Published October 2013
Those in line to the Malenfer estate are succumbing to terrible ends - but is it a supernatural legacy at work, or something entirely more human and evil?
Young Irish mercenary Dermot Ward headed to Paris at the close of World War I, where he drinks to forget his experiences, especially the death of his comrade, Arthur Malenfer. But Arthur has not forgotten Dermot. Dead but not departed, Arthur has unfinished business and needs the help of the living.
Upon his arrival at Malenfer Manor, Dermot finds himself embroiled in a mystery of murder, succession, and ambition. Dermot falls in love with the youngest Malenfer, the beautiful fey Simonne, but in his way are Simonne’s mismatched fiancé, her own connections to the spirit world, Dermot’s overwhelming guilt over the circumstances of Arthur’s death… and the curse.
The Evolution of a Book Cover
How does a book get the cover it has? Does a book get the cover it deserves? Is the reader’s expectations set, raised, or lowered by what’s on the cover of a novel? “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” Yet surely all of us do?
I lost track of how many cover versions we went through before sending The Curse of Malenfer Manor to print. Luckily my publisher is not as forgetful. And they went one better – they took notes. These are interesting insights into how the process works. So let’s hear from Wayzgoose Press:
This is the book I call “Downton Abbey in France, with ghosts.” It drives me nuts when I have to pick a genre label for it (which I do, to list it with booksellers) because what is it? It’s a mystery. It’s paranormal. It’s historical. There are themes of war and love and family. It’s a dessert topping AND a floor wax. All of those elements help make it a great story--but they made it hard to choose a cover.
A cover doesn’t have to illustrate the book--after all, the reader hasn’t read the book yet. But it should reflect the themes or the mood or the setting. Something relevant. As author Iain McChesney noted,
“It is hard to think of one central scene or image for the book. That being said, I believe the cover should have reference to the suggestion of the title. There is a curse, and there is a manor. Beyond that, the reader is in the dark. That it takes place in France or is set around WWI is not unimportant, but if the cover doesn’t show curse/manor I think I would be left wondering. The ‘blurb’ has room to explain other points. Some kind of ghost girl and some kind of manor would, therefore, seem appropriate.”
I do love this ghost girl, who was one of the finalists for the cover of Shanna Germain’s Lure of Dangerous Women. But this was entirely too overgrown. Our manor still had people living in it.
Ha... Welcome to the Hotel California! But it turns out to be very hard to find an actual French manor, and one appropriate to the time period (post World War 1). If you search the stock image sites for French manors, you get offered a lot of castles. We couldn’t pretend these people lived in Chambord.
This one had potential... especially if we could add our ghost.
Or a soldier-ish one? But the War, while it does feature in the story, is more background. This house really is French, at least.
Gray house with ghost. A little ... TOO gray? I asked the designer for some color.
We tried blue, which was better than red. See?
So we had a cover, more or less. The author was OK with it (some version of this one). But I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it. I finally told the designer my problem, like this: “If you had to submit one of our covers in a contest, would you submit this one?”
She agreed no.
Well, sure, it seems obvious NOW. Why would it have to be the outside of a mansion, and not the inside? The inside was way better. This was version 14 of our cover.
Ah. But the author didn’t agree! He liked the gray one better. Now, I do hate to override an author; although I will if he’s wrong. But for a few days I waited. And I got lucky! The author had a party:
“There was something of a convention at our humble abode last night and the book buyers, of whom there were many, all opted for v14. There were some to whom the ghost shadow image needed pointing out, but when they got it they liked it. Perhaps it will be clearer with the watermark out. I am a slave to your good sense and public opinion and happily go along.”
Do you see that, authors? “A slave to my good sense.” Well, indeed!
Designer tried one more, which I also liked, although the author said it looked like a bazaar. Back to version 14!
It is a composite cover, actually. Interestingly, the main image comes with its own ghost! But that one gets covered by our title, so we added a different one.
Here is our lovely (and dangerous) ghost girl.
(Author’s note: Hey, I never saw this one by itself before! I like it!)
About the author:
Iain is a writer of gothic mysteries.
He was born and raised in Scotland. He studied History and Geography at the University of Glasgow.
The World Wars left Iain’s family with generations of widows. As a result, Iain has always been interested in the tangible effects of history on family dynamics and in the power of narrative to awaken those long dead. For the characters in The Curse of Malenfer Manor, he drew on childhood reminiscences and verbal family history—though he hastens to add that his family had barely a penny, far less a manor, and any ghosts dwell only in memory.
He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and two children.
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