Any new story I create usually starts with the thread of an idea, often just a hero or heroine in a particular situation. Then I start adding details by asking questions, like "Why is he/she there?". Following the 'why' trail leads me to search deeper into the character(s), which usually leads to a gradually widening fictional world. Once I have a pretty solid storyline, I start doing research on the subject, which I use to flesh out the story. Often, I think of the process like a human body. I start with the 'bones', which is the basic storyline. Then I put on 'muscle', adding characters who usually bring their own story threads. Next comes the 'skin' that locks it all together in a recognizable entity. Lastly, I add the details that make a person truly unique.
How do you approach cover design?
A cover needs to not only be eye-catching in some way, whether in the use of color or stark contrasts, it also has to offer some hint to what the book is about. When planning out a cover, I try to envision a scene that captures something meaningful from the story.