mjhearle

Month: September, 2013

The Evolution of a Book Cover Design

I was very pleased with the covers for Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light. Many readers and reviewers commented on how beautiful they were. My publisher did a bang up job at creating something that would appeal to the books targeted demographic. If I have a criticism, it would only be that they were a little too generic. Certainly, they weren’t the first paranormal covers to depict a girl against a moody backdrop .

I went out of my way to make sure the stories weren’t just generic paranormals – no vampires or werewolves (shirtless or otherwise) – so felt that maybe the covers should have reflected this. Perhaps sport a design that was a little more idiosyncratic. A little strange. Like the stories themselves. I raised my concerns, but in the end, deferred to my publishers judgement. This was the right decision.

Before I set out to write Claudette in the Shadows I decided I would take a more active role in the eventual marketing. I may have even mocked up some cover concepts before typing the first word. Blame my advertising background for this. In our industry we routinely put chickens before the eggs.

When Momentum agreed to publish the novella, I wrote an email outlining my thoughts on Claudette‘s cover – specifically the fact I wanted to design it myself. My publisher, to their credit, told me to have a crack at it.

I started with this sketch.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_01As you can see, I’m no great artist. I’m definitely more comfortable with words than creating pictures. For one thing, I screwed up the clothing on the figure. A long slinky dress is far too contemporary considering the time period of the story (late 1800’s). However, I think I got the posture right. The attitude in her face and body feels like my Claudette.

After scanning the sketch into the computer I brought it into photoshop to see if I could add some texture. It was important that the cover have a very rough, imperfect aspect to it – partly to cover my lack of artistic ability, and partly because perfect art doesn’t interest me. I like my art to be messy. A technically perfect drawing leaves little room for the imagination to flex its muscles and I like to indulge my imagination whenever I can.

This is what I managed to create in photoshop:

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_02

All that was left was to add a type treatment. Normally, I would have liked to spend some time developing the typography, maybe offer a few examples, unfortunately I was facing a deadline so in the end had to just pick a font and run with it. The name of the font is ‘Nosferatu‘ which may have had something to do with my selection.

Here’s the the finished cover layout with the type treatment that I sent to my publisher.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_03

I added the smoke thingy in the background at the last moment. If I spent a bit more time I might a figured out a way to incorporate it more creatively. Regardless, my publisher was very positive about my design and I left it in their hands to tweak or ignore as they saw fit. Secretly, I figured they’d scrap it and go with something like the other Winter covers. I wouldn’t have blamed them. It definitely would have been a safe marketing decision. You can imagine my delight when I received this in my inbox:

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_Final

Does that silhouette look familiar? The publisher’s designer took my initial sketch and created something that I think is fantastic. I love the bold use of red and the art deco influenced typography. It’s certainly going to pop on the iTunes/Amazon/Kobo page and by ‘pop’ I mean jump out and grab you by the throat. No matter what the commercial fate of Claudette in the Shadows I feel a great amount of pride when I look at this cover. It feels right. It feels like me. I hope you like it.

M.J.

Claudette in the Shadows

On October 4th I will be turning the ripe old age of 34. I’m a good deal grayer, wrinklier and softer round the middle than I was last year. That’s biology for you. Maybe this is why birthdays don’t excite me? What are they but an annual reminder of your bodies deterioration. I guess some people dig being the focus of attention and unwrapping presents. Not me. Well…not usually. You see next Fri I will be receiving a very special birthday present. My novella, Claudette in the Shadows,  will be available internationally on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo through Momentum Books and I can’t help but feel excited. Even with the extra chub, wrinkles and gray hairs.

I think I’ve written a pretty cool book. Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light taught me plenty about storytelling and style and I’ve taken everything I’ve learned and poured that knowledge into Claudette. It just might be my thesis on the paranormal genre. Or at least until Winter Book 3 rolls around. There’s romance, mystery, magic, a liberal sprinkling of the supernatural and murder. Claudette Duchamp is most definitely not Winter Adams. She is no innocent naif, no lost lamb in the wild woods. She is the wolf in the dark. The monster in the shadows.

The story begins in Amsterdam on the eve of the 20th century. Claudette and her family have been living under an assumed name to avoid notice of Victor Bonnaire and his villainous Bane. Despite this fugitive existence, Claudette is happy or as happy as any sixteen year old girl can be. She has met a young man named Simon Fontellier and is experiencing the rush of first love. And then the nightmares begin…

Here’s the official blurb to wet your appetite:

Claudette Duchamp was born into a life shadowed by fear. Ever since she can remember her family has been running. Running from a man named Victor Bonnaire and the men in his employ, the Devil’s Bane.

Her family has a secret. One her parents refuse to tell Claudette or her twin brother, Blake. It has something to do with why Victor pursues them. And something to do with her dreams…

For Claudette has begun to feel a strange stirring in her heart. A wildness that is both thrilling and frightening. Soon, she will uncover the truth of her family’s haunted legacy. She will discover the world that lies on the other side of midnight. She will take her place in the shadows and embrace the darkness within.

As readers of the Winter novels may have guessed, Claudette in the Shadows is a prequel to Winter’s Shadow. This means you need not have read the other two books first. In fact, I specifically designed Claudette to serve as a standalone story and hopefully entice new readers to the Winter universe. However, fans of the books will recognise the characters Ariman and Madeleine, not to mention Blake. I suspect the large role he plays in Claudette will come as a welcome surprise to those readers who missed him in the sequel.

Over the coming week, I’ll be blogging more frequently – sharing the book cover along with a few cool things like videos and chapter excerpts so be sure to check back regularly. And please circle October 4th. The best birthday present I can think of would be for Claudette to find her readers. And to share with them her nightmares.

M.J.