Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday - and I say that completely un-ironically today, because for me it's a very good Monday. I finally get to share my incredibly exciting The Name of the Blade news! And it is this:
Walker Books have created a new cover for The Night Itself as well as one for Darkness Hidden, in order to relaunch the series with the release of the second book. And the new covers are GORGEOUS.
To celebrate the reveal of the brand new look for the Name of the Blade trilogy, five special bloggers are not only displaying the cover
art but also giving you the chance to read the entire first chapter of
Darkness Hidden for free. Simply visit the blogs below in the order
listed and you'll get all the extracts of the chapter in order, along
with the opportunity to gaze at Mio and Shinobu in all their ass-kicking
magical glory. Then come back here and listen to me ramble for a bit, because I said so. Go on. I'll wait.
OK, so you guys know that I loved everything about the original illustrated cover for The Night Itself. The colours, the enigmatic face of Mio, the fonts. I felt it captured my story perfectly. So I have to admit that when Wonder Editor sent me an email telling me that they were going in a new direction with the cover for Darkness Hidden and wanted to re-cover The Night Itself to match, my heart did sink a little bit. I tried to be absolutely professional about it, and have faith - especially in the very talented Delightful Designer who did that amazing job with the cover for The Night Itself in the first place - but I felt pretty sure that I was just never going to love the new version as much as I had the original one. I was especially sure of this when I was told that the new covers would be photographic.
Let's not beat about the bush. Finding really good stock photographs of people of colour is hard. And it's especially hard if you want pictures of a South-East Asian heroine who isn't dressed up like a naughty schoolgirl or a sexy Geisha (there's nothing wrong with images of Japanese schoolgirls or Geisha. There's a lot wrong with the way the Western world appropriates and fetishizes their images). My editor told me very firmly that I wasn't to panic when I saw the rough mock-ups that showed the direction they were going in, because the photograph of a girl in a mini-skirt kimono with her hair in Chun Li buns and bright red lipstick would NOT be used in the final version.
Well, I didn't panic, but I wasn't exactly, you know, filled with joy, either.
However, not very long after, I was lucky enough to have a meeting with Wonder Editor and Delightful Designer. And it was there that my heart started to lift up, because Delightful Designer had been looking at my Pinterest board for The Name of the Blade and she had picked out half a dozen beautiful photos of young women that I'd put there as visual references for Mio, as well as a few for Shinobu. These were pictures of girls who really looked like teenagers, with no make-up on and natural looking bobbed hair in ordinary clothes that a teenager might wear. The pictures for Shinobu were of Takeshi Kaneshiro, who can be summed up in just one word: beautiful man.
We agreed straight away that any image of Mio on the cover of the book needed to be like these: natural, young-looking, not exoticized or fetishized. Preferably Mio should look active and strong on the cover - definitely not dead, or in any kind of a 'costume', not even a lovely ballgown. The same for Shinobu, although for him a martial arts kendogi or hakama would be all right. And then came the phrase that made my heart leap right up in my chest and start twittering like a skylark: photoshoot.
I've never had a photoshoot done for any of my book covers before. Wonder Editor told me that I should contain my excitement a little bit because they didn't know if a photoshoot would be authorised and they might need to use stock photographs after all. But, she asked, if they did manage to get approval for a cover shoot, were there any photographers in particular that I liked?
I said two names. The first one was Larry Rostant. Just in case you're not a giant book cover geek like me and have no idea who that is? Go Here. And here. As you can see, he's incredibly talented and shoots all kinds of diverse covers. He's provided art for the likes of bestsellers Rae Carson, G.R.R. Martin, Philippa Gregory, Clive Cussler, Kate Elliot, and my friend Emma Pass. It's always been one of those impossible dreams of mine to one day have a cover by him, even if it was a piece of stock art that he'd pre-shot. So I said his name, but I had no actual expectation that we'd get him. In fact, the more time went on, the more I resigned myself to the idea that there probably wouldn't be a photoshoot at all. Chances were, Wonder Editor and Delightful Designer had just been trying to cheer me up.
So then came a day just before Christmas when I was on the phone to Super Agent, and she happened to mention that she'd talked to Wonder Editor recently... and Wonder Editor had let an intriguing fact slip. They'd already done a cover shoot for the trilogy. Earlier that week! She was a little surprised I didn't know about it?
As soon as I finished talking to my agent, I called my editor - and I hardly EVER do that, but this was an emergency - and in the calmest and least crazy-stalker-lady tone that I could manage, I asked if this was true. My editor sighed and said, darn, they'd been hoping to surprise me. In fact, she'd intended to call me later that day. Yes, they had gone ahead with the cover shoot. AND THEY HAD GONE WITH LARRY ROSTANT.
After the most lovely conversation ever - well, lovely for me, anyway - in which I grilled my editor about every detail of what she had seen at the shoot, down to what the model's footwear was like, I hung up and passed out. I'm being factual rather than metaphorical there: I literally passed out. Turns out that I had food poisoning. But I'm sure at least part of my swoon was caused by sheer excitement and happiness, rather than harmful germs attacking my body.
Anyway, all this is to say that when Walker Books decided to re-cover this trilogy, they made my dream come true, even though I didn't think that was possible at first. And when I finally saw the images from that shoot and the sorts of covers that my books would be getting, I knew that much as I had loved the look of my original illustrated cover, I could truly love these new ones even more. My very first thought on seeing them was - these look like bestsellers.
There's no thought that makes a writer happier than that one.
And now to tackle the one little tiny snag that has occurred to me. It's possible that some of you, enchanted as I know you must be by these new covers, are thinking: DAMMIT NOW MY SET WON'T MATCH. Because you already own The Night Itself with its original cover. What are you to do?
Well, these books are in paperback, so I can't offer to send everyone a new dust jacket or anything like that. But what I CAN do is this. Anyone who goes out and buys the new version of The Night Itself to match Darkness Hidden and emails or tweets me a photo of them holding both books, will get a TRIO of signed and personalised bookplates - one for each book of the trilogy including the final one. I'll remind you all of this again closer to the time of release, but basically what it means is that if you're going to the trouble and expense of buying a second copy of the first Name of the Blade book, I can at least make sure that your whole set will eventually be a signed one. I hope that seems fair.
Have a lovely week, everyone!