Interview with Jenny Q-Historical Fiction Book Covers

Jenny Q

I’d like to welcome Jennifer Quinlan to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her book cover design business. Jennifer, aka Jenny Q, owner of Historical Editorial, is an editor and cover designer specializing in historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. A member of the Historical Novel Society, the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the American Historical Association, and various local and regional historical organizations, she lives in Virginia with her husband, a Civil War re-enactor and fellow history buff.

Jenny, please tell me about your graphic design company and how you got into the business.

I’ve always been an extremely visual person, and my love for design began about eighteen years ago when I started scrapbooking. That was back when we worked with actual printed photos and paper, scissors, glue, etc. A few years later, I started working in the advertising department of my hometown daily newspaper. As an outside sales rep, I met with local and regional business owners and helped them create print and online advertising campaigns, and I worked with our team of graphic designers to bring the ads to life. I learned more about the process then and the collaborative relationship designers have with their clients. Then I moved into real estate and began designing marketing materials for my brokerage. When the economy collapsed and advertising and real estate both collapsed along with it, I turned my attention and my skills to my biggest passions—books!—and  helping self-published authors, and thus Historical Fiction Book Covers was born.

What is the latest book cover you designed?

I have several completed covers that I can’t share to the public yet, though I’m itching to do so! My most recent published cover is Blood Enemy by Martin Lake.

How far in advance do you schedule clients work?

My schedule is usually filled several months in advance, and I’m currently scheduling cover designs for March 2018 and beyond. A piece of advice for indie authors: Don’t wait till the last minute to choose a cover designer and book a spot in their schedule. Busy designers are often booked well in advance and are rarely able to take you on immediately. Plus you’ll want to have your cover early so you can start generating some pre-publication buzz. It’s also required to make your book available for pre-order.

What have you learned the most about book cover design along the way?

That I will probably work my whole life and never know how to use even half of Photoshop’s amazing capabilities! I’ve also had to learn how to swallow my pride and handle feedback and criticism of my work objectively and professionally. And I’ve learned that although I may have strong opinions about each cover I design, I have to always remember that it’s not my book, it’s the author’s, and ultimately they have to make the final decision and walk away with a cover they love and feel is most appropriate for their book.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! But mostly I draw inspiration from other covers. Covers are like eye candy for me, and I’m always browsing through them, studying them, drooling over them.  It’s important to be knowledgeable about trends in my genres and also to keep an eye on which types of covers are selling the most books.  I also find inspiration in artwork as I’m browsing. I’m constantly finding images of models or backgrounds or historical paintings that make me stop and say, “Oh, that would make a great cover someday! I better save this.”

As a Historical Fiction enthusiast, do you feel this helps when creating book covers for Historical Fiction writers?

No doubt about it. Spending so much time in the genre makes me very familiar with cover trends and the types of covers that appeal to particular audiences. It’s also immensely helpful in choosing accurate period clothing and settings.

In your professional opinion, what is the importance of book cover designs?

Your book cover is at the top of the list in terms of importance. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your book, but no one outside of your immediate sphere of influence will read it if you don’t have a cover that catches their attention. I’m sure we all wish it weren’t so, but we do tend to judge books by their covers, and I think this is especially true of indie books. I tend to skip right over books with crappy covers. Not because I’m a cover snob (okay, maybe a little bit), but because I expect an indie book to be just as professionally produced as a book coming from one of the big publishing houses.

What are the other services you offer?

I often create social media banners for my clients based on the covers we design, and I can also prepare print files for bookmarks, business cards, and other marketing materials. On another note, I do offer several tiers of pricing for cover designs. A custom cover design can be expensive (as it should be given the hours and hours of work that go into finding and choosing the right artwork, creating concepts and putting together multiple mockups, and then the rounds of revisions necessary until the final product is complete), but authors who already have their art or who are willing to take on the responsibility of finding their own cover art get steep discounts from me.

Where can people find you on social media?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, and LinkedIn.

What advice can you give to inspiring graphic designers?

