Lady in Red CoverLady in Red was undoubtedly the most challenging cover I tackled with the infatigable skills of artist Debi Gardiner. It is a testament to Debi's professionalism and patience that she hung in there with me, always supportive, as I kept tweaking this fishy image.
By this point, we had already created a solid look and feel for this medieval romance series -
Now we had reached Lady in Red, the seventh novel to be released. This novel had a number of intertwining themes. First, the heroine felt as if she'd been abandoned by her love, Berenger, ten years ago. Similarly, he felt her absence daily throughout that time. The two of them adored fishing together. So there were the themes of their fishing and their absence from each other.
Also, they are two halves of a whole. She followed him everywhere as a child, and when he returns as an adult she is drawn to his side. He was the protector in their childhood, now as an adult he still watches over her with tender concern. I wanted to give that yin-yang sense that they completed each other.
But initially, when I thought of an image, it was simply a fish. So I was imagining just a horizontal fish across the center of our standard gold ring. Sort of a "Christian image" fish. I worried that this would make it seem like a treatise on Christian living, but that horizontal fish image was what stuck in my mind. I therefore asked Debi to create a starting point with a single fish in a circle.
This was the set of starting images Debi began me with.
As I looked at them, a new vision began to form in my head. This wasn't just about one fish. It was about two fish, with one of them being absent. Jessame longed for the missing Berenger. Berenger dreamt of the absent Jessame. There were TWO fish - with one of them gone. So I had Debi work on leaving the "empty space" in the image for that second fish.
Of the two rows of images sent to me, I liked the top row of fish better. I felt that they were not "threatening" looking. I wanted my fish to feel trustworthy and dependable, as much as a fish can look that way :). So I asked Debi to start with those, give them more of a 2D "flat" look with a more simple design. Berenger is carving these images into rocks and coins; they could not be too complicated. So then we had set 3.
I liked set 3 a lot. I liked how they represented a half of a pair of fish. A "Pisces", if you would, but only one half is there. The other half is absent.
With this base shape set, I began to work on the finer details. The fish looked unhappy. I also wanted it more curved against the left hand wall of the circle, more of a traditional pisces position. So this led to set 4:
Set 4 had developed a bit of 3-Dness to it again. In the above image, the fish looked as if it was turning to look at the reader. I wanted more of a sense that it was swimming around IN the circle, not intersecting with it. And I wanted it even closer against that left wall, to follow the curve.
We were getting very close here. The fish was swimming in the circle. The "missing fish" was becoming more clear. The fish was more content. I was now focusing on having the fish give more of the yin-yang feeling - a narrower tail to make that more clear, and a gentler curve around the edge of the circle area.
Debi sent me set 6, below, with those ideas in mind.
It was nearly there! I loved the second one in from the right. The bottom bubble perfectly matches the fish's eye and creates that yin-yang look, and the background emphasies the feelings as well. Now I wanted to play with the bubbles, to minimize the clutter effect. You can see that Debi had the patience of a saint here :) Here's her tweaking on the bubbles.
The third one from the left was perfect for me, with the smaller bubbles so they were less obtrusive. The one final change was to make the lower bubble dark again, so it stood out more.
This fish was it! It's a sole fish, one of a "pair of fishes" but the other fish is absent. It offers the sense of yin-yang completion. It features the bubble representing the other eye of the other half. The main image is of a fish stuck swimming within its circle, not upset, but not really happy either. It misses, every day, what is absent from its life. I love everything about this image!
I highly recommend Debi for any graphic projects you might have! GardinerDesign.com
Creating Medieval Romance Novel Covers
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