Pictured: Kellie Stiles – Artist
When I published Angel with a Broken Wing last summer, I needed a cover for the book. I thought long and hard about what the image should be. I thought about the leading female character Jill standing in the desert in Palm Springs with Christian. There was that moment before he kisses her for the first time. Before she takes off her sunglasses and looks off to the horizon.
It suddenly struck me. I drew a picture like that my senior year in art major class in 12th grade. I still had the original artwork. It’s won awards in art shows and got me an A+ in that class.
I thought it would be perfect even though the image was 40 years old. It worked beautifully. The title and my name are on the kindle version but are not on the cover of the paperback. I figured let the artwork grab people’s attention rather than the title. The image was strong enough. Just a simple pen and ink in my signature style. Let’s have a Beatles White Album, Led Zeppelin IV moment, and just go with artwork only cover for my first work of fiction.
I had already published Phicklephilly, Phicklephilly II, Crazy Dating Stories, and the notorious and lurid, Sun Stories: Tales from a Tanning Salon. This was my first work of fiction to be published. Like every aspect of my life, I needed to make it cool. No name and no title. Just leave it on the spine of the book.
Sales were robust thanks to the great following on my blog and fans from my previous non-fiction work published years before.
But for my second work of fiction, (and maybe my last!) I wanted to do something different. Below the Wheel had a totally different vibe and tone from Angel with a Broken Wing. It held darker subjects inside its heart.
During covid in 202o, the only woman I saw, other than my sisters and daughter was my daughter’s friend, Kellie. She’s a great girl and a dear friend of my daughter’s, so we sort of think of her as a part of the family after 2020.
One day, she presented us with a little painting she did of an Ewok from Star Wars. I like how she took a well-known character from popular culture and kind of gave him a psychedelic vibe he never had on Endor. I really liked it, and we hung it up in our gallery of other artwork in the living room. He was in good company with Jeff Buckley, George Carlin, Paris Hilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears, Christine Aguilera, Alessandra Ambrosio, and several other famous people we’ve met over the years.
Here he is.
He’s got crazy eyes and a Clutch Cargo mouth, and it looks like this little dude is on some kind of mushroom trip.
I liked it, and having no idea what the cover of my next book should be, I asked Kellie if she was interested in maybe doing the cover for a book I was working on, called Below the Wheel.
She liked the idea of the story and the opportunity to create something new. I gave her a synopsis of the story and sent her some images I found on the internet that seemed to capture the imagery of the book I was writing.
I didn’t know how it would turn out but was happy I could work with a friend of the family who could paint. I had looked at the work of some other artists I knew but their work just didn’t seem right for what I wanted and lacked any voice.
This was back in the Fall of 2020 when we talked about this work. So, this has been cooking for a while.
I toiled away with the writing, editing, clean-up, cutting, and production of my next book. The Winter passed, and as we came into Spring of 2021, Kellie was close to completing the cover.
I thought maybe she would do a little painting the size of a comic book. But Kellie actually painted a 3-foot by 2-foot painting in oil on a canvas. The real deal. A painting you could hang on your wall.
An actual work of art.
I was worried that the size and scope of what she was trying to create was just too big a task for her. But 3 weeks before the deadline, she pulled up in front of my house in Rittenhouse and hauled out this giant painting from the back of her truck.
I was blown away at the sheer size and detail of what she created. At first glance at the painting, I realized she had captured what I saw in my mind of what the cover should look like for this book.
I never gave her tons of details, but she was somehow able to capture what I saw in my mind. A dark city street with a lady of the night soliciting a motorist on Broadway in Camden, NJ. (She used special reflective paint for the car’s finish) The darkness that falls over the scene cut only by the streetlights. The sad cityscape beyond that image. City Hall slightly bent just like the government in Camden that no longer cares for the people of that dying city. The last orange light of dusk before darkness falls on the city and consumes it and its denizens of the night.
Plus, she left space at the top and bottom for the title and my name, so yea… great composition! Well done, Kellz!
Easter egg: If you look closely, there’s a little guy standing on the roof of one of the buildings. Cool detail!
So, after 8 months we have the cover of the book. Below the Wheel is now a reality. I’m happy that Kellie will now have her work on the cover of a published book, copyrighted, and registered in the United States Library of Congress.
You can find her at thelookofkellz on Instagram. Follow this talented lady!
Stop by, follow, and check out her artwork. She’s an amazing lady I’ve written about on occasion in this blog.
We’re happy Kellie’s in our lives. Whether she likes it or not, we’ve sort of adopted her as our own. Our home is full of sunny smiles when she and my daughter are here together.
I’ll miss them both when my daughter moves out in a few months.
Here are the posts I wrote about Kel last year. (I always use fake names and avatars to protect people’s rights, but for this post we want people to know the artist!)
Trivia: I named her after Jodie Foster’s character, Iris in the film Taxi Driver.
Here’s Kellie! Hire her for your next artistic endeavor!
We’re going to find a special place in our home to hang this up! Thank you, Kellie!
I’m no stranger to Instagram, but I’m new to making Stories. I only recently sort of figured it out. But I think I was able to come up with some compelling images to promote the new book.
I worked in advertising and marketing for 10 years here in Philly, and only learned how to write good copy in the last year of my time at Philly Weekly. It really paid off! I think a few of these look really cool!
I ran all of these on social media during the two weeks leading up to the publication of Below the Wheel.
I hope you like my latest offering. It’s a hard-boiled, crazy detective story full of twists and turns. This will be the last book I ever write like this.
The next two books will be historic pieces from my youth growing up in Philly and my summers in Wildwood.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1