Archive for April, 2012
TITLE: Glamour in Glass
AUTHOR: Mary Robinette Kowal
PUBLISHER: Tor Books
PUBLICATION DATE: April 10, 2012
ARC received courtesy of publisher.
Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel. Glamour in Glass continues following the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue. In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it. Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison . . . and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.
“There are few things in this world that can at once delight and dismay to the same extent as a formal dinner party.”
– The opening sentence from Glamour in Glass, which was mysteriously omitted from the book’s first printing.
When I first read Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, I fell in love with her Austen-inspired writing style, characters, and world. She successfully combined all the elements I love about Jane Austen’s work, and added an original twist – in Kowal’s Regency England, magic, or glamour, is an accepted part of life. The fantastical elements of this world are what make it so special, and at the end of Shades of Milk and Honey, I looked forward to seeing how Kowal would expand this world and further develop her compelling heroine, Miss Jane Ellsworth. Having just finished its follow-up, Glamour in Glass, I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. Kowal succeeded again in drawing the reader into her enchanting world of glamour while also upping the ante with a bit of political intrigue, a dash of daring escape, and a handful of heartfelt drama.
It’s difficult to discuss the plot and the events of the book without giving away too much. Essentially, Jane and Vincent travel to Belgium for their honeymoon but things are not what they seem. Their honeymoon gets caught up in the political turmoil of the time as Napoleon escapes from Elba Island and makes his way across the continent to restore his power and influence. Meanwhile, Jane and Vincent continue to develop their work together as glamourists while staying with an old friend of Vincent’s, The Chastains. Their domestic happiness collides with political events and results in intrigue and adventure. The plot builds a bit slowly but has a difficult yet exciting conclusion.
What I liked most about this book was the character development. Jane is now a wife, but she is also a creative partner to her husband in a world in which women are not valued for their professional pursuits. Jane is an accomplished glamourist and works with Vincent on a prestigious, awe-inspiring project for the Prince Regent as an equal partner, yet as a woman, she receives very little of the acclaim. Jane doesn’t do the work for vanity but feels the sting of not being recognized for her abilities. She also struggles with the expectations placed on her as a wife and as a woman and tries to reconcile those expectations with her own desire to perfect her art. I appreciated this struggle and loved seeing Jane grow from being a somewhat sheltered woman at her parent’s home in the first book, to an independent woman trying to define herself personally and professionally. It is a great modern twist to Jane’s character and it makes her very relatable to women today.
We also learn more about Vincent. Revelations about his troubled past give us a deeper understanding of his character. You feel for him and hope that his life with Jane can give him the happiness he did not have with his own family.
With these two together, Kowal does a great job of showing the complexities of a marriage. Difficult pasts and uncertain futures set in tumultuous times make for great drama.
The Austen-esque writing style is also well done. Even when hinting at a love scene, I think Kowal hits the right Austen note:
“They were occupied for some minutes, then, with duties marital. To disturb their privacy would be indecorous. Suffice to say: the Vincents were a healthy couple, and with their differences settled, they were happily matched in temperament.”
Can’t you imagine Austen writing something similar? This passage made me smile.
Finally, I love the magic in this world. It is an art form. It is used to create beauty, to transform rooms into underwater kingdoms, to enhance the beauty of a home, or to elevate a piece of music. But this magic also takes a physical toll. Wielding too much glamour can also be dangerous to one’s health. I appreciate the originality in this concept. I love that the possibilities are endless but that they come with a price.
The ending of Glamour in Glass is devastating but leaves you with a sense of hope. I think this is a great series for Austen fans who also love a bit of fantasy. The language, the world, the voice, the style and pacing are all terrific homages to Austen while also managing to be wholly original through the story’s fantastical elements. Once again, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Jane and Vincent.
Let’s get to reading!
Shelf Candy is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Five Alarm Books. This meme gives us an opportunity to highlight a cover we love and the artist who created it. Please click the button above to find out how to participate and to see what other covers are being discussed this week.
This week I’m featuring the cover for Vicki Pettersson’s The Taken, the first in a new series called Celestial Blues. Since the book has not been released, I actually tweeted the author to learn the name of the cover artist – Larry Rostant. He is a UK-based illustrator/photographer who has probably done a majority of the covers that you know and love. Rostant has done cover art for Pettersson, Stephen King, George RR Martin, Anne Bishop, and Jacqueline Carey to name a few.
WHY I LOVE THIS COVER:
It’s beautiful. I saw this cover floating around the blogosphere and I knew I had to read the book. That let’s you know the cover did it’s job – it caught my eye and got me interested. I love the fact that it has a period feel to it. In fact, when I first saw it, I thought it was a UF set in the 1950′s. When I read the synopsis and found out it wasn’t, I was even more intrigued.
The model is beautiful, your eye goes to her immediately. I love how she is full of color but the background is desaturated. And the best thing? Those smoke wings. I had to look at it twice to fully get it. And I like that. It was a brilliant choice.
Please welcome Larry Rostant to the blog!
SWR: Larry, you’ve worked on covers for Stephen King, George RR Martin, and other big names in the field. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into the world of cover design?
I did a degree in graphic design, specializing in illustration. And when I left college, I was an advertising illustrator. In those days, I used to be an airbrush illustrator. Then along came Photoshop and I transferred to doing all of my work on Photoshop because the way it works is quite similar to airbrush, and it was quite an easy transition for me to make. So I transferred over to doing Photoshop, and because of that my work became more and more realistic. And so it’s ended up being almost photographic now. I got into book covers because I found that book covers gave me much more creativity in that I was able to just be given the manuscript and I was given free range to decide what I would like to do on the cover, which is how I now work. So I had complete creative control which is much more rewarding than in advertising where basically you are told what to do. I decided book covers are much more interesting to me. So I started working in book covers, and it grew, and grew, and grew. That is I how I ended up where I am now.
