Month: December 2017

Creating Harlequin: Developing a Book Cover

Creating Harlequin: Developing a Book Cover

The book cover for Harlequin’s Riddle receives a lot of compliments. I’ve had people tell me they read the e book first, then had to go and buy a paper copy because they wanted the cover on their bookshelf. It’s a stunning image. But how did it come about? In this post I’ll take you on the journey of development that led to the cover. I don’t think it typically works this way, but this is Harlequin’s story…

Step One: Approaching an Artist

By the middle of 2016 Harlequin’s Riddle had been rejected by all the ‘big’ Australian publishers that I could get access to (which wasn’t many since I didn’t have an agent). Although I had received personal, detailed feedback from a few, which is unusual, it was ‘close, but not close enough’. I decided I’d look at self-publishing. To do that I’d need a cover, and I had come across the work of an incredible artist called Nadia Turner who lived close to me, and who painted gypsy wagons and pictures that had a real storytelling feel blended with folkloric elements. I already owned one of her prints because I loved her art so much, and I thought her style and themes would suit my book perfectly, so I made contact with her. She agreed to read Harlequin’s Riddle. Fortunately for me, she felt inspired by it and agreed to do the cover. I did a HUGE happy dance, I can tell you. We negotiated cost and timeframes, and talked about possibilities for images. We both agreed that book one had to feature Harlequin.

Step Two: Choosing a Design

Nadia came back to me with pencil sketches for several different designs. I thought they were all marvellous, but there was one that stood out. These are the designs I didn’t choose (below). I loved them all but felt they weren’t quite right. In the first one, Harlequin was a bit too noble. He’s a trickster who causes a few problems now and then (no spoilers…) so he needed a bit more ‘edge’ to him. A similar image (the one I ended up choosing) also had him on the other side of the cover, with the wagons and castle off to the left, so they would show on the back of the book. This felt like a better reflection of the long journey the travelling players take. The second cover has a glorious mask and beautiful embellishments, but wouldn’t show well as a thumbnail sketch on Amazon. The final one is striking, but doesn’t give a sense of story – and story telling is key to Mina’s abilities.

 

Interlude: Finding a Publisher

Once I had chosen the design, Nadia went off to do a colour rough, so we could work out the best colour palette. Around the same time my writing angel, Wendy Dunn, encouraged me to try a few small publishers, so I sent Harlequin to Odyssey books, and finally received that wonderful email all writers dream of: “we love it and want to publish it”. Odyssey is well known for having stunning covers that sit alongside the best of the big publishers, so I was a little bit nervous to say to my publisher – by the way, I’ve got this book cover design…

Step Three: The Colour Rough

While I was building up my courage to mention the book cover artwork to my brand new publisher, Nadia got back to me with the colour ‘rough’. As far as I was concerned there was nothing ‘rough’ about it. I thought the colours were perfect – not too bright, a beautiful tonal palette. My husband, who does a lot of photoshopping for me, will tell you I’m pretty fussy when it comes to design, but in this case all I asked for was a little more gold to lift the brown. As a result, the flowers now have gold centres, and Harlequin’s cloak pin is outlined in gold.  I also asked for the scroll design to be separate. That way I had the option of using or not using it.

Step Four: A Final Image… and the Design Process Begins…

When Nadia told me the painting was done it was like a whole bunch of Christmases all coming at once. When I picked it up it was sandwiched between boards and taped up, and I had a long way to travel, so I didn’t untape it. But I was twitching to have a look. That was one of the longest train journeys I’ve ever taken! Finally I got to open it up and I was SO thrilled with the final image. Fortunately, to my huge relief, I showed the image to my publisher and she loved it to.

Step Five: The Words

My husband, Jamie, is a whiz in Photoshop so my publisher agreed that he would do the lettering. By this stage, looking at the final image, we both thought the scroll wasn’t necessary. It would cover up the artwork and wouldn’t be able to fit much anyway. Book cover titles and author names need to be easy to read. So the scroll went. I hunted around for fonts for the title and found one called Fairy Dust. We got permission from the font designer to use it, then played around with placement, colour and size. I pretty much drove my husband mad at this stage. We discovered that Harlequin was a little too close to the top of the image to fit the word ‘Harlequin’ comfortably, so Jamie photoshopped some extra sky in with Nadia’s permission. Finally, after many cups of tea and a great deal of ‘no, a little more to the right’, ‘can you make it two points larger?’, and ‘can you add a drop shadow?’, we had a book cover. I sent it to Odyssey for final tweaks – my publisher did the back cover blurb and interior design, including stunning embellishments. In a master stroke, she chose to print the books on matte stock.

Afterword: My Precious….

It was beyond exciting to receive my author copies and to see the final cover on a real book. I was thrilled to be able to give Nadia a copy.

I’ve been told an author should buy themselves a special gift to commemorate publication day. What I did was to frame the original artwork. Now, as I sit and write, I can look up and see Harlequin, the wagons and Mina’s journey, which lies at the heart of Harlequin’s Riddle.

Want to see more of Nadia’s amazing artwork? Go to Wayward Harper. Or to by prints, necklaces and other Wayward Harper goodies, visit Leaf Studios in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges.

