Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guest Blog: The Art of The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer and Giveaway

The Art of The Whitefire Crossing

By: Courtney Schafer

Ah, cover art. Two words certain to leave a debut author torn between excitement (“ooh, can’t wait to see my novel as a Real Live Book!”) and nerves (“Oh god, what if I hate the cover?”). For those not in the know, authors – especially brand new ones – often have no say in the cover. If you talk to industry veterans, you’ll hear a host of horror stories. Most tales of woe involve marketing folks who ignore the actual content of the story in favor of slapping the latest, greatest art trope on the cover. (“Put a tattooed chick with a sword on it. Those are hot right now. What’s that you say? None of the characters have tattoos, let alone carry swords? Who cares – you want it to sell, right?”)

So I was both delighted and relieved when my editor at Night Shade Books emailed me the cover art they’d commissioned from artist David Palumbo. Not only was the art gorgeous, but it did a wonderful job portraying the spirit of my book.

I like to call The Whitefire Crossing an adventure fantasy. When writing it, I aimed for the adventurous feel and tight character focus of sword-and-sorcery, but with pitons and ice axes instead of swords. One of Whitefire’s two protagonists is a mountain climber, the other a mage; at the start of the book, the mage (Kiran) hires the mountain climber (Dev) to help him cross the treacherous Whitefire Mountains and sneak over the spell-warded border of a neighboring country. Neither Dev nor Kiran trust each other, and for good reason – they’re each playing a deeper game than the other realizes. Soon enough they’re hip deep in trouble, caught between dangerous enemies with the fate of their home city hanging in the balance.

Looking at the cover art, the “mountain adventure” part of The Whitefire Crossing comes through loud and clear. I could tell right off that David Palumbo had actually read the book (or some portion thereof – though as it turns out, he read the whole thing). Not only are the mountains perfect: steep, snowy and rugged – which I’m thrilled about, since as a climber myself, mountains are important to me! – but so are the little details. The charm dangling from Dev’s wrist; the rope connecting the two men; the believably warm clothing; the tree turning black from Kiran’s touch because he’s stealing its life energy to supplement his own – all of that is just right.

Speaking of Kiran and the tree: the original version of the art didn’t have the red glow on the tree, just the blackened bark.

The original version was more true to the book; here’s a description of Kiran sucking life from a tree, as told from Dev’s perspective:

He didn’t say a word, just went straight for the nearest tree and grabbed a branch like it was a lifeline. I don’t know what I’d expected. A flash like a mage ward would give, or a sound, or something – but there was nothing like that. His head fell back, his eyes closed, and the look on his face made my skin crawl. I’d seen that same slack-jawed pleasure in lionclaw addicts when they swallowed a dose.

The needles of the tree withered to brown, then curled and blackened as if burned.

But while the blackened-bark art was both beautiful and accurate, I worried it was a little too subtle. I thought it might be good to clearly indicate to potential readers that the book had a strong magical element, and wasn’t historical fantasy. With the support of my agent, I brought it up with my editor. The editor agreed; so David added the red glow to the tree, to play up the magical element. I’m very happy with the result – I figure it’s more important for a cover to give the right feel for a book than be perfectly accurate.

Which brings me to character depictions: I think I’ve figured out why so many recent fantasy covers feature people in hoods or with their backs to the viewer. It’s so the publisher doesn’t have to worry the author will freak out over how the artist drew the character’s face. After all, it’s pretty hard to match whatever image the author’s been carrying around in their head for so long.

On my cover, Kiran’s face is showing, and he came out a bit more Asian than I’d imagined him. (In the book, he’s described as having black hair and high cheekbones, but blue eyes and fair skin). I don’t mind, though, because again I think it gives the right feel – most of the characters in Whitefire are meant to be either non-white or a mélange of races. Dev, for instance, is described as brown-skinned, dark-haired and green-eyed; I’ve always pictured him as a male, somewhat darker-skinned version of the green-eyed Afghan girl in that famous National Geographic picture. (See http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text) With Dev’s face hidden, I definitely prefer Kiran not to look like a fantasy-standard white boy.