Keep honing your craft and studying your market. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Be sociable and network, which is easier to do than ever thanks to the digital world and social media. Strive for professionalism and to develop a reputation for being easy to work with, but don’t let people take advantage of you either.

Links:

Facebook Page

Facebook

Twitter

Jenny Q -twitter

goodreads

linkedin

Google +

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Interview with Award Winning Author Susan Appleyard

I’d like to welcome back award winning author Susan Appleyard today. Susan was born in England, which is where she learned her love of history and writing. She has applied these two loves ever since in writing historical fiction. Her first two book were published traditionally and she also has five ebooks with another to be published soon after Christmas. Susan is fortunate enough to spend half the year in Ontario with kids and grandkids, and the other half in Mexico with sun and sea and Margaritas on the beach. (No prizes for guessing which months are spent where!)

susan-appleyardHi, Susan! Thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your award winning book, In a Gilded Cage. Please tell me the premise of your story and the era your story takes place.

Hello, Stephanie, as an avid follower of your blog, I’m delighted to be here. My novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century in Austria, Germany and Hungary. It is something of a fairytale gone wrong. Having had a carefree and somewhat undisciplined youth in the hills of Bavaria, Sisi is married to Franz Josef at the age of sixteen, not against her will, but certainly against her instincts. Surrounded by luxury, she feels her independence slipping away under a barrage of court protocol.

What is one of the struggles Sisi faces in her new life as Empress of Austria besides being often ill and anorexic?

One of the struggles that I believe many can relate to is her natural wish to have a voice in the way her children were to be raised. They are taken from her at birth and her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, has complete charge of them, even insisting Sisi make an appointment when she wished to see them to avoid disrupting their schedule. This, naturally, had the effect of increasing Sisi’s feelings of inadequacy.

What are some of the strict protocols she endured?

I think for her the worst would have been the restrictions on her privacy. She couldn’t even walk through the palace without attendants following her and of course it was a jealously guarded privilege. Many of these undoubtedly spied for her mother-in-law. When she went riding she was accompanied by guards, although she was such an excellent horsewoman that sometimes she was able to leave them behind. Whenever she and Franz Josef were outside the palace, even in their gardens, they were watched by policemen. Somewhat like the Secret Service of today, I suppose. She was also obliged to wear gloves while eating dinner and couldn’t wear shoes more than six times.

Who is patriot, Count Andrassy?

In 1848 revolution swept Europe as the masses demanded a voice in government. Count Andrassy fought for Hungary against Austrian repression and fled to France to avoid the reprisals. He was sentenced to death in his absence and hanged in effigy. Sisi felt a special affinity for Hungary, for its tragic and romantic past and its yearning for freedom. When she and Andrassy met they found they had much in common. Undoubtedly, they loved each other. Whether they had an affair is debatable.

in-a-gilded-cage

How are your other characters influenced by their setting?

Although related to the Bavarian royals, Sisi’s family are very provincial and easy-going. All her life, Sisi loved the outdoors, riding, hiking, even mountain climbing. These were the kinds of activities frowned upon by the Viennese court. Franz Josef was raised in the court and finds it quite impossible to break out of the iron-bound rituals of his ancestors in order to give Sisi the kind of love she needs and the support that would help her through the difficulties presented by her new life. Above all, Count Andrassy is shaped by Hungary and its past.  He is fiery revolutionary or resolute politician as needed. As he says: Scratch a Magyar, and you will find a fierce horseman from the Steppes underneath.

What are some of the political themes in your story?

The revolutions of 1848 influenced the events of those times in ways that form a thread through my story from beginning to end. I have also been able to bring out how the fluctuating relationship between Austria and Prussia impacted the rest of Europe and led to three wars within the space of ten years.

Did you have any changing emotions while writing this story?

O.K. I will admit it. Without being deliberately dishonest, I have portrayed Sisi’s mother-in-law in an unsympathetic light. However, I found toward the end that I began to understand her better and to admire her.