SWR: The one thing I was surprised to learn in all my interviews with cover artists is that you actually have very little contact with the author. It’s mainly the publisher’s art department and the cover artist that communicate on the design. What exactly is the working relationship between the Art Director and the Cover Artist?
Well, that’s very interesting, because I think that is sort of changing over time in that when I initially started doing book covers it was very much the Art Director had a vision because they understood the marketing involved in the book. So they had a vision of what was currently selling. And therefore the Art Director would come up with a concept. They would then brief the illustrator. And they would have gotten to know these illustrators over years, or through agents or whatever. So they had a group of illustrators that they liked working for them, or whose work they liked. That’s how I started out.
But what then has changed, I suppose, is as you become better known as an illustrator, quite often the Art Director will say to you, “Well, we like what you’ve done on these other covers, what can you think of to do on our cover? What can you bring that’s new to this cover?” And I’ve luckily gotten to the position where a lot of Art Directors, not always, but often, they’ll say to me, “We just like what you do, what could you suggest that would work well on this cover?” And it’s my job as an illustrator to know what is currently selling. And a lot of that has to do with popular culture of the moment. All the Twilight books, and then the films, and all the vampire stuff. When all that started, the look of the film posters, and the television series, and all of that affects the popular culture, and therefore, your covers need to tap into that. They need to look like that. So it’s about knowing what’s popular across culture. All things. Film, Television, Art. Everything, basically. It’s knowing what the zeitgeist is at the moment, tapping into that, and then reproducing that for a book cover.
SWR: How did you get involved with the Vicki Peterson cover specifically? Was this one of those cases where the Art Director said, “What do you want to do with it?”
No, with this one, they knew exactly what they wanted on this cover. With this one, I don’t think it’s only the Art Director. But it’s the Art Director and the Editor that work very closely together on these covers. They are a team I think. And I think it’s the editor who had a very strong view of what she wanted to see, and then talked that through the Art Director. They then came to me because I had done lots of work for them in the past for lots of different authors. And they said, “This is the vision we want to bring forward.” But then again, it taps into all those things that are currently popular. I understand the way that the color and the lighting are done on the “Twilight” posters – the fact that this is a noir-ish cover, so we need to borrow a bit from the film noir posters, and what those films look like. So, bringing together all those things. They had their vision, and talked to me, and said “This is the sort of thing we want. What do you think?” And I reinterpreted it with my own sort of spin on it, as it were.
SWR: Well, I love it! I love the smoky outline of the wings in the background. I thought that was fantastic. It’s a beautiful cover.
There was some debate from the art department whether that looked obviously like wings. There was some discussion about whether they should be a bit more obviously wings. But I quite like them, it’s sort of subtle. I didn’t want it to be too obvious. I think next time, if there’s another one in that serious, I’ll have to make them a little more obvious.
Sometimes I like to do things a bit more subtly than the Art Director would want. And they’ll come back to me and say, “Well, we like it, but for our readership, we need to make that point a bit more obvious.”
SWR: I loved the subtlety of it. I don’t think it needed to be obvious. I thought it was great.
That’s what I think! And that’s exactly what I’ll argue back with them. I’ll say “Well, come on. Let’s make it interesting for the reader.” So they’ll take one look, and don’t notice it, and take one look again, and then see something. So you get those layers of interest throughout the cover. So, I’m always trying to add those in. And to bring new things to the party. To say, why don’t we try this, and why don’t we do that. But then, I guess their view is, we’ve got to sell this in a mass market. We want everyone to get it every single time. So they’re pushing in the other direction. And I’m pushing in one direction. And then, between us, we come up with the cover.
I know this art director very well. We’ve worked together for a long time. I have a lot of respect for him, and the editor. So there’s never an argument about it. It’s just about, I’ve got my style, and they’ve got theirs. And it’s about meeting in the middle.
At the end of the day, quite frankly, it’s their say that goes. I respect what they think, and, hopefully, they respect what I bring.
SWR: What did you think was the one key aspect that needed to be conveyed on this particular cover?
For this cover, we were going for dark but also sexy. The model I found, I was very pleased with her. I’ve used her a few times and I thought she’d be perfect for this. So it’s got to be this overall dark, intriguing feel. But also be attractive, and sexy in a certain way.
SWR: I noticed, looking over your website and past covers, that it seems a lot of your work has period detail. Even in The Taken cover, when I first saw it, I thought maybe it was series set in the 1950’s. What’s the key to achieving that level of authenticity?
I do covers for all different genres of books. So, I do a lot of period fiction and romantic period fiction whereby we have to have fairly authentic costuming. I do historical fiction where the costuming has got to be absolutely accurate. And everything in between. I do action and adventure. I don’t just do book covers. I also do games, and advertising, and other things as well. So getting the right costuming is never a problem.
They did talk me through the influences for this. They liked the Dita Von Teese-type look, and Betty Page slightly. We actually shot two different dresses on the model to have a choice of what was right for her. And with him as well, he had to have that right. The book is meant to look like a noir-ish book even though it’s a contemporary book.
SWR: I know that the main character is supposed to be into the Rock-a-billy lifestyle and I think the model looked perfect.
She’s great. I’ve used her before a number of times, and I thought she’d be perfect. And she was.
SWR: How would you describe your style?
I think I interpret what is currently attractive to people, and then I reproduce it for book covers. And I have different styles for every kind of genre. Every genre has got its own look, and I will reproduce whatever is appropriate for that genre. A lot of my influences come from film posters, I would say. I spend a lot of time watching films. The lighting and styling of films. I watch all big films that come out. Lots, and lots, and lots of films. I watch four or five films a week. Even if they’re rubbish, its just to learn about the lighting and what’s currently interesting in styling. What do monsters look like? What do vampires wear? How are they lit?
