Kathryn O’Sullivan’s debut novel Foal Play was en route to publishing. Her literary agent encouraged Kathryn to set herself up with a web site to market the upcoming book (and future ones to follow).
Kathryn, and her husband Paul Awad, liked the work I did for them on the Thurston: The Western Web Series web site. They asked me to work with them again on Kathryn’s new web site.
This site would be central to her exposure as an author and for her published works.
During our conversations, Kathryn expressed what she wanted out of a web site was something that conveyed her as a serious writer, but not as a serious person. She wanted the site to be professional looking, but with a sense of warmth and good humor–a place where people would feel at home and not afraid to touch the furniture.
Alongside her social media activity, Kathryn wanted a site where she could engage in a conversation with her audience. She wanted to reach readers and fans of her work with her web site. She also wanted to reach people interested in promoting her or her work with things like arranging book signings, conferences, or speaking engagements. Finally, she also wanted to use her site to help support the locales and organizations mentioned in her novels and highlight the world her series portrayed outside of the book.
Her cozy mystery series takes place in and around Corolla, North Carolina, near the northern end of the Outer Banks. The wild horses and the horse sanctuary feature as a backdrop to the novels. Kathryn wanted to highlight the Outer Banks setting in the visual design of the site.
Neighing with design
For Kathryn’s site, I started with a series of small watercolor vignettes of inspired by the coastal areas of the Outer Banks. I grew up just north of OBX, Virginia Beach. The areas are similar, particularly down along near the refuge at the Virginia/North Carolina border. I based the watercolor paintings on my own experiences of the Outer Banks and Virginia Beach.
The color palette for the watercolors reflect the late afternoon sun that warms the tones of the sand and grasses of the seashore and the blues and greens of the water. It’s a warm, quiet part of the day when the tourists are heading home from the beach to get cleaned up for a night out on the strip.
I kept the effect of the watercolor paper texture throughout the site. That texture, along with the watercolors and warm palette, I used to help evoke a warm, friendly atmosphere for the site. For the type palette, I chose Merriweather Bold for the headers. Merriweather is paired with Source Sans in regular and bold weights for the body copy. Alex Brush is the typeface for the site title.
Code on the hoof
I set up Kathryn’s site as a custom WordPress install, since Kathryn was already familiar with the WordPress admin interface from updating and working with the Thurston: The Western Web Series.
Some of the functionality from the Thurston site carried over into Kathryn’s site. In particular, her site needed to support events and a special custom post type for information about her books. The theme is also custom created and built.