Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Q: Why doesn't your book cover look like a Jane Austen fan fiction cover?

A: I have received a variety of opinions about the cover of my book (on the right), and opinion is certainly divided. Some people say it is not pretty enough, while other say they love how artsy and original it is. The young man who boards in our basement told me he thought the colour choices were very current, very vogue, and he is 21 and knows about these sorts of things. Actually, he didn't say vogue. I think he said "in" - the dark red in particular is apparently very in right now.

Essentially, I didn't want my cover to look like the sort of thing most often seen on Jane Austen spinoff novels. I didn't want it to look like a romance novel, or a novel just for girls, because it really isn't. I mean, it is a love story, but an Austenian love story, with the protagonists acting properly, and the conflict being of good judgment and self-doubt.

Regency Fashion Plate

I thought about doing a few different things for the cover, but they had already been done many times, like fashion-plate type images, or ink drawings on a creamy background.

A fine house, happily situated
Then there were the floral backgrounds with caliagraphic text, or pictures of English country homes with Brownian sloping greens. I do like a lot of the covers that meet these descriptions, but I just wanted to do something that hadn't been done before, something edgy, and bold, yet historical in its references, and still sort of folk-art in its styling. I also wanted it to be just dark enough to be mysterious, but still playful.

The other option was to try to look like a work of classic English literature, and use an image of an old oil painting, or just a plain, monochrome cover with black or gold embossed border. But those didn't seem eye-catching or interesting enough.

In the end, I sat down with Angela Rout, a visual artist, and she showed me some of her design work. I was intrigued when I saw a paper-cutting that she had done for some promotional materials for a local theatre production. I really liked the fact that this was a very old and simple art form, and yet was very graphic and clean and kind of contemporary in its effect. I started to see examples of it everywhere, and I was determined to use it for my cover design.

Although the image we put together is simple, it contains a lot of detail. I wanted to include the image of a man waiting at a door because for me this created tension and intrigue. Who is this man? We cannot see his face. Who is he waiting for? Is he a welcome guest? Is he calling on a lady? What is his purpose?

The general effect of the image reminds me of a cameo, or a silhouette portrait, like the one of Jane Austen that we so often see. The images around the edge of the oval, of ladies and carriages and tea, etc. are like a frame on a pendant. The background is an image of an old piece of parchment, which, of course, looks old, like a lost manuscript discovered 200 years later. The vines creep over the letters, suggesting an overgrown ruin, a folly perhaps, about to be discovered in the woods.

I thought perhaps people might be interested in seeing some of the images that I put together as inspiration, or that contained elements that I thought I might like to include in the cover design. Not all of them bear any sort of resemblance to the final product, but here they are. I searched through a bunch of images of book covers on line, as well as just images that captured my imagination. Below are a few that I liked.

I loved the architectural quality of this one, the way it showed so much of life at the time without romanticizing it, and the thematic content of having the inside and outside worlds exposed. This was a theme of my book, and something I have always perceived in Jane Austen's works as well. Plus it is sort of pretty in its colours, and you can tell what it is right away, but there is so much to keep your interest once you start to study it.

I liked the graphic quality of this one, the way it is so simple and yet so complex. In a way, my own cover ended up resembling this image the most of all the ones I looked at. I find this cover intriguing. It makes me want to read the book. It is obviously about a bygone time, and it captures a sense of excitement, and folly.

 This one just made me sigh. I thought it was so pretty and kind of mystical, romantic and elegant. It is also very simple but with a lot of mood. The lamp posts are from the Regency era, and are in Brighton, so the seaside resort, which is where my book ends up, is referenced, and the period is correct also. The corner pieces on the final cover design are inspired by these lamp posts, as are the actual lamp posts on the central design.

This one was an unexpected take on a typical image - the mansion on the green.  I liked how stylized it was, and yet very hand-made. It looks charming, like it doesn't take itself too seriously and yet is the result of an artist's application. It is very inviting and again, makes me want to read the book. I expect it to be light and enjoyable, without being trite.

This cover might have been my favourite. I just loved the texture of the background, the pretty simplicity of the font, and of the central image. It is delicate and elegant, and yet sturdy and warm. It looks kind of magical, but not silly, graphic, yet old-fashioned. It almost glows.

I thought this cover was adorable. I loved the mixed media. I loved the handwritten text. I loved the imaginary character in a real building. It raises so many questions with just one tiny addition of a drawing to an otherwise very plain photograph. I loved the solid, pale blue sky, the way it looks like you could just float away in it.

This is a picture of a necklace that has been re-set, placed on the bill for the work done. It is from the Regency, and you can see that it has a similar composition to my eventual cover design, including the old parchment background. I just thought it looked pretty, and old-fashioned, and elegant. It is also sort of objet d'art in the way it includes an ordinary bill, which is a practical item, but which carries so much history. It is a piece of evidence, a piece of the past.

The design we came up with in the end may yet be adjusted, or scrapped all together, and I know it is not everyone's idea of what the cover to a book like mine ought to look like. I have even been told that it doesn't reflect the quality of my writing, but we all have different tastes, and that is all right. I think my cover is very sophisticated and I am quite proud of it, particularly because it doesn't look like what you would expect to be on my cover.

Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)