Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The story of a cover

with 6 comments

Back in February, my editor emailed to say that my publisher was holding an art meeting soon to discuss the cover for The Icon Thief, which at that point was still known as Kamera. He invited me to put together my thoughts on possible designs, as well as some comparable covers, and, obsessive that I am, I obliged with a memo of nine long paragraphs, complete with illustrations. (I thought briefly about including a quick mockup I’d put together in Photoshop, but thankfully refrained from doing so.) The response to my ideas at NAL was very respectful, but I had no way of knowing what the result would be, or how much input I would ultimately have in the process.

In my memo, I noted that the novel has three major plot elements: Marcel Duchamp, Russia, and the Rosicrucians. (If I haven’t spoken much about these topics on this blog, it’s because I want to keep the plot a surprise, although I expect I’ll be posting more on these subjects as the publication date approaches.) Among the corresponding images I proposed were the exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Duchamp’s Étant Donnés is located; an overlay of some Russian text; and the rosy cross. I also included images of a few covers that I thought were comparable: An Instance of the Fingerpost, Foucault’s Pendulum, The English Assassin by Daniel Silva, and The Messiah Secret by James Becker (the latter two of which, like my own novel, are published by NAL’s Signet imprint).

After that, I didn’t hear anything about the cover for months, until last week, when I received the rather remarkable image that I posted yesterday. Looking at it now, I’m gratified by how much of my input was reflected in the final version, accidentally or otherwise, and how many of the novel’s themes are visible in one form or another. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is here, of course, as well as the red cross of the Rosicrucians, along with some Russian text—evidently a stock photo of an old manuscript, but still gorgeous—visible in the background. Above all, the title of the novel is beautifully rendered. (Incidentally, the meeting where the cover design was discussed was also where the subject of a possible title change was first raised, a fix I now wish I’d made years earlier.)

As for the other symbols, they were chosen more for their visual impact than anything else, although they contain subtle messages of their own. The cherub on the upper right looks ahead to House of Passages, the second installment in the series, in which cherubim of a very different kind play an important symbolic role. On the upper left, we have a view of Peles Castle in Romania, which doesn’t figure in the story yet, but may have a role to play in the future, as the action of the series moves ever eastward. As for the red cross…well, this is an extremely important symbol, and its true significance won’t become clear to readers of the novel until almost the very last page. For now, though, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Written by nevalalee

July 20, 2011 at 9:52 am

6 Responses

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  1. Revealed not until the last page(s) ? How many pages are there total? Can’t wait.

    darcy

    July 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

  2. It’s 416 pages, according to Amazon. (Don’t worry—it’s a fast read!)

    nevalalee

    July 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

  3. The art department did a brilliant job. Trajan style caps and your name in Garamond. First class font choices.

    A.M.

    July 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

  4. Thanks for the font info! I’ve always been a fan of Garamond…

    nevalalee

    July 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm

  5. Alec, that’s so cool! The cover looks really good. Did you see the back of Tina Fey’s Bossypants? To you, I say the opposite of her Dad. (though to her, I kind of agree w/ her dad…=)

    kmcpherrin

    July 21, 2011 at 12:14 am

  6. Yes, I’ve seen the back cover of Bossypants. :) Although the front cover doesn’t seem to have hurt sales at all!

    nevalalee

    July 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm


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