Judging a Book by its Cover

Judging a Book by its Cover

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if it is done properly.”

-Banksy, Wall and Piece

Street Art, also known as Graffiti, is a controversial topic. Even though Banksy, a pseudonymous street artist based in the UK, is a political activist, film director, and world-renowned, many people frown and negatively think of his graffiti as NOT art. Others look to him as an inspirational trailblazer and mentor.

I am told that wherever you are in your writing journey, you should anticipate and embrace controversy.

The word controversy is from the Latin word controversia, which means “turned in an opposite direction.” In the twentieth century, we are more apt to say that controversy is a prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view.

Here’s where I come in

As a person who dislikes controversy and steers clear of disputes, arguments, and rocking the boat, the title for my next book seems out of character and unlike anything I would ever say. It may be controversial to some, upsetting to others, thought-provoking and yet relatable to many.

Even though controversial topics such as global climate change, evolution, capital punishment, and marriage equality are considered some of the most debated issues, I feel like my life has had its fair share of controversy too. Primarily based on bad decisions I have made and regrettable things that I have done.  

People who know me see me as calm and at peace. I laugh easily and smile freely. I am mainly agreeable and try to see all sides to the point of view. However, sometimes my empathy for others is unbearable and causes me great distress.

Yet, as I go about my day-to-day activities, it feels ironic that my past had many ups and downs. My mother struggled with mental health, and my father experienced extreme poverty and despair. He came from a broken home and was abandoned. They both tried to cover up their pasts and did so quite well, but small remnants crept out of hiding when I least expected.

Meanwhile, my struggles brought me where I am today, and strangely enough, even though I used to wish for a different life, now that I am older, I would not change a thing.

I recently learned that unbeknownst to me, my older sister had her fair share of strife too. But I will get back to her in a moment.

Conclusively, we ALL have a story to tell. We have personal experiences and knowledge of places and topics. Moreover, when writing about our harrowing adventures or humorous escapades, we can portray ourselves as wise and seasoned; we can walk the walk and talk the talk because we “have been there, done that.” Or perhaps we are still battling the demons that haunt us, and we are smack dab in the middle of figuring things out, consequently blocking out our past hurts and trauma. Therefore, we are not ready yet to look at what shaped us or share with anyone about our sleepless nights and what it is that plagues us.

What about this…

If you could give your life a title, like a book title, I wonder what it would be? One thing I do know is that it would belong to you and be relative to your story.

Your journey is unique, and your title would be meaningful and reflective of who you were then or who you are now.

If you were to publish a memoir, the telling of your story could bring you and others tremendous healing. But this makes me wonder, would your book be suspenseful and dramatic? Poignant and powerful? Intriguing, informative, and inspirational? Would you share the bold truth, or a peripheral narrative that was eventless and mundane? Only you can answer that question. In one way or another, your options are vast and endless as to what your book would contain and what the title might be.

Controversial or not, telling your story and the version you write about is entirely up to you.

Back to me…

Many of my followers and readers have expressed how my books have brought clarity to their struggles. I have been told that my past recollections remind the reader of their past. Some find my historical moments in time educational and interesting—the references to music, people, places, and things memorable and notable. My black and white photos are said to be haunting or heartwarming.

Opinions of my memoirs vary from reader to reader.

Above all else, in my books and blogs, I bring to the forefront that everyone is unique and diverse, yet we share similarities.

Without sounding boastful, but rather spoken more like a parent, I genuinely love my first and second books, separately, for entirely different reasons.

How my book titles came to be

My first book Looking for Normal, was published in 2018 and was an experimental first attempt to try my luck at being a writer. It was also meant to record my family’s history, warts and all—unvarnished, up-front, and honest.

I chose the title based on an Erma Bombeck quote, “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.” Combined with the title of her book The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, to me, both quotes emphasize that there is no such thing as normal. Not one person is perfect, nor is one single family free of adversity.

Ultimately, family history is just that, a record of yesteryear—a remembrance of days gone by and a road map as to how people coped and found their way in amongst hardship and misfortune, joy and sorrow.

By learning about our ancestors, sometimes we can dissolve the old road map and create a new one. For example, twists and turns our relatives took could be changed into a much smoother path for us, based on learning from the mistakes they made. Thus, we can change the narrative of our life.

My second book, Where is My Happy Ending? A Journey of No Regrets was published in 2020 and holds a title that was much trickier for me to come up with. I needed a title that captured the non-truth of fairy tales, harlequin romance novels, and movies from the Hallmark television channel. I noticed that many women shared the sentiment of my title, —as in, where is my happy ending?

But, honestly, where is it?!!!!

Oprah Winfrey called this way of thinking a Cinderella Complex.

In 1981 Oprah had author Colette Dowling on her show. She wrote a book called, The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence. Dowling theorized that women are traditionally conditioned from birth to depend on others, particularly men, for their emotional, financial, and physical safety. Dowling used the analogy of the fairy tale character Cinderella, who cooks and cleans for her abusive stepmother but ultimately is rescued and cared for by “Prince Charming.” Her book and appearance on Oprah’s talk show brought her book title worldwide public attention.

Rightly so!

For example, as a child, I dreamed of moving out and getting a boyfriend. From my teens and well into my twenties, I was perpetually searching for Mr. Right and, on more than one occasion, ended up with Mr. Wrong.

I wrote this book for anyone who may have had similar thoughts and trials as me.

The title, Where is My Happy Ending? could have changed many times over, yet the elements for the book would have stayed the same.

“I no longer believe in happy endings, but I do believe in happiness and working towards no regrets. Same-same but different.”

“Same-same but different.”

