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Thursday, June 8, 2017

SPFBO Cover Contest & The Top Three (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Last year Mark Lawrence added an extra component to the SPFBO contest by also having the bloggers select the three best covers in each of their groups. The aim was to find the best covers according to the bloggers as well as the general public.

So with this edition, we are also having a similar run and the covers are even more gorgeous this time around. At Fantasy Book Critic, we decided to go with the top five covers in our lot and invited each of the authors to talk about the genesis of each of them. So here are our TOP 5 (in random order):

Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick:
The short version of how the cover for Where The Waters Turn Black came about is that I found a kick-ass designer, and got the hell out of her way.

Here’s the slightly longer version:

There was never any doubt that Jenny from would be doing the cover for this book. Her cover for They Mostly Come Out At Night did wonders for my debut, and she has already created an iconic look for the Yarnsworld series. The trick with Waters, however, was linking it with the previous book, but somehow also suggesting that this was a very different story than Book One. Whereas TMCOAN is a dark fantasy set in a mysterious forest, WTWTB is a fantasy adventure on a remote ring of tropical islands. This was Jenny’s first suggestion:

The idea here was to have the line of the taniwha on the cover of WTWTB (that giant monster with the swirls all over its body) to replicate the s-like curve of the Magpie King on Book 1. Much like that book, the font for the title was also going to be the same, and the seaweed attached to the taniwha would interplay with the title, much like the feathers on Book One. However, the colours on the new cover are lighter, suggesting a more optimistic story, and the volcano in the background hints at the Pacific island theme. As you can see, aside from reducing how wolf-like the taniwha seems, the final cover did not veer too far away from the first concept. My favourite part? I love the gradual change in colour of the water, eventually turning… well, turning black.

Thanks again for putting the cover forward - Jenny and I are excited to see how it does!


The Heartstone Thief by Pippa Da Costa:

The Heartstone Thief cover, created by James at Bookfly, was designed with an overall grimdark feel in mind. While the novel is told from a single character’s point of view (the thief) we also have a very strong supporting character (the sorceress) who is integral to the plot. However, adding two characters to the cover of a fantasy novel could have proven tricky and muddied the message. James and I agreed we needed the cover to portray - at a glance - the genre and elements of action. With that in mind, the designer took the darker elements of the genre and used them to hint at these two strong individuals and ‘frame’ the main character of the thief. The movement of the running thief hints at the book’s roots in action and adventure, and of course, the sorceress' flaming hands add that much-needed magical flair. We kept the typography simple and again, on genre, so as not to detract from the design. The final cover does a fantastic job of representing the adventurous grimdark story inside its pages. I hope my readers agree.

Here's what James had to say about the creation of the cover: 

"I wanted the sorceress to be dominant since she plays such a key role, plus the power balance between her and Curtis drives the story. Since she manipulates him into stealing the stone, I thought it would be appropriate for her to be in almost a puppeteer position over him, and the difference in scale between them hints that she may be more than she appears without spoiling anything."


Miss Landon And Aubranael by Charlotte E. English:

This cover was created by my favourite artist, Elsa Kroese, with whom I also co-write an online graphic novel. We’ve been working together for years, and she’s done many wonderful covers for me in that time, but Miss Landon And Aubranael is my very favourite of them all. It is not just the sheer beauty of the art which makes me love it so - though that is, of course, part of it. What sets Elsa apart as a cover artist is her diligence; she reads every word of the book before she begins work, and portrays the characters beautifully and dynamically.

We see Sophie Landon escaping from her trials into an adventure with Aubranael - who waits for her, though he hides his face from us all. And by her side is Thundigle, her staunch friend, dressed in the clothes Sophie herself has made for him. Elsa always seeks to produce art which reflects the atmosphere of the story, and her work for Miss Landon And Aubranael really does that. It’s a sunny, colourful, heart-warming tale, and just looking at that cover makes me feel better about my day.


Nefertiti's Heart by A. W. Exley:

Even though I'm a corset wearer, right from the beginning I knew I would go against the trend of steampunk books having a woman in a corset on the cover. I'm simply too aware of the difference between quality custom corsetry and costume corsetry to ever find a stock photo to satisfy me! Lol Since this book revolves around the search for an artifact, I had a very simple image in my head of what I wanted - a hand holding Nefertiti's Heart.

I sent digital artist Ricky Gunawan a very crude stick drawing of a hand and a cartoon heart and a one line description – a heart shaped diamond with strange mechanical workings that is activated by a droplet of blood at its centre. Then I bit my nails worrying about the idea being too simple or plain. I needn't have worried. Ricky took the brief and ran with it, producing an image that exceeded my expectations. For me, the mechanical heart has become far more than a book cover. Today it's an instantly recognizable author logo for readers and is also representative of the wider theme of my books – there's heart, but it has a twist.


Night Of The Chalk by Samuel Gately:

I really wanted the cover for Night Of The Chalk to be something special. I needed the readers to know at a glance they were stepping into a medieval swords and sorcery novel, but I wanted it to also nail the moods and flavors unique to the story. It had to convey a dark, complex, and claustrophobic city that is a character of its own. It needed to invite curiosity about the story’s protagonists. They are spies, and what they see, know, and what they do with the knowledge they gather is as interesting as the characters themselves. Finally, I needed a central scene which drew the reader in and stimulated their imagination. Night Of The Chalk draws on many elements of a cloak-and-dagger mystery and I wanted the reader to feel the tension of an unfolding drama seen through hidden eyes.

I solicited the artist Tomasz Chistowski for the original illustration. I was drawn to him by the wonderful cityscapes and vivid characters he’d done in the past. He exceeded my expectations, bringing a wealth of imagination to the project. We worked a couple of fun Easter eggs into the image as well. If you look closely at the watcher’s shoulder, you’ll see a white handprint. The titular enemy, the Chalk, have found their way closer to him than even he realizes. And in the distance, above the rooftops and the murders of crows, you’ll see a flight of four dragons patrolling the city.

The typography was done by James at Humble Nations, who did a great job invoking a crime noir slant without losing the swords and sorcery medieval vibe. I’ve found collaboration with visual artists to be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of writing and I lucked out with Tomasz and James. I’m hopeful that this cover invites you inside, to take a walk through the city of Delhonne, where the skies are no longer safe and the streets never were.


Both Cindy and me had a easy time selecting these five titles however selecting the top 3 among them was very, very hard. It took a lot of time and quite a few email exchanges debating the awesomeness of them all but we managed to narrow it down to three and so apologies to our two runner-ups. 

The main factor though each of our finalists have is their eye-striking nature and kudos to all the designers & artists for their amazing efforts. So here are our top three who will be going forward and honestly there's very little to differentiate between them:

1) Nefertiti's Heart by A. W. Exley
2) Where The Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick
3) Night Of The Chalk by Samuel Gately


Unknown said...

Thank you for showcasing The Heartstone Thief. You have an amazing collection of books to read in this years SPFBO!

Anonymous said...

Great covers and I love hearing about where the covers came from!- Marie Andreas

Anindita CSG said...

Stunning covers. All of them.

Cd said...

Thank you for showcasing illustrator Rosie Lauren Smith and the Charlotte English series. I read all the books and found them absolutely charming. I hope that this will draw other readers to the author's fine work as well as appreciating the beautiful and quirky illustrations.


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