A Book by its Cover
by Kody Boye
Whenever I see a cover, especially one that has been illustrated, I am instantly sent back in time to when, as a child, I used to scour my elementary, middle and high school’s libraries for the next book I was going to read. I started reading fantasy from a surprisingly young age. Susan Fletcher’s Dragon’s Milk series were the first to pull me in when I was seven years old, then as a teenager I was drawn to Tamora Pierce’s Tortal quartets—which, unlike most fantasy books, featured strong female characters. The same was with Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, who also had strong women as main characters. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritence cycle and Brian Jacque’s Redwall series were also a huge inspiration to me. An astounding amount of other fantasy fiction was there for the picking (including Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series,) and while I never did and have yet to venture into them, they ultimately inspired within me a sense of what ‘fantasy’ should be.
There’s a lot of debate over how covers look, especially covers that exist in the 21rst century. With photoshop, stock photography and a clever artist’s hand, a simple image can instantly be transformed into something remarkable—something that, originally, would not have caught your eye, but now in its new form beckons your eye. Some say books should be illustrated (that ‘stock photo’ covers are not ‘real art.’) Some would argue for the opposite side, saying that covers need to be as photo-realistic as possible because illustrated covers are not ‘real art.’ The exact consensus on what people actually like varies, but for me and my upcoming saga called The Brotherhood, I was inspired to take myself back to the early days of fantasy—before there was photoshop and before covers were being created digitally via stock photos.
When I was preparing to enter the final stages of the publication of my first dark fantasy novel Blood, I had a lot to think about—mainly being: how the characters would be presented, how they would look, what they would be doing and what their backdrop would be. It wasn’t long after my first short story collection, Amorous Things, was rereleased by Library of Horror Press that I realized I wanted none other than Philip R. Rogers to do the cover for Blood, the first in my five-novel saga.
There was an immense amount of thought that had to go into this cover in order to make it work. Composition and layout was a must. We needed to see what was happening withwhom and what. Added to this, we needed something that would be simple—striking, mostly, upon first glance—in order to not only draw the reader’s attention, but to make the one considering the book flip to the back to see just what the story was about. The cover idea changed several times during this process. At first I wanted the heroes to be fighting on an arctic wasteland, but that idea was shot down because there would be too much going into the picture (heroes, enemies, hills, snow, magical affects, etc.) The second idea I wanted to tamper with would have been the traditional ‘heroes around the fire’ thing, with maybe something lurking in the background. That was eventually killed because I realized it was one thing—boring. As authors we FEAR our work being seen as ‘boring’ or ‘just like everyone else’s,’ which was why when one of the final scenes in the book struck me, I was immediately floored.
What was that idea, you ask? It was the one illustrated below.
The main desire when envisioning this cover was to make it striking. I wanted to do something simple but have some depth with it. So, low and behold—in the center there is an Ogre, holding within its one hand a skull bloodied, bruised and partially cracked upon. Around the Ogre are my three heroes, each dressed in their traditional colors. Each hero (Odin, top; Nova, right; Miko, left) are also armed with the weapons I had initially seen in my head when I initially wrote the ‘original trilogy.’ The end result equals something extraordinary: three heroes, one of whom is an Elf, fighting a monstrous foe.
I see too often in the covers for fantasy novels the basic ‘men riding on horses’ or ‘men sitting around a fire’ trope. For any author to succeed, they need something striking—something that sets them apart from the mainstream and in turn catches the reader’s attention. The scene depicted on the cover is taken from one of the final places within the novel. I could tell you what that scene is, but that would just ruin the fun, now wouldn’t it?
Ooooh Kody!!! *sticks tongue out* Well the cover of Blood certainly stands out from the crowd darling!!!
April 3rd to April 6th—Wraethworld
April 5th to April 6th—Sunrise