This famous Thai quote conveys vagueness towards something both the same and yet different, and therefore neither the same nor different. More personally, I first heard about this quote from my daughter while she was travelling around Thailand with her best friend—they branded themselves with matching tattoos of the famous quote “same-same but different”  Of course, since little girls, they used this term while chatting about something or other, followed with a shrug, a tilt of their heads, and a giggle, while in unison they chanted same-same but different” when asked their thoughts on any given topic.

Controversial? There’s that word again. A meaningful, artistic ink drawing, a tattoo, is open to question but not to everyone. Some may have a difference of opinion or feel that a tattoo is okay for someone else but not for them. All three of my children and my husband have one or more tattoos. My skin is void of anything permanently pictorial, decorative, and symbolic. However, I have secretly always wanted one.

But wait…

Here it is, 2021, and my next book will be published this year.

Why?

Because my sister asked me to write her life story.

Combined with her request were messages and reviews from my readers wondering when my next book was coming out. Both inquiries propelled me forward to churn out my third book.

I said, “Yes, let’s do it!”

Writing a book for someone else proved to be easier said than done, but still enjoyable, nonetheless.

To get the ball rolling, my sister and I started talking on the phone once a week. We laughed and cried at how remarkably different our lives had been. Yet, we were open-minded as to how we barely knew each other. We combed through foggy memories and relished them, becoming more transparent as we spoke. We both took notes during these calls. From those notes, my much older sister wrote and sent me beautiful handwritten letters telling me about her adventurous and often challenging life.

And boy oh boy, does she ever have a story to tell!

We communicated this way for one year and significantly looked forward to our time together each week.

I would write and write between phone calls and letters—kind of like a homework assignment from an overseas teacher.

As the manuscript came together, I started to anticipate what my readers would think. Would the story be relatable like my other books had been? Would my sister’s obstacles be well received? Would it make people who read it laugh, cry and grieve? I hoped and wondered.

I have received over one hundred positive ratings and book reviews on my first two books, so I did not want to disappoint with my third.

Those reviews always seemed to be heartfelt, encouraging, and endearing. A common theme has been that my life story, complete with controversial issues, caused feelings to come up and flashbacks to occur for my readers, which is every writer’s dream.

The comments encouraged me to keep writing. Concurrently the reviews caused me to become ill in a good way, rather like being lovesick with a tremendous case of “the writing bug.”

Here is an example:

Thank you, Amazon Customer and the many others who have contacted me. It has all been a heady experience, both flattering and rewarding.

Circling back…

When choosing a book, we look to the title as the first introduction of the book. Then, we select a cover that grabs our attention. A good book title should be both memorable and unique. Identifiable and unforgettable.

As a writer, I know the title is my reader’s first impression, essentially judging my book by its cover.

With that being said…

I want to show you the cover of my next book. The introduction at the beginning of the book brings light to the title. They go together like P.B. & J, Coffee and Cream, salt and pepper, Captain and Tennille, rock and roll and so on…

Without the introduction, the title might not make sense. Conversely, the introduction would fall flat and not be as impactful without that specific title. Thus, a good title is crucial.

If my title appears controversial to you, I ask that you dig a little deeper. Read the introduction, contemplate what the book is about and consider that maybe, just maybe, my sister and I were going for a bit of controversy. As unexpected as that may sound coming from two nonconfrontational sisters, we wanted to shake things up, bring awareness, hopefully enlighten, and most importantly, challenge you, the reader.

Even though my third book is about my sister, I kept you in mind while writing it. I considered what you told me. Your likes and dislikes. Your life. How your past has shaped you and how you have tried to move forward.

Stay tuned for the whole meaning of my title when the book becomes available in the Fall of 2021

Patience is a virtue.

Some may think three published books a major feat or a dream come true. On the contrary, (to me) I see it as a lot of work that has been highly therapeutic and life-changing. Rewarding and a sure-fire way to reach others who may have had similar struggles as me. And my sister.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, it is a dream come true and a significant feat—especially something not to be taken lightly.

From your comments, ratings, and reviews, I am learning we are together on this planet, but we often feel alone, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Stay tuned as the estimated time of arrival for Fat and Beautiful – A Story of Love, Pain and Courage will be sometime in the Fall of 2021.

And if you haven’t done so yet, I would be honoured if you looked up my first two books Looking for Normal and Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets

You can find all my books online or in person at the Chapters in Kamloops, B.C.

Alternatively, go on the internet and order from the following sites:

amazon.ca amazon.com amazon.uk

Chapters/Indigo

Barnes and Noble

And many other places where books are sold.

Looking for Normal

 by Karen Harmon

Where is My Happy Ending? A Journey of No Regrets

by Karen Harmon


10 Replies to “Judging a Book by its Cover”

  1. I can’t wait to read your 3rd Novel “ Fat and Beautiful” Your first two Novels, Where is My Happy Ending and Looking for Normal were Exceptionally written. A must read that you won’t be able to put down. I highly recommend Karen’s first two novels and I know her 3rd too will be another Good Read!

  2. So looking forward to your new book, Karen. I appreciate the way your first two books inspire and encourage the reader through, even difficult stories. I’m particularly looking forward to Linda’s stories and the renewing of your relationship as sisters.

  3. It is a tricky thing to find the best title for a book. Your title choice and this blog post will certainly draw readers. Congratulations for all your success and looking forward to reading this one!

  4. I love the honest way that you communicate, Karen. I can’t wait to keep reading your books! If your goal is to make an impact on this world, you’ve definitely succeeded.

    1. Thank you Kirsten, as I get older, I tend to cry more easily when I am happy, sad, or indifferent. When I see a cute baby or a sweet older lady. And now, reading your kind, encouraging words, I have to admit, I feel a little teary! I say that with a smile on my face. WOW, thank you!

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