So my style is based on that.
SWR: That gets to my next question. I was going to ask where you draw your inspiration. So would it be fair to say you draw your inspiration from film?
Not only film. I look at a lot of photographers. I love photography, and I love illustrators. So I look at them. I look at fine artists. I’ll go to the National Gallery and look at Caravaggio. It’s about being interested in all aspects of art, really. They all feed in to the final thing. If I go down into the underground, I spend just as long looking at all the pictures and posters and things just getting to where I need to get.
SWR: How do you think the e-book revolution has impacted cover design?
It’s having an effect on publishing. I think it now has about 20 percent of the market. I’m not sure. I only work for the mass market. For the hardback, the paperback, and the print market. And then they reuse my covers on the e-books. I give them permission to use them on the e-books. I’ve never been commissioned specifically to do an e-book. Because so far, there isn’t any budget for that. The budgets are quite small. But the way I look at it is if a new author comes along and releases a book, they’ve got to market it somehow. What a book jacket is, is the marketing, the advertising for that product. Attached to that product. And unique to that product. It’s a fantastic sort of thing. A new author, how else are they going to market their product, if they don’t have a cover?
I don’t think the publishing world quite yet knows the answer to that. And I think everyone is looking around wondering what is going to happen. I don’t think they’ve quite got there yet. I don’t see how we can do without a cover. Even if it’s not attached to the physical book. Even if all publishing in the future is digital, it’s still going to need some sort of marketing device. It might be that the new marketing device is a film. A short little moving film. I’m interested in doing that. So maybe the book jacket stops being a physical printed thing, and becomes a little film, or a little animation that does the marketing for the book.
It’s an exciting time to be an illustrator or a photographer. I’m not sure what I am at the moment. Whether I’m a photographer or an illustrator, I’m not sure. But it’s a good time to be it. It’s an interesting time to be in the business.
SWR: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I generally produce about three book covers a week. So there’s always work coming on, and I’m always booked up several months in advance. But editors don’t really like me talking about it. They don’t like me mentioning it until they’ve been out. But there’s lots of work coming on. Lots of it, very interesting. I’m excited about the idea of doing motion for something. A couple of big authors, two very big authors, I’ve just done their covers. I can’t tell you about them yet. But they are looking good.
Special thanks to Larry for taking time out to speak with me! Please take a moment to visit his site. You won’t be disappointed. His work is very cinematic and his site features some beautiful imagery.
please visit Vicki Pettersson to learn more about The Taken, the first book in her new Celestial Blues series, due for release on June 12, 2012!
Now, let’s get to reading!
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine and it highlights our most highly anticipated releases. Click the button above to learn how to join in on the fun.
I don’t think this choice is original and I know a lot of people are waiting for it. The Sookie Stackhouse series was the one that really introduced me to the UF/PNR genre. Sure, I read Anne Rice when I was younger but it was this series that brought me back full force into the world of vamps and shifters. Now, I’ve been a bit disappointed with some of the last releases in the series. In fact, I need to read the book before Deadlocked in order to catch up. But I have renewed hope that this one will take me back to the Sookie of yesteryear based on some of the advance reviews I’ve seen. Without further ado…Sookie #12:
With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.
Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.
What are you waiting on?
Let’s get to reading!
I set up AR under the aegis of HarperCollins in late 2008. A couple of the more forward-thinking folks there had seen the work I’d done at Black Library, supporting that book imprint by building a community of dedicated readers and fans, establishing a strong brand identity, and starting to embrace the changes in publishing that online and digital developments were promising.
Alas, self-same folks moved on from HC just as we launched, and as is so often the way, those who remained didn’t quite get what we were about. The end result was that nine months later we moved to Osprey Group. Although on the surface it was an unusual new home – military and historical non-fiction – once one considers the customers’ profile it becomes obvious. SF also has fanatical, enthusiastic, hobbyist readers, who are *into* the subject, who follow online and printed reviews, who have “Wants Lists” of titles they’re after. The amazing team at Osprey helped us get back on our feet within a few months, and we also launched in the USA at last. Since then we’ve just grown and grown, as indeed have the other parts of the group.
SWR: You wear a few different hats at Angry Robot. Can you tell us a bit about what you do in your role as Art Director for the company?
Quite simply, I commission the covers, usually to concepts that I have come up with. That involves a bunch of tasks: research the market, gather some concepts for the cover, research elements, track down a suitable and available artist, and supervise the process of to-and-fro as we work up the illustration and/or design. Sometimes I work up the typography – book titling, author name, and so on – too. On a few occasions, I’ve designed and illustrated the cover too, but not too often.
SWR: What is the Angry Robot brand?
Erm, it’s a little robot with a red eye-slit. His name is Angstrom. You must have seen him.
SWR: One thing I love about many of the Angry Robot covers is the retro feel they have (Dead Harvest and Evil Dark). There is an edginess to a lot of the designs. Is there a certain look that is quintessential Angry Robot or that illustrates the Angry Robot brand?
No, but certain themes do recur, of course. And I’m not sure that “many” is quite right – really just two series, out of thirty or more. The Justin Gustainis books – police procedurals set in a town where vampires and werewolves are the norm – seemed to demand crime packaging to reinforce that side of the content, while the illustration had supernatural and occult elements. It was a short step from there to grab some old US pulps of the 50s and 60s and riff on their design.
The Chris F Holm titles took things a little further, and I must confess it is the only cover design I’ve commissioned that I deliberately didn’t show anyone, in case someone talked me out of it It came from the recent online meme where designers recreated classic rock albums and Harry Potter books and movies in the style of old Penguin paperbacks. The Sam Thornton novels explicitly reference classic Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels, and while looking at different designs of those I kept coming across the same Penguin designs. It was obvious to me that was the direction to go. Unbelievably, everyone agreed with me, and we’ve probably had more acclaim from fellow publishing types for those covers than any others.
