Jim Tierney on Designing Covers for the Kopp Sisters Novels

Jim Tierney is a book cover designer residing in Brooklyn, NY. His work includes the covers for the Kopp Sisters Novels, Girl Waits With Gun and Lady Cop Makes Trouble. Here is his process for designing those, in his own words.

Before working on this series, I had been familiar with Amy Stewart's amazing (and wonderfully-designed) non-fiction books like The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Bugs, so I was intrigued when HMH approached me to design her new historical novel, Girl Waits With Gun. The premise was exciting, not only as a new direction for well-respected author, but as a story that would seem far too unbelievable were it not faithfully based on real-life events.

The book takes place in 1914, and centers around the family of Constance Kopp. When Constance sues the wealthy silk manufacturer Henry Kaufman for drunkenly crashing into her buggy, Henry responds by blackmailing and harassing the Kopp family. As Kaufman's goons escalate their violent attacks against the Kopps, Constance partners with a local sheriff in order to take down Henry, and earns her place as America's first female sheriff. 

This seems like something that should be taught in every American school, but it was a relatively unknown piece of history until Amy's meticulous research put the full story together.

The biggest trick to designing the cover was finding a good balance between the "historical" and "fictional" aspects of the book. We wanted to show Constance on the cover, and since there are very few photographs of her, illustration seemed like the best way to give the book a modern look while also evoking the period. I tried out a few different sketches using silhouettes and vintage lettering, but they ended up feeling a little too "western" (the story takes place in New Jersey). 

The art director, Brian Moore, had sent along some of Amy's research material (including the newspaper clipping that inspired the title), and suggested I try designing the cover like the front page of a newspaper. After that, everything pretty much fell into place!

The second book, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, follows Constance's new career as sheriff's deputy, facing the unique challenge of asserting her authority in a society that isn't ready to accept it. For this cover I wanted Constance's appearance to reflect the progress she's made, including the badge, handcuffs, and a direct steady gaze at the reader.