Guest Blog – Rain McAlistair

9 Aug

Leaving Front CoverToday’s guest blog comes from Rain McAlistair who’s just published her latest novella Leaving. Here she tells us a little about her approach to designing her distinctive book covers.

Never judge a book by its cover, warns the old saying. But we all do, don’t we? Whether we are in a bookshop, faced with hundreds of brightly coloured real-life covers, or whether we are scrolling through internet pages of thumbnails, we all assume that a good cover means a good story.

There are just so many books to choose from. I believe we look for the cover that seems to speak to us as individuals. I definitely select books for deeper investigation which have covers that appeal to me most strikingly.

If you went into a bookshop and saw a book with a perfectly plain brown cover, decorated with only a title, would you buy it? I suspect not, because the cover is an important aesthetic part of what makes up the art form we call ‘a book.’

Way back in time, people put a lot of care and attention into the binding of books. Gold, silver and jewels were used to adorn ancient covers. Later, they were bound in leather or cloth.

Book covers have come a long way since my parents’ generation. My dad used to call them ‘dust jackets’. Their original purpose was to protect the book from scuffs and dirt, leaving the plain cover in pristine condition. All that changed with the arrival of the paperback onto the market. Now the purpose of a cover is to give us an exciting glimpse of the story inside.

I remember as a child going to a tiny library and sifting through the different cover designs, each speaking of tantalising delights within. There is a particular joy in holding a book in your hand. The cover invites you and gives you permission to look inside. It’s an appetiser for the banquet to come.

In the lesbian fiction section, there is a whole range of different cover types to choose from. So how do we, as authors, make that all-important choice?

I like to have my cover completed well before I finish each book. I print it out and prop it up on my desk, and it inspires me as I write. The cover is an integral part of the book. I am aware that when someone reads one of my books they are looking at the cover all the time.

There are a lot of options at hand before I start to design the cover. Do I use a photograph or a drawing? Or maybe just lettering on an abstract background. What is my colour scheme going to be this time? What font shall I use for my title?

When I wrote my first book, Dove, I wanted to symbolise the isolation my two main characters felt from the rest of the world during the story and also wanted to show how their lives were inextricably interlinked. I chose a picture by one of my favourite photographers which shows two trees, standing apart from anything else with their branches intertwined.

In my second book, Bridge, the bridge is central to the story and also very symbolic. I had a mental picture of the bridge in the story and searched long and hard to find a photograph which matched the vision in my mind.

For Moonchaser, I broke the pattern and went with a colour picture. It just seemed right for that particular book

Rain McAlistairMy latest novel is called Leaving. I wanted to show that a gateway can be both a barrier and the means of finding freedom. Which of these it turns out to be is entirely up to the person standing at the gates. The gateway is the pivotal point when one’s life can change so I wanted to focus very much on that moment of decision. I commissioned a photographer I had used before and explained what I was trying to convey. He understood and produced exactly the image I had in mind.

I also want my covers to be instantly recognisable as Rain McAlistair books so I have tried to keep a theme going in the design I use. Just for fun I have sometimes mocked up versions of my books with the same titles but different covers and it completely changes the whole feel of the book. Ultimately it all comes down to creating an atmosphere. The cover is the theme music to the opening of the book. I hope my music is harmonious and evocative and rings in the air long after the book is closed.

You can find out more about Rain and her books on her website.

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One Response to “Guest Blog – Rain McAlistair”

  1. Gabriella August 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    I agree that book covers are important, although not as important for me as the blurb or friends’ recommendations. Having said that, I have never published anything but for my blog posts I take time to choose the ‘right’ photos.
    Thanks for telling us so much about the way you design your covers!

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