As for the AR style, well, everyone very kindly focuses on the best covers rather than the ones that were more everyday, or didn’t quite work. But I have my favourite approaches, and certainly my favoured illustrators (as a quick glance at the five Joey HiFi covers across three authors will instantly reveal). To some extent, perhaps Joey’s covers stand out most, but overall I’d perhaps venture it’s just that we use more graphical approaches than most, and we’re not afraid to try something a little different.
SWR: What is your creative process when designing a book cover?
It depends. Some, well, I have the idea gathering shape even as the book goes through the acquisition process (editor likes book, gathers potential sales estimates to convince sales team we should buy it, does so). Others come from suggestions by the author or the book’s editor. Questions are asked: who’s the readership, how old are they, what’s the genre of the book, what is working in that area, is our chosen illustrator available and what are their limitations, is the book a larger trade paperback or a smaller mass-market. And always – does the design work as a small on-screen thumbnail as well as a physical book?
SWR: What makes a good book cover?
The purpose of a book cover is to sell a book, and the best do that – mostly by creating an accurate but also alluring impression of the thrills the book will offer. Then again, some are deliberately quirky, to get you to pick them up, and then hope that the design doesn’t let down or misrepresent the contents. The best and worst thing is that everyone has a different favourite cover (almost), from experimental graphics to florid romantic or fantasy paintings. But I always try to remember – if everyone’s wearing black, the guy in the white suit will always stand out.
SWR: What have been some of your favorite Angry Robot covers and why?
Embedded, because Larry Rostant nailed exactly what was in my head, that I’d seen when I read Dan’s novel. Zoo City by Joey HiFi, because it was something so immediately different yet recognisable. Slights, because even though I know some of the people on the cover and they’re all lovely, normal people, Stef Kopinski’s photo still scares the hell out of me. The World House, cos I designed it and people liked it. vN because Matt spent days and days building all those robot parts on the computer, only to dump Amy into them. The Great Game because David Frankland’s artwork is so simple yet so clever. Seven Wonders (which we’ll show the world next week) because my god, Will Staehle is a genius modern cover designer.
And for fun, Marc was game enough to take the Pivot quiz. Here are his answers:
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
I don’t have one.
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Thinkers, thinking, rethinking.
What turns you off?
An unexamined life.
What is your favorite curse word?
It changes from day to day.
What sound or noise do you love?
Cat purrs, depthcharge deep bass, my daughter’s gentle snoring, the sound of an enormous door slamming in the depths of hell.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The alarm clock.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
‘Attempt”? Life isn’t a rehearsal, kid
What profession would you not like to do?
I know someone who runs a sock factory. He wears grey clothes. That.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Unlikely on so many levels, but thanks for asking.
Please stop by and visit Marc at
& of course visit Angry Robot and take a look at some of the covers/titles in the their current line-up
Tell me which cover is your favorite!
Now, let’s get to reading…
I am excited to take part in the Bewitching Book Tour for Camilla Chafer, author of Illicit Magic, the first installment in the Stella Mayweather series. Please click the button above to see all the blogs participating in this tour! Camilla was kind enough to answer my questions on world-building, indie publishing, and what she is too chicken to read. Stay around for the end of the interview where you will get a chance to win a copy of Illicit Magic. And, now, please welcome Camilla!
SWR: How would you describe Illicit Magic and the Stella Mayweather Paranormal Series in two to three sentences?
Illicit Magic is an urban fantasy series with a smart heroine who learns how to save herself. With my witches nothing is what it seems, so look out for double crossers, secrets, lies, and mysteries. My heroine isn’t kick ass; she’s got her own powers but she’s an everyday girl learning to live in an extraordinary world.
SWR: What was your inspiration for the character of Stella?
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be able to perform magic but not understand what it was you were doing, and finding it very scary. I wanted Stella to be the antithesis to many modern day heroines who need the powerful guy to swoop in and save her from the big bad. So, throughout the series Stella will learn how to wield her own power and save herself.
SWR: World-building is so important to UF/PNR reads. How did you start building the world and the magic of the Mayweather series?
I try to keep Stella’s world very grounded; so in many respects it is one that is familiar to us… but with an extra layer of magic. I introduce other supernatural beings – though the primary focus is on witches – and gradually build the layers of their existence. Stella is as new to the world as we are, so we find things out as she does. I keep a lot of notes to keep my world in order!
SWR: You have the opportunity to adapt Illicit Magic into a film or TV series. Who are your dream director, lead actress, and lead actor?
This is a tough one! I’ve never had a strong picture of anyone who could be Stella or Evan because they’re such unique characters. Étoilé, however, I imagined as a young Kristin Scott Thomas, kind of aristocratic, very elegant. I wish I knew more about directors; I guess the ideal one would be really willing to play about and have fun with the magic elements.
SWR: How has your former life as a book editor impacted your process as a writer? Do you find yourself being more critical of your writing?
It gave me more insight into the business side of publishing rather than writing fiction itself (I edited non-fiction and I’ve been a journalist for eight years). So, I had plenty of practice at blurb writing and had some insight into marketing. I could apply techniques I learned from writing non-fiction… things like not sweating the small stuff, getting something down on paper, and being able to write fast and consistently. It’s hard to be hyper critical of your own writing but when something isn’t working, I rip it out or rewrite until I’m happy. I also go through several edits before my editor even sees a copy. Hmm, maybe I’m more critical than I thought!
SWR: Who are authors you admire and who have influenced your work?
