I've already blogged about briefing Kim McGillivray, my cover designer for No Stranger to Death. Well, this week I got to see the concepts he has come up with. And no, the illustration above isn't one of them. At Kim's suggestion, we met at the recently refurbished Scottish National Portrait Gallery in
, which currently has a glorious
exhibition of men in tartan. Our First Minister may eschew the kilt, but in
past times notable Scotsmen did not. Edinburgh
Under the gaze of several non-kilted, famous Scots (the Gallery's cafe is, admirably, an extension of its display space) Kim took me through his creative process. He has read the entire novel in order to pull out large elements he might explore visually, such as trees, winter and fire. He was also looking for small details, like the owl that Zoe, my main character, watches as it swoops down in front of her to catch a mouse.
I am endlessly fascinated by how other writers work, so I very much wanted to see an artist's approach to generating ideas. To my surprise, I suppose because I expected him to think in images, Kim's initial output was in words. Then, after narrowing down possibilities he started sketching his ideas out.
He presented me with three concepts: two representational and a third which concentrated on capturing the mood of my novel. We looked at paperback-sized printouts of each of these, then moved to his laptop to see them as they would initially appear online, as thumbnails. Immediately, the ‘mood’ cover jumped out at me. Even in its infancy it was great. Then Kim put it up on the screen alongside the thumbnails of published book covers I had sent him. It looked fantastic. To say I was stunned would be like saying Agatha Christie sold a few books. Suddenly No Stranger to Death was no longer just words in my head!
Having agreed on the concept to go with, Kim and I then discussed details of the design. The title of this post is just one of my requests he has now gone away to put into action. We also agreed to include a teaser, a small detail on the cover, the significance of which will only become clear at the end of the book. It would be unfair to Kim and not do justice to the work he has put in to show you this early version of my cover, but here’s the title and, gulp, my name. See, he has even managed to incorporate some turquoise!