Saturday, August 13, 2011

Question #4

Our next question for this series is another from Angie. She asks:

Do you have any input in how the covers of your books are going to look? Love the covers of your books, by the way!

Very good question. I so wish I could say that I had a significant influence on these covers because they really are gorgeous! But the fact is, my input is quite small.

For Heartless, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Bethany House's marvelous Creative Director, Paul Hidgon. That was a great experience! What was supposed to be maybe an hour long conversation turned into (if I remember correctly) pushing three hours. He is a gracious man with a great personality and a huge range of creativity . . . my kind of person! He picked my brain about Heartless and its themes and what I would like to see on the story.

He showed me stock images that he had on hand, trying to see what looked like my story so that he could get a real feel for it. These images went everywhere from Lord of the Rings epic elves and sorcerers to gothic vampire-type illustrations! I told him what I would like to see a pre-Raphaelite feel. If you don't know what pre-Raphaelite style is, think this:

Or this:

Even though Heartless is set in a more advanced culture than this idealized Medieval, I wanted there to be this strong feel of romance and Fairy Tale . . . for ultimately, Heartless is a fairy tale, no matter the historic setting. I love how the pre-Raphaelites used such romantic subjects with such strong contrasts of light or dark. I told Paul Higdon that I would love to see a golden, light-filled glow but with with a looming darkness on the edges.

I also mentioned that I would love to see some sort of circular theme and sent them this image of Robin McKinley's newest novel at that time, which I thought was gorgeous. Pre-Raphaelite and visually stunning:

Don't you love how that decorative circle draws the eye? I thought it was beautiful and wondered if they could create a similar effect.

And, as you know, this was Paul Higdon's end result:

You tell me, dear readers, could he possibly have hit upon a better representation of what I asked for? I honestly think this cover is perfect. The girl looks just like I imagine Una . . . young, a bit petulant and sulky, with an innocence bordering on naivete. The central image is full of light and golden glow. The dragon eye and scales surrounding are dark and menacing. The eye creates the same dynamic circular effect as seen on Robin McKinley's story, but takes it in so much darker a direction. It is pre-Raphaelite, but also contemporary, and so perfectly suited to Heartless. I adore it!

I will mention that the original concepts I saw, while beautiful, did not include the dragon eye. That was my father's idea, actually. He suggested putting the image of the girl reflected in a dragon's eye. I passed on that suggestion, and the Bethany House artists ran with it.

With Veiled Rose, I didn't get to sit down with Paul. But I sent them several written ideas of possible themes. I think I may have suggested a mirror, but it was all their idea to show the Dragon holding up the mirror . . . which I consider a stroke of brilliance! Honestly, I think I might possibly like the final Veiled Rose cover even more than the Heartless cover. I love the brilliance of the blue tones with the subtle greens.

These three covers work well together because of the circle theme in the center of each and the use of reds and blues. Each cover has a different mood, but they simultaneously feel like part same overarching story. I look forward to seeing what they will do with Starflower! I will probably send them an image or two of what I picture the heroine looking like and some notes on appropriate period clothing. Other than that, I will likely have little say in the development of that cover. But, as you can see from what they have accomplished with these first three, they have a solid grasp of my work and my stories by now! They are quite amazing artists; all of their covers are visually striking and stand out in the crowd.

If you are interested, you can read this article in which Paul Higdon describes and illustrates the process they go through with each of their books. I found it quite fascinating! A great insight into a completely different side of the publication world.

So now I'm curious . . . which of these first three covers is your favorite?


Anonymous said...

hi i am Manise my first fav is Hartles it's just perfect! Her exprsion has Una written all over it then my next fav one would be i think Moonblood becaus i just realy like the roses and and Rose Red walking with her hand over her hart and the Dragon's claws comeing 2 get her it's great! then my third fav Valed Rose that one is very nice 2 i love the way you can kinda see her face a little bit

Anonymous said...

I love the cover of Heartless the best. I agree with you that is captures the story brilliantly. Veiled Rose did catch my eye, but perhaps, since I have yet to read it, the experience I had with Heartless connects me more to its cover. who knows. It is kind of cool though that they sat down with you and discussed it before hand. :)

al said...