I adore Sarah Addison Allen’s work and how she brings magic into everyday things. Robin McKinley writes wonderful fantasy. HP Mallory’s Dulcie series and JR Rain’s Samantha Moon books are lots of fun.
SWR: What do you read in your free time?
I love mysteries, UF/PNR, magical realism and I’ll pick up a thriller or a romance if it interests me. The only genre I don’t read is horror. I’m too chicken.
SWR: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are interested in taking the indie publishing path?
Really educate yourself about the industry and practice, practice, practice. Assuming you’re there with your writing, start researching cover designers, editors and proofreaders to get the right team behind you; learn how to format, how to upload and how to market. Have fun with your writing but think like a business. Learn how to get people interested in your books by finding out what other writers did and how you can emulate their success. Don’t rush. Take your time, get it right.
SWR: Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.
My next project is a new mystery series. It’s a lighthearted romp about an office temp who stumbles across her boss’ dead body and falls headfirst into the investigation of major insurance fraud. It was so much fun to write. All three books will be out May – July. Right now, I’m working on the fourth book in the Stella series which is due out soon and I hope to complete the series this year.
SWR: Thanks so much for coming by the blog!
Thanks for having me!
ILLICIT MAGIC GIVEAWAY!
More than three hundred years after the most terrifying witch hunts the world has ever known, it’s happening again.
Racing from attack by the ruthless Brotherhood in London to the powerful witch council in New York, twenty-four-year-old novice witch Stella has to put her faith in strangers just to stay alive but she might not be any safer in their midst than from the danger she is running from.
Sent to an extraordinary safe house by the sea to learn her craft, Stella finds there is more than one dark secret in her new family: Étoile’s sister is spoken of in fear and sadness; Marc is supposed to be a powerful witch but is missing his magic; where does the owner of their safe house vanish to every day and why does Evan have the eyes of someone not quite human?
There is only one secret that someone will do anything to keep quiet, but whose secret is it and will Stella have to pay the price for silence?
Amazon UK Top 10 contemporary fantasy bestseller
Amazon US Top 45 fantasy bestseller
Amazon US Top 50 contemporary fantasy bestseller
Please take a moment to say hello to Camilla!
HOW TO ENTER:
Please leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Urban Fantasy or Paranormal “world” is and you will be entered to win a copy of Illicit Magic! A winner will be chosen at random. Please remember to leave your email address so I can contact you. Winner will be announced April 27, 2012.
Let’s get to reading!
APRIL 30, 2012: WINNER ANNOUNCED! Booked and Loaded is the randomly selected winner of the Illicit Magic Giveaway! You will be contacted shortly for your details. Thank you everyone who participated!
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine and it highlights our most highly anticipated releases. Click the button above to learn how to join in on the fun.
If you have not read anything in the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, please remedy that by going straight to your local bookstore and purchasing Skinwalker, Jane Yellowrock Book #1 . You have until October 2, 2012, when the latest installment, Death’s Rival, is released, to catch up and read the other books in the series. That’s all I can say. No more words. Read these books.
Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…
For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to …a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane.
But then, a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey. Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.
What new releases are you waiting on?
For me, the title sequence of a movie or TV series is just as important as the film or show as a whole. It is almost like the first few sentences of a book – it sets the mood and tone for what you are about to see. In some cases, it can sum up a character, a setting, or a story in its entirety if you watch closely enough. I also think a title sequence is an art in its own right. Companies and motion graphics artists are hired, separate from the rest of the post-production crew, to concept and design only a title sequence for a show or movie. So while an editor is working away at assembling an episode of a TV serial show or a feature length film, there is another team, working away for months, to design only a title sequence. That’s how important an opening is to a movie or show.
So here are some of my favorites. For the most part, they are all based on books or graphic novels.
Of course, this list would not exist without the True Blood title sequence by Digital Kitchen. Who does not love this one? Southern Gothic is the tone it sets. It highlights the creepiness and violence beneath the southern gentility. I find the show to be a little more unsettling and a little more violent in ways that the books on which it is based are not. This title sequence, with its darkness and confusion and creepy undertones, lets you know right away that this is something different. And the music is perfect.
Okay, so I cheated here. This one is not based on a book but it was too good not to include. When this movie came out, everyone was talking about the opening credits. I love how the text is part of the environment. I love the sense of humor in it. It’s gory, bloody, and gross. And it still makes you laugh at how crazy over the top it is. Just like the movie.
GAME OF THRONES
I am a big fan of the books this series is based on. What I love about this title sequence is that it attempts to set you in the world right away. Based on the maps found in the books themselves, this opening brings to life the complicated Westeros, taking you through the land, its strongholds and family sigils, all of the different factions who are at war. For every episode that adds a new city or stronghold, the map in the opening changes. For example, the first episode of season two introduced Stannis Baratheon and so the map in the open changed to include Dragonstone, Stannis’ castle. Brilliant.
This is a seemingly simple open. But really, when you think about it, it is brilliant. Kubrick uses sweeping landscapes, dramatic camera moves, and a car moving slowly through the landscape, to underline the absolute isolation that he is about to introduce you to. I think this is a brilliant open.
THE WALKING DEAD
I am about to out myself here. I have never watched this show. Not even one episode. I also have not read the graphic novels on which the show is based. Yikes! Don’t judge me. But I do love this fan made opening title sequence. It is just cool. For fans of the show, what is the actual title sequence being used?
Tell me about a title sequence you love!
TITLE: Royal Street
AUTHOR: Suzanne Johnson
PUBLISHER: Tom Doherty & Associates/TOR
PUBLICATION DATE: April 10, 2012
ARC received from publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
SYNOPSIS VIA GOODREADS:
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ’s boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.
Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.
While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.
To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.
Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson is a wonderful introduction to a new series. With some interesting world-building and a relatable protagonist, Johnson has succeeded in creating a new world and heroine that I look forward to continuing to explore.
