Or, I found my first cover girl, and she is striking.
I spent a good 11 hours over the course of the weekend researching potential art to use with my first story. Actually it ended up being my first 50 or so stories, since I think I downloaded about that many images which I felt made strong cases for becoming cover art for one of my ebooks.
The first two stories that will be released are a brace of parallel novellas about twin sisters, which take place over the same night, at a masquerade ball. The fact that there are two stories which call back to one another was definitely on my mind as I searched for potential images. I needed pictures that would in some way reference one another and yet be powerful in their own rights, and relevant to the story at hand in their own rights. I found a lot of beautiful paintings of beautiful girls that would not work, not because they did not suit the mood of the story but because they did not suit the mood of any other painting that also suited the mood of the story.
I realized how very useful my various niche obsessions can be. I have sewn historical costumes for a very specific time period–one for which there are not readily available commercial patterns, so I had to make my own. I put a great deal of research into learning which types of silhouettes and sleeves and waistlines go with each period in fashion history, and so it was highly useful for me to be able to recognize at a glance whether an alluring picture was too modern (er, relatively speaking…read: too Victorian) for my purposes, or if it might “pass” as Regency era.
I also learned a lot about what I don’t know about art in a very short period of time. I found a new favorite impressionist painter. I got a joke about one of the artists whose work will be on a cover, which I had read months ago searching for “masquerade painting” and understood only in abstract. After seeing the master to which that post compared him, I comprehended the criticism in a much more direct way.
I had a long conversation with one of my first readers about the potential pairings of images, and I have thought about this for the past three days, and in the end I am following my own preferences and instincts (or maybe it’s just preferences) in what I am using for my first two covers.
Allow me to introduce to you Miss Viola Alexis Gardener, heroine of the novella What You Will which will be released as an ebook on June 1, 2011–exactly one week from today!
The painting is titled, directly, “Lady at a Masked Ball.” It is by Pierra Ribera, a French painter, and held in a private collection.
I love this picture. It is simple, but it’s bold, and she is lovely. She is ready to mask, and she looks both innocent and mischievous at once–exactly the state Viola is in as she prepares for her masquerade.
I also learned a bit about necessary compromises. If I am not commissioning original artwork which I can make the artist re-do until it suits my specifications, then I will at points have to bow to the inevitable and give up finding a painting that fits every detail of my story. For instance: Viola and her sister are dark blonde/mousy brown with gold highlights, not red-heads. Viola is wearing an 18th-century dress, and it is green, not the yellow swathed about her here. But since I did not happen to find a picture of a beautiful blonde in a green sack robe, I decided evoking the spirit of the story would have to be good enough–and it is.