Hi Ms. Stengl,
I agree with the other readers that the "Heartless" cover is indeed striking, although having recently been up until the wee hours of the morning finishing "Veiled Rose," I have a fresh perspective as to the intricacies of the cover art. I think that the mirror is an ingenious idea, for Rosie deserves to be shown at her best by society's standards. After anxiously awaiting my package from Amazon, I am happy to say that I quite enjoyed "Veiled Rose"; I completely sympathized with Rosie, and to a certain extent, Leo. Although, I was quite furious with Leo for immediately falling in love with Una based on one look, whereas he had not even though of Rosie in that way (I was so peeved with Leo that I vented my frustration with many an exasperated sigh…). I can only hope that in the next novel, Leo realizes that his supposed "love" with Una was barely more than a passing infatuation and that Rosie is truly the one for him. After what Rosie did to save Daylily, I can only pray that she, eventually, has a happy ending. This is completely irrelevant, but I was remembering how you feel that "Heartless" was not the perfect name for the novel, so I have been speculating… what about "Tears to the Heart"? Now let me explain: tears can be read two ways. The first way is "tears" as in "rips," which the dragon uses to hurt people, finding their vulnerabilities. Una feels as though the dragon tears her heart out, therefore, making her heartless.The second way is "tears" as in "crying," which brings to mind remorse, which is how Una is eventually saved. Her remorse and newfound faith keep her from succumbing to the dragon's evil.

Elf said...

I have always wondered how much input an author has in the cover of their novel. One of my biggest questions about this part of publication would be if you are trying to get you book published with a non-Christian publisher and the cover has images that you don't want to be assosiated with you or you story, could you tell the person, 'No, I will not allow that to be on my novel' or 'I really don't like that image'?

Elf said...

What is your blog 'Chronicles of the Evil One' at And my favourite cover is probably Heartless, but the others are amazing, too!

Elf said...

Me again! Sorry, but I just have to ask, do you have any pictures of the other ideas that they had for your books? I would love to see them.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@al: I'm so glad you enjoyed Veiled Rose! I know, I sometimes want to kick Leo myself. But I do love him and keep rooting for his growth. We'll just have to wait and see how things turn out in Moonblood! Somehow, I think he's going to make some significant strides in the right direction, but he does have a long way to go ...

Thanks for sharing you thoughts on a title! :) That was fun. If you ever take up novel-writing, I somehow don't think you'll have any problem coming up with winning titles!

@need2read: "Chronicles of the Evil One" is a blog I have toyed around with the idea of writing from the perspective of my husband's fluffy black cat, Minerva, whom we affectionately have nicknamed The Evil One. She is a naughty little thing with a sugur-sweet personality. Not sure that I actually have time to write another blog, though, so I haven't decided whether to go ahead with it or not! :)

As to secular publishing houses . . . I don't know for sure, but I would be willing to bet they would not not want their authors upset by anything put on their covers. I doubt that, with the type of story you would publish, they would feel the need to put anything inappropriate, however. With every story, whether Christian or secular publishing, publishing houses are going to want their authors happy with the cover result and feeling that their work is properly represented.

Hmm . . . I do have some of those original images, but I'm not sure if they would like me to share those! I can ask, but probably not. Trust me, they are very rough ideas and no where near as beautiful as these final pieces! :)

Angie said...

This was quite interesting. I love how your dad came up with the dragon eye idea...that was brilliant!

I actually love all the covers but I think my favorite is probably Moonblood. It looks so pretty and like a fairytale and then you notice the dragon claws. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Moonblood was a beautiful cover...but I must say that my favorite was Heartless. It's so unique and catches your eye; they ALL catch your eye. :)


Elf said...

Thank you for the information. I have always been afraid that they would tale a part of my book and interpret it in an evil, scary, of strange way for the cover. I am really glad that I could tell them that I did not want that.

Anonymous said...

Christa here!
I like the cover for Heartless the most, only because of it's symbolism and double-meaning. Let me explain: when I first read the beginning part of Heartless, I thought that the cover represented the Dragon eyeing Una. But when reading the rest of the book, the cover to me then represented Una as a dragon on the outside while in the middle of the cover you she the princess she really is. You can think of it in both ways, actually.
Veiled Rose's cover was mysterious and I was wondering if it would play out in the story. (Which, I found out, it did. Although the mirror in Death's domain is not described as circular, just tall.)
I haven't really looked at the cover of Moonblood yet, so I can't really give you my opinion on it. Except for the fact that I like the moon alot! It's so big and bright! =)