The plot of Royal Street is fairly straightforward. Wizard Sentinels are the police of the supernatural world, keeping preternaturals in check and protecting the mundane world from threat. Drusilla Jane Jaco, or DJ, is a junior sentinel for NOLA who is itching for more responsibility and more interesting assignments. She works closely with Gerry St. Simon, the senior Sentinel and the man who has basically raised her like his own. Katrina hits and Gerry goes missing. Meanwhile, as a result of the hurricane, the borders between The Beyond, a parallel world where preternaturals live, and the mundane world, where we live, weaken. Supernatural beings begin crossing into the mundane world at will, making it very difficult for the Sentinels to police the borders. Strange symbols also begin appearing at murder sites throughout the city. DJ and her new partner, Alex Warin, are tasked with finding the killer, protecting the borders, and figuring out what happened to Gerry. It is precisely Gerry’s disappearance that is the central storyline of the book. And for me, it was the most interesting aspect of DJ’s overall mission. DJ is faced with reevaluating everything she thought she knew about her relationship with Gerry and his past, and Johnson effectively brings the reader on DJ’s journey, causing us to question what we think we know about him as well.
There was a lot of originality in the Royal Street world. As someone who tends to prefer vampires and werewolves for my paranormal fare, it was refreshing to read a UF novel with a wizard as the main protagonist. I liked the idea of wizards being this organized body of supernatural beings – almost like a professional organization where you get licensed and are grouped into specializations, or Congresses. DJ is part of the Green Congress – she specializes in potions and rituals. She is not this kick ass wizard able to do physical magic, but rather one who has to prepare potions for battles, which adds an element of uncertainty in her confrontations with physically or magically stronger beings. I also thought the separation between the Beyond and the Mundane added a lot of potential for exploration. In Johnson’s world, vampires, weres, fae, mermen, dwarves, goblins and the like live almost exclusively in the Beyond, separated from humans. With the breaches brought on by Katrina, I look forward to seeing what havoc is created by these “pretes” crossing over into the Mundane and learning about the mythologies that surround each group.
I also liked the concept of the “historical dead.” Johnson created something really original here, where key historical figures live an immortal life in the Beyond because their power is fueled by our memory. They fade into mortality as we, in the mundane world, begin to forget them. As a result, Johnson is able to do some fun things with historical characters, the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte for one.
“Keeping up with him would require running, and there is no dignity in running after any man for any reason, injured or not.”
DJ herself is smart, funny, and witty while also being socially awkward in the romance department. She is confident but with a dose of self-doubt that makes her relatable. When partnered with Alex Warin, the chemistry between the two is obvious and provides some entertaining exchanges.
“The fight wasn’t over,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’d have won it.”
“Right,” he said. “And something just flew past your window. It was oinking.”
One minor quibble I do have is precisely Alex’s character. He was a little too distanced for me to really connect with and I felt myself being unsure as to whether or not I wanted the two in a romantic relationship. I understand the point of Alex is that he is hard to read, and maybe Johnson did too good of a job in keeping him that way. I’m interested in seeing what she will do in Royal Street’s follow-up, River Road, to develop the relationship between the two. This is especially true since DJ has several competitors for her affections – Jake Warin and Jean Lafitte – and I found myself leaning towards team Jake.
Finally, one of the greatest aspects of Royal Street is one of its main characters: New Orleans. Johnson loves this city and it comes through in the writing. She sets the story during the post-Katrina relief efforts, introducing each chapter with a quote from the Times Picayune newspaper.
“Saturday, September 17, 2005: Today in New Orleans, a traffic light worked. Someone watered flowers. And anyone with the means to get online could have heard Dr. Joy’s voice wafting in the dry wind, a sound of grace, comfort and familiarity here in the saddest and loneliest place in the world.”
Chris Rose, The Times-Picayune
I loved these quotes. It helped in setting the context and mood. It added to the claustrophobic feel of the novel. The events in this book really only take place in a couple of locations, mainly DJ’s house. And it fits. New Orleans was recovering from a disaster of epic proportions. It makes sense that there are not many places to go and it underlines the sense of urgency and desperation DJ felt to get out and do something to find her mentor and solve the murders taking place in the city she loves.
I give Royal Street a solid four howls. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a strong UF to sink their teeth into. It is a wonderful start to a new series and I am looking forward to seeing how Suzanne Johnson continues to develop the world of Drusilla Jaco, New Orleans Sentinel.
This has been an incredibly unusual two weeks for me. You see, I’ve won stuff. Take a look:
And here are the people I really need to thank for these wonderful goodies:
(won via Twitter Giveaway by MIRA INK)
(won via blog giveaway by TOR)
(won via Shelf-Awareness giveaway by ST MARTIN’S PRESS)
(won via blog giveaway by the lovely STELLAR FOUR)
(won via blog giveaway by the lovely STELLAR FOUR)
(won via Twitter Giveaway by SIGNET ECLIPSE BOOKS)
(won via blog giveaway by the wonderful Marlene at READING REALITY)
8. The Academy
I am incredibly grateful to the publishers and bloggers for organizing these fantastic giveaways! A special thanks to the wonderful blog, The Stellar Four, for organizing the Stacey Jay giveaway. This is a series I have been meaning to read for quite a while and I cannot wait to dig into these. And another special thank you to Marlene at Reading Reality for the Heather Massey book. I read about this one in RT Reviews and was very curious.
I feel very lucky indeed. Because really people, I don’t win shit. I really don’t. So what does a person, like myself, who tends to lose at Bingo, raffles, giveaways, auctions, and the like, do when faced with a winning streak like this?
That’s right. I bought a Powerball ticket. And placed all of my dreams for myself and my family on this $2 paper of hope.
And I lost.