Want to be one of the first people to see the cover for the second book? Sign up to my quarterly email newsletter (below) for a sneak peak…

An Interview with Laura E. Goodin

An Interview with Laura E. Goodin

Author, humorist and bellringer, Laura E. Goodin

Today on my blog I have an interview with writer, academic and bellringer Laura E. Goodin. Laura’s exciting adventure fantasies, Mud and Glass and After the Bloodwood Staff, are published by Odyssey Books. Laura’s madcap take on academia, Mud and Glass, has been compared to the writing of Jasper Fforde, and with good reason. As an escapee from the Academy myself, I laughed out loud many times at the hilarity and madcap craziness. But as you will see from Laura’s answers below, her unique, humorous take on the world is only one of her many talents – her answers are deeply moving and insightful.

Which writer or writers opened your eyes to the magic of storytelling and why?

I learned to read unusually early, so I don’t really remember a particular revelatory moment in that regard.  My first reading obsession, though, was the Chronicles of Narnia.  From 50 years away I can see their flaws (racism, sexism, classism, theological approaches that create more problems than they solve), but at the time they were my gateway into a world where children were capable and strong, and magic and wonder were everywhere, and where I could imagine myself with the kind of daring and skills that I in no way had in real life.  I didn’t use the books for escape; quite the contrary:  I used them as a model for becoming someone better, more capable, more reliable, more courageous in the real world.  Granted, I wasn’t the happiest little misfit in the world, and stories of all kinds did provide a refuge for me.  But they also showed this little misfit the possibilities of the human spirit.  I saw ways my idiosyncrasies could be strengths, and I became determined to make the most of the person I was and am, rather than trying to be someone who always knows the right thing to wear to a party.  (I never really know the right thing to wear to a party.  Or anywhere else, for that matter.  It’s just my best guess.  So if I show up at your house dressed in completely the wrong manner for the occasion, you’ll know it’s because instead of studiously acquiring the rules for attire, I’ve spent my time learning karate and bellringing and fencing, riding horses, cooking elaborate meals, and teaching cool stuff to my students.)

Why do you think people need stories in their lives?

There are as many reasons for that as there are people.  Me, I need stories for inspiration and refuge, entertainment and education.  I need them because they urge me to fling myself at the world in a great big exuberant embrace, to grapple with it and comfort it and challenge it and heal it.  Stories show me truths and help me see what to strive for.  They strengthen my soul and increase my capacity for joy and compassion.  They help me see the miracles and wonders that await around every corner.  They make me more, they make me better, they make me my truest self.

What is your greatest magical power as a writer?

Hm.  Do you mean, “What am I best at as a writer?”  That might be dialogue.  Mine seems to be very easy for the reader to hear as natural speech and get immersed in.  I pay a lot of attention to the sounds and rhythms of the words themselves, and I’m a maniac for cutting extraneous words and syllables out; that could have something to do with it.  Do you mean, “How do I most effectively capture the attention – indeed, the awareness – of my readers?”  I like to think it’s a combination of quirky yet plausible characters, situations of mayhem with always the possibility of a belly laugh somewhere along the way, and SCRUPULOUS – I repeat, SCRUPULOUS – attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  This last may be the most important, because well-punctuated, well-spelled words arranged in brilliantly clear ways let the reader relax:  they say, “You’re in the hands of an expert, precious reader.  You won’t have to stop to cringe at a rookie grammar error or scowl as you try to figure out how to resolve an ambiguity.  So breathe, begin, and instantly forget you’re reading.”  When readers can lose themselves into a story like that, that’s magic.  The magic of grammar, my friends.  It gives you power over your readers’ very minds.  But you must use your powers for good, never for evil.  Promise me!

Which mythic archetype or magical character most resonates with you and why?

I’m finding this incredibly hard to answer.  I think the character I most identify with is Cat Chant from Diana Wynne Jones’s Charmed Life.  Like Cat, I tend to be hesitant about inconveniencing others, and I spent the early part of my life profoundly unaware, for the most part, of my own powers.  Like Cat, I got the shock of my life when I started to realise just how powerful I am.  That’s one thing middle age is absolutely great for:  you begin to get a sense that you can handle what gets thrown at you, because at some point you’ve already handled some pretty horrible stuff.  You become aware of your powers.  There’s a reason older women have historically been objects of fear and persecution:  we are becoming aware of our powers, and, even more terrifying, we’re using them on purpose!  It doesn’t seem to matter that most of us use them to help and heal and drive positive change.  We’re masterless and wild, and we might inflict some serious damage.  Maybe that’s the archetype I now identify with:  wild, raving woman of wisdom and vision and might.  (But whenever I reread Charmed Life, I’m back to being Cat.)

What themes or ideas do you find keep arising in your writing?

I keep seeing two main ideas in my writing (and that includes not only my novels, but my plays, poetry, libretti, and short fiction).  First, the world is vastly more than we can see in our daily lives:  there are hidden meanings and miraculous coincidences and flashes of mystery and power that we sense but cannot often see.  Second, in such a world, how can we be anything other than heroic?  How can we turn our backs on our own beautiful, mighty selves to be just ordinary, when the world cries out to us?  My characters tend to find that whole new layers of meaning and challenge lie behind what they thought was reality, and that this means they’re going to have to be something more than they thought they could ever become.  The world is full of wardrobes.  (A friend in America had a wardrobe; they’re rare there, because most American houses have closets.  “Wow,” I said when I saw it.  “Does that lead to Narnia?”  She said, “I wish it did.  I could use the room.”)