"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Making of a Cover

On the philosophy that I'll try most anything once, I've put EOLYN up against 16 other titles in the December COVER WARS, hosted by the Masquerade Crew.  Visit the site, peruse all the great covers, and VOTE for your favorite every day.  Most importantly, participate in the scavenger hunt so you can enter the giveaway for a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.

Submitting Eolyn for Cover Wars has made me a little nostalgic; I've been thinking a lot about the excitement that went into putting together this cover for my first novel. I still remember when my editor, Eric T. Reynolds, suggested we ask Jess to do the cover.  I loved the work Jesse did for the cover of Finder by Terri-Lynne DeFino, and I had been secretly hoping Eric would give him Eolyn as well. 

I don't think I quite realized at that time just how important the cover of a book was from a marketing stand point.  We always say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but the truth is, most of us do.

If I had thought about the cover as a publicist, I might have taken a different approach than I did.  But I wasn't a publicist yet, I was still 110% an author.  More than a cover that would catch people's attention, I was thinking in terms of a cover that embodied essential elements of the novel.  I wanted the beauty of Eolyn's childhood home in the South Woods; and of course, I wanted Eolyn.  In addition to the haven of the forest, I wanted a glimpse of the larger world to which Eolyn returns; of a moment where she looks upon her destiny. 

Of course, it was a long road from the seed idea to the final product.  After our first conversations, Jesse sketched several preliminary versions. Here are a few:

In the end, we combined elements of all these sketches.  I wanted Eolyn standing, as sitting seemed too passive; and I wanted as much foliage on the trees as possible, to communicate the wildness and impenetrability of the South Woods.

Early in the process, we had considered doing a wrap-around cover that would include a scene of the South Woods on back. This is still one of my favorites of all the sketches Jesse sent. It depicts the river where Eolyn and Akmael first meet, and way in the background, you can just make out Ghemena's cottage.

For the sake of time constraints, we had to let this idea go, and instead focus on the front cover.  As Jesse filled in details and color, each sketch generated lengthy conversations about further edits and possibilities.  Here are some of the early versions of the full-color front cover:

I fussed over everything from the shape of the tree to the color of Eolyn's dress to the length of her hair.  Jesse was very patient with all of my feedback.  It wasn't until the very end that, at my behest, he included Eolyn's staff.  Now I can't imagine the image being complete without it. Eolyn's staff defines who she is, a High Maga whose power transcends the simplicity of her aspect and origin. 
From the last image in the above sequence, it was of course just a short hop to the cover art we've come to know and love.  Interestingly enough, the scene that Jesse and I created for the cover never actually occurs in the novel.  But again, my goal was to capture an idea or feeling, as opposed to a moment in the story.
As happy as I am with the final product, it would be dishonest for me to claim we accomplished everything I would have liked to with this cover. 
One thing I didn't realize until we were nearly done is that we hadn't really captured the deep conflicts that run through the novel. Akmael and the war brought on by his shared history with Eolyn are nowhere to be seen. 
And while I love the lush landscape painted by Jesse, the overall brightness probably gives the impression of Eolyn as a much lighter story than it truly is. Everyone seems to like the cover of Eolyn, but once in a while people look at the book and ask if the novel is YA or (what really makes me cringe) written for children. 
The answer to both questions is no. Eolyn, in terms of the level and complexity of its conflicts, is an adult epic fantasy.  Because the violence and the sex are not explicit, it is appropriate for younger readers; many YA readers have picked it up and greatly enjoyed it.  The companion novel High Maga, however, will not be as accessible for a young market. The events of High Maga are decidedly darker, the world brutally and passionately adult. Using what I learned from putting together the cover for my first novel, I've been working with artist Thomas Vandenberg to make sure this is communicated on the cover for High Maga.
But that is a story for another day. . .
Please stop by the Masquerade Crew's COVER WARS and vote for Eolyn. You can vote every day. Best of all, participating in the scavenger hunt (also posted below) will earn you entries in the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift certificate. 
Thanks so much for your support, and good luck with the drawing!

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