For those of you who like the “behind the scenes” stories, here’s how Millie’s cover came to be…
Long before I wrote a single word of the story, I started thinking about the cover of Millie’s book. I wanted the cover to portray the prohibition theme of the story.
There were absolutely no stock photos with an Edwardian woman swinging an axe (imagine that) and I try not to use stock photos anyway… so I decided to take the photo myself.
The challenges: find a whiskey barrel, an era-appropriate outfit, and someone willing to pose for the photo.
I thought the barrel would be simple enough to locate. The genius plan was to buy a half-barrel planter and turn it on its side for the photo. Apparently, though, the planters are not popular in our area because I had to check at half a dozen stores before I finally found one. And it wasn’t even a whiskey barrel – it was a wine barrel. I wrangled it into the back of my vehicle on a hot spring day and left it there overnight.
Oh. My. Gracious. The next morning, my car smelled like rancid vinegar (is that even a thing? If so, I know exactly what it smells like!) Ugh… so I left all the doors and the back open for an hour to air it out. It took days for the smell to completely dissipate.
Next on the list was an outfit a “hello girl” might have worn. She wouldn’t have been dressed in any of the fancy styles of the Edwardian period for work (although Millie had a few “nice” outfits for when she wasn’t working.)
I studied some photos taken in 1908 of women out and about by Edward Linley Sambourn. The “pigeon breast” style was all the rage then with the shirts being rather loose and full in the front while waists remained corseted and tiny.
This photo gave me the idea of using a wide piece of lace down the front of Millie’s shirtwaist.
Without any willing prospects to pose for me, I ordered a corset and petticoat then dug into my closet for something I could make work for her outfit.
I am here to tell you, putting on a corset, corset cover, and petticoat was not the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I don’t think I breathed more than a few shallow breaths the whole time I had them on. And hot! The skirt I wore was wool (which didn’t help things any).
So Miss Millie’s outfit is a pair of “granny boots” I’ve had longer than I’ve known Captain Cavedweller. They’ve worked well for any number of costumes (they are also on the cover of Aundy and Marnie) and come in handier than you might think. The skirt is a navy wool skirt I’ve owned forever. It’s a “riding” skirt although the only thing it’s ever ridden is a desk chair. I happened to have a nice wide belt that could barely squeak by as passable for the era. The pink “shirtwaist” is a regular long-sleeved blouse I rummaged from the back of my closet. And the lace down the front is a handmade piece of lace I inherited from CC’s grandmother. The lace was actually a really long piece (about eight feet long!). I tacked it to the petticoat so it wouldn’t drag on the floor.
<True story: Back in the 1950s, CC’s grandparents lived next to a family that moved quite suddenly and asked them to keep their belongings. Fast forward forty-some years to when I married CC. We were out at his grandparents’ farm and he took me into this old falling-down shed stuffed to the gills with “stuff.” It was all the belongings they’d cleared out from the neighbor’s place. They moved it into the shed and left it there in case one of the neighbors ever came back for it. Only they didn’t. So Grandma told me I could take whatever I wanted… which happened to be boxes full of old lace, a wooden suitcase full of postcards from WWI, a box with gloves and silk stockings, a few vintage dishes, and a several items I have yet to identify that just looked “cool”. And that’s how I came to have that piece of lace.>
Back to Millie’s outfit… The brooch was a gift from CC, the gloves were from the cache of goodies I got from his grandma, and the hat was one I made to wear to a Victorian bridal shower. CC supplied the axe.
I liked this photo and thought it would work well for the background of Gideon’s saloon. In an effort to keep with the shiny wooden floor in the background, CC and I set up the photo in our kitchen. He snapped a few dozen photos while I tried not to pass out from holding my breath. Once the dizziness from lack of oxygen passed, I started playing with the photos.
We’d hung a white sheet in the background (which makes it easy for me to crop out everything but the image I want). After selecting this pose, I ended up cropping out the floor, too. Then I flipped the image horizontally and placed it over the background.
I added the word “whiskey” to the barrel in what I hoped looked like a stencil font.
The final touch was creating the title piece of art. I just loved this dainty little wallpaper print.
That’s how Millie’s cover came to be!