I’ve mentioned before how happy I am with the cover of Burning Sky. I remember well the moment I first saw Willa Obenchain’s image, how stunned I was that the designer, Kristopher Orr (WaterBrook Multnomah), and the photographer, Mike Heath (Magnus Creative) had managed between them to create the perfect Willa, when I had spent years (off and on of course) keeping an eye out for photos of actors or models who matched my inner vision of Willa. To no avail. Eventually I resorted to one of those morphing sites, where you can combine faces to create a blend (then tinted her mismatched eyes pixel by pixel).

I know writers who wouldn’t think of looking anywhere outside their heads for images of what their characters look like. And I know writers who find real people to base their character’s physical traits on before they begin writing their stories. I fall somewhere between these extremes. No living person will ever perfectly match the image I have in my head of Willa, Neil, Joseph, Richard, Anni, Francis, Pine Bird and Owl, because I didn’t base them off anyone living to begin with. But it’s fun to keep an eye out for their faces in a crowd, or a movie or magazine. Maybe characters have their twins out there, somewhere.

And when a cover designer nails it… well lets just say the cover of Burning Sky is a huge part of this dream come true for me as a writer. Naturally I spent my fair share of time daydreaming about what my first book cover might look like. So I’m happy now to share with you a peek behind the scenes of Burning Sky‘s official cover journey. A huge thank you to Kristopher Orr for compiling the photos and writing the accompanying text! 

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What a journey.

This is a round one comp when the book was still titled Willa. The composite image has the foreground rock outcroppings with the Mohawk character standing on the ridge. 

I did a complete shoot of the model that never made it to the final. This isn’t uncommon. I changed the color of his shirt and added some historical musket elements. 

Still in flux about which shot of Willa to use…

Photographer Mike Heath did a stunning job shooting the model. This was all about capturing the moment when her expression and hair were in the right place.

There were a lot of fans blowing a lot of air!

We landed the final art early on, but then spent a long time tweaking things to get it right. At one point we diverted away entirely as seen on these comps at round 3. 

Sometimes the swiftest path to the final artwork is a long trek through the wilds of new ideas. One great thing about these comps are that they helped land us into the right color palette.

                       Almost the final art…                                           The final art!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the journey of a book cover from the designer’s point of view. Now I want to take a moment and thank Kristopher Orr for his talented work, his perseverance through so many possible versions, and for his openness in engaging me in conversation about this cover, clear back to August of 2012 when I visited WaterBrook Multnomah’s offices and he described for me his vision of this cover. The finished art is remarkably close to what he described during that conversation, and I couldn’t be happier that this image graces my first published story. 
Kristopher is also the cover designer for my second book, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I’m told this cover is having it’s own interesting journey. I look forward to sharing it with you… sometime in 2014!

But for now… I have a copy here of Burning Sky that might just have your name on it. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the book’s cover journey. To be eligible for the drawing you MUST leave your email address in the comment too, so I can contact you if you are the winner.

This one’s for US residents only. I’ll leave this drawing open until Thursday 9pm, Pacific Time, and announce the winner Friday the 16th.

Thanks for entering! Comments are now closed. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

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