I feel pretty darn lucky to have gotten such a great cover for my first novel. I’m hoping David Palumbo will do the art again for Whitefire’s sequel, The Tainted City (forthcoming in 2012). Regardless, I think I’m in great hands with Night Shade!

About The Whitefire Crossing

The Whitefire Crossing
The Shattered Sigil 1
(Night Shade Books, August 9, 2011)
Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel--where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark--into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.

But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution--and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.

Yet the young mage is not the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other--or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel.

Amazon : B&N : Book Depository : Borders

About Courtney

Courtney Schafer grew up reading Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia McKillip and her love of fantasy has only grown with age. Her debut fantasy novel The Whitefire Crossing will release this August from Night Shade Books. When not writing, Courtney figure skates, climbs 14,000 foot peaks, squeezes through Utah slot canyons, and skis way too fast through trees. To support her adrenaline-fueled hobbies and writing habit, she received a degree in electrical engineering from Caltech and now works in the aerospace industry. Visit her at http://www.courtneyschafer.com/.

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win an ARC of The Whitefire Crossing from Courtney!

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Have you ever bought a book because of its cover art?


Do you have a favorite cover or cover artist?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)  Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)  Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)  Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. My favorite cover artist is Stephen Martiniere, and I was attracted to buy the first of Kay Kenyon's Rose and Entire novels because the cover art attracted my attention in a Barnes and Noble...

  2. Chris McGrath is my absolute favorite. I would buy any book with his covers, the guy is a pure genius!
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    I'ma follower

  3. Well, my favorite cover was Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer until they changed it :(
    +1 comment
    +1 follower

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I love the cover of Luminous with Dawn Metcalf! I have been known to buy a book due to a great cover *guilty as charged*. GFC Krystal Larson tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/Icecream1891/status/85788695290064897 Thank you!

  6. A really good cover can attract my attention a book and cause me to browse through it and perhaps even search out some reviews on it but in the end it is what is between the covers that makes me buy a book.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

    +1 for comment
    +1 I follow via GFC

  7. Oh, yes! I definitely am swayed by the cover. In fact, I often bought books that I wasn't sure about just because I loved the cover. And conversely, I have been turned off by books because of the cover.

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower
    +1 tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/jwitt33/status/85823825857609728

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  8. I am sure I have bought many books over the years because of the cover art. I should not judge, but we all do.

    +1 GFC follower


  9. Sure have, especially if it's a new author!!

    follow on gfc

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

  10. I have definitely bought books based, at least in part, on their cover art. Most recently, Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series, "Boneshaker", "Clementine", and "Dreadnought".

  11. when i buy a book i look at her cover too.I can't help it.If i don't like the cover i reconsider buying it :D

  12. I've bought books because of the cover art several times, but I try not to let it be the only thing I judge the book on.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

    GFC follower

  13. I don't think I've ever purchased a book exclusively because of its cover art, but good art can certainly make you pick up a book in the store for further examination. And if I had to pick a favorite artist it would likely be Michael Whelan.

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower Spaz


  14. If I had to pick a favorite cover artist it would have to be Frank Frazetta. His art was exceptional.

  15. I don't buy a book specifically for it's cover, but it is what draws me to it and I usually buy it. Although, I would have bought Nightshade by Andrea Cremer even if it did not have a good story just because the cover was so stunning.

    GFC follower
    Tweet: https://twitter.com/raychellej/status/88377917700190208

    Raychelle Smith
    SteeleReviews AT gmail DOT com

  16. Of course I bought books for the cover art...happens fairly often...especially if it is a new author :)
    and this cover art looks great :)

    Best regards!


  17. For me it's very difficult to go past Greg Manchess' beautiful fantasy covers. From an earlier age, I do love the delicate, scratchy quality of Robert Ingpen.

    This looks like a great cover!

    +1 following via GFC
    +1 shared giveaway on facebook.

  18. I've been lured into picking up hundreds of books based on their cover art alone, but the only book that I actually bought specifically because I loved the cover was Karin Lowachee's Gaslight Dogs. The cover was done by Sam Weber, and prior to the release of this book, I had never bothered to look at who designs the fronts of books, but now it has become something else I always enjoy looking into.