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

The truth is I haven’t any. It’s a compulsion. Years ago I decided to give up trying to get published after being let down by my publisher and agent. But I was never able to give up writing. Every now and then the urge would come over me and I had to write something – anything, not to any purpose, just to get it out of my system.

What are you currently working on?

A novel about Edward II and Isabella of France. I just finished the first draft recently and I’m taking a break until after Christmas.

Where can reader buy your book?

Author Profile Page on Amazon

Amazon UK

Smashwords

Thank you, Susan!

Thank you, Stephanie, for the interesting questions.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Appleyard who is the author of, IN A GILDED CAGE, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, IN A GILDED CAGE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Author Kate Forsyth

02_Bitter Greens

Publication Date: September 23, 2014 Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover; 496p ISBN-10: 1250047536

Genre: Historical/Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Retellings

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Hello, Kate! It is a pleasure to chat with you today about your story, Bitter Greens. What a beautiful and creative premise. Rapunzel is a tale I have known since childhood…what inspires you about Rapunzel to begin with?

I have been fascinated with the Rapunzel fairy tale since I first read it as a little girl. I was always puzzled by the mysteries in the tale: why did the witch lock up the girl? Why did she have to climb up her hair to get into the tower? How did the girl’s hair get so long? Questions like that niggled at me, and so I began to think up possible explanations for them.

Shamefully, I have to admit I have never paid much attention to the writer (s) of the story and had no idea it was penned by women. What is it that fascinates you about their lives the most?

I am a storyteller as well as a writer, and so I’ve always been interested in the ways stories endure over time, told and retold and retold again. I became interested in finding out the origin of the tale in the early stages of planning my novel, and was hugely excited when I stumbled across the life story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who wrote the version of the tale as it was first told while she was locked up in a convent after scandalizing the royal court at Versailles with her love affairs and refusal to bow to societal norms. She was such a fascinating woman and the parallels between her story and the fairy tale she wrote struck me at once.

What were some of the historical events that took place in the setting of this story?

BITTER GREENS moves between two historical settings. The first is Renaissance Venice, and takes in 16th witchcraft hunts, the devastation of the plague, and the extraordinary art of Tiziano Vercelli, best known in English as Titian. The second setting is the sumptuous royal court of 17th century France, ruled over by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Charlotte-Rose de la Force was his second cousin and a maid-of-honour serving the queen. During her life, she saw the cruel persecution of the French Protestants, c alled Huguenots, and the scandal of the Affair of the Poisons, which saw hundreds of people arrested and tortured on suspicion of Satanism and murder.

Selena stands out to me the most. What are her strengths and weaknesses? And in what way does she inspire-if she inspires that is…?

Kate: Selena is a Venetian courtesan and the witch of the tale. Selena witnessed the terrible punishment of her mother, after she was unfaithful to her patron, and so sets herself to enact revenge on those who took part. She studies ‘stregheria’, the Italian art of witchcraft, in an attempt to shape her own life. She is afraid of the passing of time and the coming of death, and so hates clocks and watches, but is also passionate, sensual, and determined.  Although she is strong and clever, she also has a strong streak of cruelty in her and locks girls up in a tower for her own nefarious purposes, so I’m not sure she can be seen as an inspiration!

Could you please give me an example of Renaissance life in Venice? Something romantic, perhaps?

Venice in the 16th century was a place of great wealth, beauty and culture.  Its streets were full of merchants from all over the world, all speaking their own tongues and wearing the clothes of their nation. Women were gorgeously dressed in silks and satins and cloth-of-gold, and wore totteringly high wooden chopines to protect their delicate silk slippers from the water that often overflowed from the canals.  Artists such as Michelangelo, Titian and Bellini created works of startling beauty, and every palace and cathedral was painted and ornamented to within an inch of their life. At Carnevale, men and women dressed up in their finest clothes and hid their faces behind masks so that they could wander the narrow streets and plazas of the many islands, free to love anyone they pleased. Many people began to wear masks all year long, in order to enjoy the freedom of anonymity, until the practice was outlawed in 1797. Mask-makers were revered, and had their own rules and their own guild.

