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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Design Schizophrenia

I've loved page design since I was the editor of my High School yearbook, and playing with cover images was a (mostly) fun game I played.  Until it wasn't anymore and I began to feel schizophrenic, darting from one idea to another, unsure of my taste, bombarding friends and family with choices, and hoping the cover image would leap out and embrace me.  Because the cover of a book is the first thing that grabs your potential reader.  At least you hope it grabs them, maybe shakes them a little, intrigues them, seduces them, but mostly doesn't put them off.

And there's the rub.  Even though I wrote my book for a young adult audience, and even though my heroine is 17 years old, she, like most teenagers I know, has an internal voice that's funny, brave, intelligent, irreverant and fairly insightful.  And even though we watch the world unfold through that 17-year-old girl's eyes, the world is strange and wonderful and dangerous; full of friends and foes and mysteries she has to navigate; hopefully with grace and usually with a bit of wry humor.  So how to reflect that in a cover?  How to invite a teenager to pick it up off the shelf, appeal to the woman who loves time travel, or the guy intrigued by Jack the Ripper?  How to describe a young adult urban fantasy with paranormal and historical elements?  (That's the mouthful I've used to query agents and now, reviewers).  How to do it all in a picture?

So I took photos that didn't match my imagination, and more, and more, then fell in love with images but couldn't find the copyright-holder.  Then I learned about creative commons (flickr has a little search-by button to find the photos that artists have given limited public rights to), and discovered a photographer with a beautiful texture-layering technique who answered my questions and gave me great ideas (thank you Jimmy Brown).  He used creative commons textures by Skeletalmess, which are fantastic!  And the spiral in the background of my cover is from a creative commons piece by Spanish artist, Zyllan.  And then my very busy, very wonderful husband Ed put all the elements I'd gathered together during a nine-hour skype call while he was in London and I was in Los Angeles, with screen-sharing, breaks for food, shared glasses of coffee and wine and patience...lots and lots of patience.  And finally, the cover was born.

Hopefully it says the story inside is a little Victorian, a little feminine, a little masculine, a little romantic, mysterious, and dangerous.  Hopefully it speaks to the Immortals, to the possibility of branding a series across three books, and to an audience as diverse as my beta readers have been.  And the first time it grabs a stranger; intrigues them, maybe entices them to look inside, I'll feel like my design schizophrenia has finally found its focus.