I learned a lot about the history of Kentucky, my state of residence, working on Conflict at Chillicothe, but my entire concept for the cover posed several real challenges.
First, the author really wanted a picture of a flatboat on the cover. While I was able to find wood engravings of flatboats that were in the public domain, they were just not suitable for a book cover aimed at a junior age group, and there just isn’t much call for photos of such a long ago abandoned style of riverboat. I shopped and I researched until I finally stumbled upon some photos and videos by a gentleman who builds flatboats. An email and a phone call later, I had contact with David Vaughn, who willing sort through his photos of his own flatboats. He sent me what he considered the best, and I picked one out that was suitable for my use after a bit of Photoshop work. Flatboats have no propulsion since they are designed to float down the river, propelled by the current. The flatboat in David’s picture was pushed by a tug boat, which I edited out of the photo.
The second challenge was finding a suitable photo of a Shawnee. None existed in our price range for the project. My initial concept used a bright and abstract illustration, but neither the publisher nor the author liked it, so I made do with what I could afford. The man in the stock photo I purchased was not native American, so I did a lot of photo editing to make him appear that way. I’m sure people knowledgeable of Shawnees probably cringe at what I came up with, but it’s suitable for the audience.