What compels the old nun to tell Charlotte-Rose the tale who is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens? Is there a particular message she wants her to grasp?

I think Seraphina wants to help Charlotte-Rose learn to accept her fate with grace, and to make the most of the life she has been given. We cannot always choose what happens to us in our lives, but we can choose how we deal with it.

What is Charlotte’s personality like?

She is strong-willed, quick-witted, passionate, and very stubborn. She does her best to live a self-determined life, and finds the strictures of the patriarchal society in which she lives very difficult to negotiate. All she wants is to live and love as she chooses, and to write – yet these things are constantly being denied to her, and so she is frustrated and angry, particularly in the beginning of the book. She is also afraid and determined not to show it, and this makes her seem proud and even arrogant. She is also, I’m afraid, rather vain, but then she lives in the royal court of Versailles where everything is about show.

Is there one thing you find remarkable about Venice in 1512?

Venice had always been a city remarkable for its religious and cultural toleration, yet this began to change around this time. The world’s first ghetto was established in Venice in 1516, and other races and religions began to find themselves having their freedom curtailed as well. This was partly as a result of a long-waged war against Constantinople, and partly because of religious fervor caused by terrible outbreaks of the bubonic plague.

What was your process for this story and how long did you work on it?

Bitter Greens was a complex and challenging novel to write, and took me a long time to research. All in all, it took me seven years to write! I began by learning everything I could about the two periods my story was set in, and by studying the history of the Rapunzel fairy tale (I ended up doing a doctorate on this.) I then wrote each of the three narrative threads independently from each other, and then wove them together. It was like writing three novels instead of one!

What do you love most about writing?

Everything! I love the first period, when my mind is alive with story possibilities and I’m reading and researching and thinking and daydreaming. I love the actual writing process, and all the amazing serendipitous discoveries I make. And I love to edit too – that’s when the story really begins to fall into shape.

Who are your influences?

I think every single book I have loved – and there are hundreds of thousands of those!

Praise for Bitter Greens

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is an enthralling concoction of history and magic, an absorbing, richly detailed, and heart-wrenching reimagining of a timeless fairytale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival

“See how three vividly drawn women cope with injustice, loneliness, fear, longing. See how they survive—or perpetrate—treachery. Surrender yourself to a master storyteller, to delicious detail and spunky heroines. Bitter Greens is a complex, dazzling achievement.” —Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue

“A magical blend of myth and history, truth and legend, Bitter Greens is one of those rare books that keeps you reading long after the lights have gone out, that carries you effortlessly to another place and time, that makes you weep and laugh and wish you could flip forward to make sure it all ends happily ever after—but for the fact that if you did so, you might miss a line, and no line of this book should be missed.” —Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The Ashford Affair

“Kate Forsyth wields her pen with all the grace and finesse of a master swordsman. In Bitter Greens she conjures a lyrical fairytale that is by turns breathtaking, inspiring, poetic, and heartbreakingly lovely. Set like a jewel within the events of history, it is pure, peerless enchantment.”—New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn

“Bitter Greens is pure enchantment–gripping and lyrical. From the high convent walls where a 17th century noblewoman is exiled, to a hidden tower which imprisons an innocent girl with very long hair, to the bitter deeds of a beautiful witch who cannot grow old–Kate Forsyth weaves an engrossing, gorgeously written tale of three women in search of love and freedom. A truly original writer, Forsyth has crafted an often terrifying but ultimately redemptive dark fairy tale of the heart.”—Stephanie Cowell, American Book Award-winning author of Claude & Camille

“Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens is not only a magnificent achievement that would make any novelist jealous, it’s one of the most beautiful paeans to the magic of storytelling that I’ve ever read.”—C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen’s Vow and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

“Threads of history and folklore are richly intertwined to form this spellbinding story. Kate Forsyth has excelled herself with Bitter Greens. Compulsively unputtdownable.”—Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author of Flame of Sevenwaters and Heart’s Blood

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About the Author

Kate Forsyth 1

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.