Yankees? After years of slinging cigarettes at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Gwendolyn finds a new purpose in life: to become the silver screen’s Scarlett O’Hara. But isn’t that the ambition of every other pretty Hollywood gal with a deep-fried accent? She knows she’s going to have to stand out bigger than a hoop skirt at a Twelve Oaks barbecue.

Marcus Adler finds himself the golden boy of Cosmopolitan Pictures, the vanity production company set up by William Randolph Hearst for his movie star mistress, Marion Davies. He’s written Return to Sender, Davies’ first-ever genuine smash hit and wins a coveted invitation to spend the weekend at Hearst Castle. The kid who got kicked out of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is now the guest of the richest man in America, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Myrna Loy, Winston Churchill, and Katharine Hepburn. But the trouble with flying high is that you have such a very long way to fall. When Marcus’ Hearst weekend turns into an unmitigated fiasco, Marcus finds himself sinking fast. He realizes he needs a new idea to impress the studios—real big and real soon—when the Garden of Allah hotel gains a new resident. F. Scott Fitzgerald arrives in Hollywood with a $1000-a-week contract at MGM but no idea how to write a screenplay. “Pleased to meetcha,” Marcus tells him. “We need to talk.”

When Selznick gives the nod to MGM’s George Cukor to direct Gone with the Wind, it’s the scoop of the year and falls into the lap of Kathryn Massey, the Hollywood Reporter’s newest columnist. But dare she publish it? All scoops are the exclusive domain of the Hearst papers’ all-powerful, all-knowing, all-bitchy Louella Parsons. Nobody in Hollywood has dared to outscoop Louella before, but isn’t it about time someone did? When Kathryn plunges ahead with her story, Louella retaliates low and dirty. Kathryn’s boss loses his nerve and leaves her dangling like a limp scarecrow in a summer storm. Then the telephone rings. It’s Ida Koverman, Louis B. Mayer’s personal secretary, and she has a proposition she’d like to make.

The Trouble with Scarlett is the second in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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8 Responses to The Evolution of a Book Cover – Part II – “The Trouble with Scarlett”

  1. Yay! Will there be copies of this one ready for the Musso Salon?

  2. Jaye says:

    By George! I think he’s got it.

    That turned out great, Martin. Good job to you and your designer. You work very well together. That is a terrific cover.

  3. Anne says:

    The cover you chose looks perfect for the content of your second book. Having read the precis of the book I can’t wait for it to be published. Then comes the problem of waiting patiently for the third book.

    • Thanks, Anne! I really like it too! I’m already several drafts into the third book but my experience tells me that I have quite a few drafts ahead of me! Thanks for your interest.

  4. Diane Clark says:

    Hi Martin. Really enjoyed vicariously going through the creative process w/ you and your designer. Like everyone else, can’t wait. Have grown quite attached to your fictional characters, not to mention the milieu of old Hollywood!

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