diana peterfreund

Cover Stories: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Diana Peterfreund tends to have great covers, and when I saw her new one, For Darkness Shows the Stars (a post-Apocalyptic take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, hello!), I fell in love with the starry sky. So I asked her about it, and here she is:

"I always have an idea in mind for my covers, but since I’m not an artist it’s probably best that my publishers ignore me. They did ask me to send inspiration pictures, though. I sent in a lot of pictures of harsh seascapes and rocky cliffs and beaches beneath a sunset/sunrise and a starry sky. Sometimes there were forlorn women standing on these beaches. I think Harper and I were totally on the same page about the direction we wanted to go in, which mostly makes me feel like I’m finally getting a hang of this imagery thing.

"I asked for something very lush and romantic, to fit the feel of the book. Also, because this book has such a distinctive title that bucks the trend of the one-word YA book titles, I asked for a fun font treatment that really highlighted the title.

"I was super excited when I saw the image. After eight books, I’m a bit of a pragmatist about covers. The job of a cover is primarily to make the reader pick it up – and this cover is swoonworthy and gorgeous. A secondary goal is to communicate to the desired audience what kind of book it is. We’re very thoroughly trained to respond to particular cover cues: illustrations are children’s books, photos are young adult books, a man and a woman is a romance, a shadowy figure is a thriller…

"I think this cover says that the book is going to be lush, romantic, and otherworldly, and that fits the story perfectly. And I went gaga for the title treatment!

"When I first saw the comp (the early, unphotoshopped version) the girl had some rather wild makeup and hair, which didn’t fit my homespun farmgirl heroine. So they warned me in advance they were planning on toning that down, probably to pre-empt my 'holy eyeshadow, Batman!' comment. They also hadn’t decided completely on the font/color for the title. One of the things I asked for was to incorporate some dawn colors, perhaps down at the base of the cliff where her eyes are focused, to indicate the whole 'post-apocalyptic' nature. I love that they ended up using those colors on the amazing ombre effect on the title. It’s like the words are on fire.

"It’s two stock photos: one of the girl, and one of the stars. I’ve been in contact with the star photographer, whose work is amazing. (I’ve seen the work of the other photographer online, but we haven’t communicated.)

"I may be in the minority on this, but I tend to prefer covers with stock photography to the ones that have been photo shoots. I think sometimes designers have more to choose from if they aren’t constrained by whatever they manage to get in photo sessions. The downside of stock usage is that you may be one of many who ends up with a particular image/model/shoot on your cover, but so far, that hasn’t happened with this model. (Fingers crossed!)

"This is my favorite cover yet. I think it’s highly metaphorical – obviously my heroine doesn’t have glowing blue skin with galaxies shining through her body and starlight in her hair, but the stars are such an important motif in the book that I love the way they are incorporated into the images. She looks sad, but she looks strong, and that’s Elliot. As to whether I think it’s an illustration of any scene – I’ve spent enough hours gazing on this cover that I’ve gone there, too. I see my heroine Elliot standing at the top of the Very Important Cliff in my story and looking down onto the beach where her Lost Love is building a ship to take him away from her forever. At other times, I think it’s meant to be a nod to another scene in my book, where Elliot ventures into an underground cavern filled with stars. She actually wears a black dress in that scene, so maybe that’s closer. (In passing, I love the unusual construction of her dress – it says 'futuristic' to me.)"

Thanks, Diana! This is a cover that I've seen on shelves and been drawn to, so I think it works. Any thoughts from you guys?