John-Paul Flintoff

Jacket design, on iPhone

One of the things I want to achieve with my forthcoming historical novel, What If The Queen Should Die?, is to convey a sense of the period (early 1700s) without using archaic language. And I’ve been keen for the design of the book to be consistent with that.

Over the last few months I’ve tried a few approaches to the jacket design. This is the third one. It may not be the last, but I’m fairly happy with it, and not looking to make any significant changes.

I decided a while ago that I want the cover to be mostly white, with some (blood) red and heavy black areas. (Queen Anne’s story is full of loss, and grief, but the book has light moments too.)

I sensed that what was needed was a design that is both modern and retro, and I spent quite a while looking at classic Penguin covers from the 1950s and 1960s – without much success. But then I found two books on my shelves that provided perfect models for what I want: Jonathan Franzen’s brilliant novel The Corrections, with its modern-but-retro cover design, and Jenny Uglow’s Nature’s Engraver, which is set in the 1700s.

With those two books in mind, I spent a lot of the weekend before last playing around with a design on ArtStudio, a fantastic app on my iPhone that’s a bit like Photoshop but massively cheaper (and, to be fair, more fiddly).

One early mistake was to make the black stripes tilt downwards to the right – this had a remarkably dismal, downbeat effect. I did that to be “different” from Franzen’s book, but the difference was not good, so I reversed it and copied his upward slant.

For me, this has been a very exciting part of publishing the book myself, because when I was at school, convinced that I was going to “be an artist” when I grew up, I let myself down in the book design part of my art exam. So I feel a bit vulnerable putting this out there – but, hell, I’ll do it anyway.

POST SCRIPT. Actually, I’ve changed it again (below). I wanted to add something about Daniel Defoe, probably a more important character than Queen Anne. Did you know that, as well as writing, he worked as a spy?

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