So, this is probably it. What you see above is probably all of my winning mojo for at least a year. A moment of silence, please.
(silence…1 minute…2 minutes)
Great, now let’s get to reading!
Shelf Candy is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Five Alarm Books. This meme gives us an opportunity to highlight a cover we love and the artist who created it. Please click the button above to find out how to participate and to see what other covers are being discussed this week.
WHY I LOVE THIS COVER
This is another cover that really stands out on store shelves. I love its retro/pin-up feel and the choice of color. The use of pink in the text and on Verity Price’s clothes are a nice contrast with the dark background. There is a sense of humor in the cover that I appreciate – a mix of light and dark that I think fits with the story.
The cover was designed by the UK-based illustrator/artist Alistair (Aly) Fell. I bombarded Aly with a lot of questions and I considered cutting some out for this final post but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I loved his answers and I am excited to share this with you. Special thanks to Aly for his patience with my interrogation!
Please welcome, Aly Fell!
SWR: Can you tell me a little about your art background and how you got started in cover illustration? What was the moment of no return in which you knew this is what you wanted to do professionally?
I don’t know how true it is for other ‘artists’, but to me there wasn’t really any doubt I’d end up doing something with art from the day I first picked up a pencil. Either that or a career making spaceships or trains out of Legos! My parents would say to my sister and me: “draw us something”, rather than plonk us in front of the television, and I’m forever grateful to them for that. I nearly always ended up drawing women; Joan of Arc was a favourite of mine along with Lady Jane Grey for some reason. I don’t know what psychologists would make of that, an obsession with the tragic female ideal maybe, (let’s face it, the Pre-Raphaelites made a career out of it!), but it’s a theme that grew into an attempt to present women as human beings in ‘situations’ rather than as objects or simply muses. I mean, I love pin-up art, Gil Elvgren is a favourite of mine, but something I’m always aware of with pin-up is ‘the male gaze’. I attempt to draw women for not just men, but to give them an independence from that default. Not exclusively, and at times it doesn’t always work either, but that’s my aim.
My art training was pretty standard, from a UK perspective: A level art, a foundation course, then a diploma in graphic design. I was turned down by Corsham College in Bath, where I was given a grueling interview, because I drew women and silly animals! (Too much reading of Heavy Metal Magazine I expect). All throughout my education I was told I’d never get anywhere doing what I did at the time. Despite getting a fair basic education, it was up to me to find what I wanted to do in my spare time, and just stick with it.
Almost by accident I ended up at Cosgrove Hall Films in Manchester working in animation as an “inbetweener.” I ended up animating on shows and features, ‘Dangermouse’, ‘Count Duckula’ etc, and in 2000, as animation was definitely going through a slump, I moved into games. It was about then my wife got very ill and I decided it was time to rethink where I was going, and where my priorities lay. So I quit the job, crossed my fingers and decided to go freelance. ‘Covers’ have come along as part of that, and have been wonderful!
SWR: Tell me the story of how you got involved with the Discount Armageddon project?
I was approached by Sheila Gilbert at DAW books via email. Apparently Seanan McGuire had seen my work online somewhere, and it was rather lovely to learn she was keen for me to do the cover to her new novel ‘Discount Armageddon’! I was enormously flattered and happy, but it came at probably the busiest point I’ve had so far in my freelance career. I was completing a tarot pack, and still had about 30 cards to do in a really short space of time comparatively, so I initially said it would be almost impossible for me to do the cover. Then I learned that Seanan was really keen, and with a bit of juggling of dates, we worked something out! And I’m so happy we did! Seanan and Sheila have been wonderful and extremely patient to work with, and the book made it in to the New York Times Bestseller list as well!
SWR: What was the concept behind the cover and how much collaboration was involved between you, Seanan McGuire, and the publisher?
From the outset, Seanan and Sheila had a good idea of what they wanted for the cover. I love working with Art Directors who know what they want. Some illustrators love to hear the phrase, ‘just come up with something’. But what I love to hear is ‘this is what we want, and this is how we want it’. You can then do it! Of course there is room for your input as the artist. That’s hopefully why they want you, but you know where you can go with what you’re doing, what the parameters are.
Here the requirements were a simple character representation, in an almost ‘Frazetta triangle’, but instead of lots of skulls and a half naked barbarian, she was a waitress in pink on a rooftop, but a kick arse waitress in pink! Seanan had a definite vision of whom the main character should look like, so I sought out references and tried to capture the essence without doing a straight copy. It often helps a writer to know what your character looks like, but it helps an illustrator more, because that character has to be channelled somehow into a visual image.
SWR: How would you describe your style and what, or who, are some of your influences?
It’s difficult when asked to describe your style. Sometimes it’s easier to compare it to others, as though it can then be compartmentalised, boxed. ‘Oh Aly Fell, he’s that pin-up artist!’ I don’t know if I have a ‘style’, but I do have a slight mission, and that, as I’ve said before, is to present women as people, not just a series of curves and aesthetics. It’s one of the reasons clothing is so important in my images, it presents part of their character and their world. Another thing which I try for is self-awareness: the women are not passive, or at least rarely so. So they look at you from the image, not in a ‘come hither’ way, but in a ‘knowing’ manner, as though you’re invited but on their terms, not yours. Humour can be a great way to cushion this. I don’t get the ‘half naked chick and snake monster’ thing. It’s fun when someone like Frazetta does it, but if you were a warrior woman, wouldn’t you smother yourself in protective clothing rather than a bikini bottom and a chain mail bra? And that’s what I mean about the ‘male gaze’: those illustrations are not for women, as a rule, but for men. And it’s not an argument that the men are half naked too, because it’s about power-play and the ‘male default’ in all things. But hey, I like looking at those images too! I grew up on Frazetta, but I find a more interesting subtlety in the work of Jeffrey Catherine Jones who often painted similar themes. Art is incredibly subtle in the way it communicates to us. There’s often a lot more going on in imagery than we think there is. Jeff Jones is an example of that.
