Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway
The Art of The Whitefire Crossing
By: Courtney Schafer
Ah, cover art. Two words certain to leave a debut author torn between excitement (“ooh, can’t wait to see my novel as a Real Live Book!”) and nerves (“Oh god, what if I hate the cover?”). For those not in the know, authors – especially brand new ones – often have no say in the cover. If you talk to industry veterans, you’ll hear a host of horror stories. Most tales of woe involve marketing folks who ignore the actual content of the story in favor of slapping the latest, greatest art trope on the cover. (“Put a tattooed chick with a sword on it. Those are hot right now. What’s that you say? None of the characters have tattoos, let alone carry swords? Who cares – you want it to sell, right?”)
So I was both delighted and relieved when my editor at Night Shade Books emailed me the cover art they’d commissioned from artist David Palumbo. Not only was the art gorgeous, but it did a wonderful job portraying the spirit of my book.
I like to call The Whitefire Crossing an adventure fantasy. When writing it, I aimed for the adventurous feel and tight character focus of sword-and-sorcery, but with pitons and ice axes instead of swords. One of Whitefire’s two protagonists is a mountain climber, the other a mage; at the start of the book, the mage (Kiran) hires the mountain climber (Dev) to help him cross the treacherous Whitefire Mountains and sneak over the spell-warded border of a neighboring country. Neither Dev nor Kiran trust each other, and for good reason – they’re each playing a deeper game than the other realizes. Soon enough they’re hip deep in trouble, caught between dangerous enemies with the fate of their home city hanging in the balance.
Looking at the cover art, the “mountain adventure” part of The Whitefire Crossing comes through loud and clear. I could tell right off that David Palumbo had actually read the book (or some portion thereof – though as it turns out, he read the whole thing). Not only are the mountains perfect: steep, snowy and rugged – which I’m thrilled about, since as a climber myself, mountains are important to me! – but so are the little details. The charm dangling from Dev’s wrist; the rope connecting the two men; the believably warm clothing; the tree turning black from Kiran’s touch because he’s stealing its life energy to supplement his own – all of that is just right.
Speaking of Kiran and the tree: the original version of the art didn’t have the red glow on the tree, just the blackened bark.
The original version was more true to the book; here’s a description of Kiran sucking life from a tree, as told from Dev’s perspective:
He didn’t say a word, just went straight for the nearest tree and grabbed a branch like it was a lifeline. I don’t know what I’d expected. A flash like a mage ward would give, or a sound, or something – but there was nothing like that. His head fell back, his eyes closed, and the look on his face made my skin crawl. I’d seen that same slack-jawed pleasure in lionclaw addicts when they swallowed a dose.
The needles of the tree withered to brown, then curled and blackened as if burned.
But while the blackened-bark art was both beautiful and accurate, I worried it was a little too subtle. I thought it might be good to clearly indicate to potential readers that the book had a strong magical element, and wasn’t historical fantasy. With the support of my agent, I brought it up with my editor. The editor agreed; so David added the red glow to the tree, to play up the magical element. I’m very happy with the result – I figure it’s more important for a cover to give the right feel for a book than be perfectly accurate.
Which brings me to character depictions: I think I’ve figured out why so many recent fantasy covers feature people in hoods or with their backs to the viewer. It’s so the publisher doesn’t have to worry the author will freak out over how the artist drew the character’s face. After all, it’s pretty hard to match whatever image the author’s been carrying around in their head for so long.
On my cover, Kiran’s face is showing, and he came out a bit more Asian than I’d imagined him. (In the book, he’s described as having black hair and high cheekbones, but blue eyes and fair skin). I don’t mind, though, because again I think it gives the right feel – most of the characters in Whitefire are meant to be either non-white or a mélange of races. Dev, for instance, is described as brown-skinned, dark-haired and green-eyed; I’ve always pictured him as a male, somewhat darker-skinned version of the green-eyed Afghan girl in that famous National Geographic picture. (See http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text) With Dev’s face hidden, I definitely prefer Kiran not to look like a fantasy-standard white boy.
I feel pretty darn lucky to have gotten such a great cover for my first novel. I’m hoping David Palumbo will do the art again for Whitefire’s sequel, The Tainted City (forthcoming in 2012). Regardless, I think I’m in great hands with Night Shade!
About The Whitefire Crossing
The Whitefire Crossing
The Shattered Sigil 1
(Night Shade Books, August 9, 2011)
But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution--and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.
Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other--or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.
Amazon : B&N : Book Depository : Borders
What: One commenter will win an ARC of The Whitefire Crossing from Courtney!
How: Leave a comment answering the following question:
Have you ever bought a book because of its cover art?
Do you have a favorite cover or cover artist?
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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*