Alongside Jones, my artistic influences and ‘likes’ are really varied: J W Waterhouse, Moebius, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, John R Neill (illustrator of the OZ books), Robert McGinnis, Miro, Mucha, Kay Neilsen, Don Lawrence, Austin Osman Spare, Aubrey Beardsley, Beresford Egan (all three masters of line)… I could go on and on! But I have a real fondness for illustrators that were working out of the UK during the golden age of illustration, Dulac, Rackham, Neilsen and lesser known examples like Florence Harrison, whom I tried specifically to emulate with an image of mine called ‘The Winter Queen’. Then there are the American illustrators like N C Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Rockwell, Leyendecker etc.
SWR: You’ve worked on some well-known animated series, including Danger Mouse, during your time a Cosgrove Films. What kind of impact did that experience in animated television have on the development of your style and/or your process?
Working in animation as an animator provides an almost unparalleled experience in the learning and understanding of movement and form. You have to work very quickly to capture the essence of an action or gesture, emotion or personality, in not just one drawing but a series of them. As an illustrator, I tend to start an image exactly the same way I would start animating a scene, in that I try to get the essence down as immediately as possible with a simple and gestural scribble. Sometimes starting with ‘a circle for their head’ and then moving out from that. The white page is terrifying, and just getting some kind of mark down shatters that fear. It becomes a focus and a ‘seed.’
SWR: What is your creative process? For example, once you get the creative brief or the concept for a cover, what is your next step? What is the process that takes you from the concept to the finished piece?
I don’t think I’m unusual in my creative process when I get a brief. I work on a Cintiq, a digital drawing board that is just like a real one, but draws straight into the application on the PC. As a result I don’t have to scan and photograph line-work or roughs and can just get straight on with it. I start with the brief, and sketch out quickly some poses and any background that is required, usually very roughly trying to catch the bones of what I’m after. I’ll do a few options, and save them all off as small jpegs. These then go to the client and they can get an idea of composition, and then offer feedback and/or changes. The strongest covers are often the simplest, not least because they’re less arduous to paint, but because they have to sell the book and simplicity is less demanding when browsing book covers. Getting across the fundamentals of a story in as few elements as possible is sometimes harder as well. A cover is a big advert, or to some extent a condensed version of the book honed down. Complicated compositions can often end up being confusing.
The rough for the cover of ‘Discount Armageddon’ was a joy to do and the composition chosen was also my favourite.
Once the rough is OK’d, I look for reference and tighten up the sketch so that it’s more like the finished composition will be. In this case I used little reference for the pose and plenty for the face, but spent ages looking at photos of skyscrapers. The fun bit for me is always the character, not the environment, but it does have to support the image. With ‘Discount Armageddon’, the background was pretty simple, and that was just great to be allowed to concentrate on the character! I then block in colour and tone, sometimes working in greyscale first, and then start detailing the face. I almost always start with the face, and work out from there, building up more detail as I go. The finished piece sort of sneaks up on you! You’re working away, doing it bit by bit, then suddenly you realise anything more wouldn’t be adding to it, wouldn’t make it any better, and may have a converse effect. So usually at this point I send a version to the client, seeking a new set of eyes on it. There will nearly always be some sort of change; quite rightly so if there’s an element not appropriate or any drifting from the brief. So I make those changes and resend, crossing my fingers! Once again, it was an absolute pleasure to work with Seanan and Sheila, and they signed off pretty much with what I did.
SWR: If you could create a cover for any one book, what book would that be and why?
When I was younger, I loved the stories of H Rider Haggard, ‘King Solomon’s Mines’, ‘Montezuma’s Daughter’, ‘She’ etc. They’re a little dated now, compared with the writing of Haggard’s contemporary Conan Doyle, who still reads as fresh as ever, but I have a soft spot for Haggard’s strong female characters and a fantasy world that seemed much more real than Hyperborea or Middle Earth, because it was more than often the ‘still being discovered’ Africa (at least by generally rich white Victorian men). So I’d love to do a cover for ‘She’. And maybe ‘The Arabian Nights’… or ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’… But probably ‘She’ would be the one. It was a classic tale, turned into a none-to-bad Hammer movie in the 60’s, and at least 8 or 9 other versions, one of which being from 1899 makes it amongst the oldest stories ever filmed!
SWR: Can you give us any hints about your upcoming cover work?
As for future covers, Seanan wants me to do the next in the ‘Discount Armageddon’ series. I’m also doing a series of young adult books for Simon and Schuster. I’ve recently had an adapted image used by Christopher Moore for his latest novel, ‘Sacre Bleu’, in a completely different style to my other work. I’ll be also producing a cover for a UK publisher, but that’s still under an NDA, so more of that later…
SWR: Finally, do you have any personal projects you would like to share with us?
As for personal work in the future, I have an erratic web-comic called ‘Rosie Poe’ about the adventures of a slightly cynical Goth girl. Erratic, depending on what other work I have coming in. I started a picture book ages ago I’d like to finish called ‘Little Michelle, Who’s Going to Hell’, which is in a bit of an Edward Gorey mould. I also have a set of collectible cards coming out from Cult Stuff, and a tarot deck from Llewellyn! Steampunk inspired, which includes some of my existing Steampunk characters. But I would also like to rediscover oils as I attempted to last year. Digital is great, but I want to get messy again with art.
Please take a moment to visit Aly and check out more of his incredible work:
And you can visit Seanan McGuire to find out more about her InCryptid Series here:
I’ve featured some of my favorite pieces of Aly’s in this interview. Visit his website gallery and let me know which images are your favorites!