Many of you are big fans of the Sourcebooks reprints of Georgette Heyer’s backlist, especially because the quality of the books themselves is stellar. Not only are they printed on some luscious paper, but the covers are gorgeous. I know a few folks who have written me to say that since discovering the reprints through Smart Bitches, they’ve bought several copies as gifts for friends and family. Heyer romances: the gift that keeps on giving!
This week marks the 107th anniversary of her birth (16 August), and to celebrate, we’re hosting a giveaway of rather epic proportions. Details are at the end of the interview.
This interview! I was so curious about the design mastermind who is responsible for the cover art that makes the Heyer set so beautiful, and asked Sourcebooks if she’d be willing to do an interview with me. Meet Dawn Pope!
Dawn has been at Sourcebooks for 4 years now, and she’s the Assistant Design Manager. I had a bunch of questions for her, because I wanted to know how these book covers happened.
So many of the covers feature artwork highlighting women, particularly elegant women. It makes the Heyer reprints from Sourcebooks look stylish and unique – and definitely eye catching. I am so curious about the process that goes into creating the covers.
Dawn: Georgette Heyer is known for her heroines; the characters are enduring. We try to find images that represent these women. The cover process on our Heyer romances is ever evolving. I do have to say that this is a collaborative effort between my publisher, Dominique Raccah, and myself. Heyer is her passion and she knows these books inside and out. She knows the characters and the mood of each story. We work very closely on the image research. I start the search bringing in image selections for each title, we review the images, there are ones that work the first time around then there are ones that are a bit more of a challenge.
We have just recently implemented another change in our Heyer covers, wanting take them in a Marie Antoinette direction. We are now starting to use a brighter accent color on the title bar. This is giving the covers a fresh more, contemporary feel, and when paired with the classic paintings, it makes a great package. When working on closing final covers for Cousin Kate, The Corinthian, and The Grand Sophy, is when we first started to rethink our direction. These three covers were changed midseason, to what we think are much stronger, and more representative covers. We are always thinking and rethinking these covers. We want to make sure we have the best cover for each title.
You will see the newer color palettes starting with Arabella, which I have to say, is gorgeous! We also just went back and redid the covers for The Nonesuch, The Talisman Ring, and Cotillion, these will be seen at reprint with much stronger colors and images for a better package.
Where do you find the art, and how do you search for it?
Dawn: I have two fine art stock houses that I work very closely with on the image research for the Heyer titles: Fine Art Photographic Library, and The Bridgeman Art Library. They are both amazing houses to work with and have been fantastic in the creation of these covers, getting me images, clearing licenses and permissions, to even helping in research.
Luckily, most of Heyer romances are set in the British Regency (1811-1820), so the time period is very specific. This narrows my search down quite a bit right from the start. Before I begin my search, when the books are first launched, I am given character and story descriptions, I usually take those and have a brief meeting with my publisher to see what she wants to focus on and portray for each cover. I then take that to my searches. I focus on the main character, so if she has red hair, I like to find paintings with woman and red hair, [and] they have to age appropriate too. If your heroine is 15, you can’t have someone who is 25 on the cover! It is the little details that we focus on that I believe makes our covers so strong.
What types of images do you prefer? Do you look for images that match the story?
Dawn: I prefer to find images with a singular woman on the cover, as we try to highlight the heroine of each story. Now there are some exceptions as in the cover of The Devil’s Cub, coming out in November 2009, where we highlight Vidal, the son of Léonie from These Old Shades (which may just be my favorite cover yet!), coming out in October 2009.
So we are still highlighting a main character, and if that happens to be a male, then we will usually feature a couple. We absolutely try to match the image to the story—that is a must. We use the cover to convey what you are going to be reading. We want you to experience the same emotions from the cover that you will win you read the story. If you see a cover, you will draw a conclusion as to what it is about, and then you read the book. If the story doesn’t match the cover, you could be disappointed. In a way, it would be misleading you, the reader.
I do the best I can to make sure I find the images that fit each story. A great example of this is when I was working to close the final cover of Cousin Kate, I took the cover in for final review, and we were still questioning the image; it just wasn’t working. We decided to see if we could find something better, and in doing the image research for this, came across the images for The Corinthian and The Grand Sophy. As soon as we saw them, we knew they were better. So we made the change and closed the covers. I think we have much stronger, more vibrant eye catching covers. It paid off, and it goes to show it is all about the image.
Have you read the Heyers that you’re designing covers for?
Dawn: Unfortunately, I have not read any of the Heyer romances, they are on my list. It is hard to choose which one to read first… Any suggestions?
When we launch a season of Heyer romances, we usually launch eight at a time, I have about 10-12 weeks before I have to have final covers approved for that season. That eight is in addition to other titles from that season. I just don’t have the time to read them all. And luckily I work very closely with someone who has read all of them, most of them more than once, so she gives me the summary of what scene we want to set for each title. I do promise that someday I will read them… I can’t wait, I know I love the covers!
Do any of these pieces of artwork hang in museums? Have you gone to visit?
Dawn: A lot of the paintings I have used are from private collections, or estates. There are some that are in museums, but none that are in any of the major art museums. But a majority of the pieces I have used are from private collections that are represented by the art houses, like The Bridgeman Art Library and Fine Art Photographic Library, both based out of London. I unfortunately have not been to London, so I have not gotten to experience the finest museums. I had an introduction to Fine Art in College, through my Art History classes, but working on these covers has given me a new appreciation for fine art, and I want to get to see more in the museums than what I have. They have sparked an interest to learn more and enjoy more.
Which of the covers is your favorite?
Dawn: Oh, my favorite? How do I pick… While I think about it, I will give you my top 5: Black Sheep, Cousin Kate, The Corinthian, Arabella, and Beauvallet. But if I absolutely had to choose, it would be the new cover for These Old Shades. The image is one I had seen a while ago, and just haven’t had the cover to use it on. The girl, her expression, and the dress are stunning. The treatment on this cover will be different from the others. It will be just a touch more fancy, as we are using a rose colored metallic ink for the title bar. It is going to be stunning. And did I say I love the image! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.
Thank you, Dawn, for the interview – I know you’re super busy so I appreciate your taking the time to answer my nebby questions.
And thanks to the most excellent Danielle and the folks at Sourcebooks, it’s giveaway time! Leave a comment and tell us your very favorite Heyer scene, or the piece of art you’d like to see on a Heyer cover, and you’re entered to win.
We have copies of their next Heyer release, The Grand Sophy to give away – 9 copies, in fact. Plus one grand prize winner will receive a copy of every Heyer book they’ve released this season – 10 in all – plus a Frango Mint Chocolate Trio sampler. Which books? Have a look:
What could be better than a stack of books and a box of chocolates? Not much.
Leave a comment and you’re entered to win. You have 24 hours – ready, set, chocolate and Heyer!
Update! I emailed Sourcebooks about the Arrow releases in the UK and Australia, and Dawn replied:
“Arrow is the UK home to Georgette Heyer, and our Sourcebooks editorial team works directly them when it comes to our re-issues of Heyer’s work each season. The Arrow editions of the Heyer Romances are the cleanest and best packaged of the Heyer reprints. We do look at their covers for art direction, and at first we were looking to find those images, but as we have worked our way through our list, we have started to look for more of our own art that we think represent the book and will speak to readers. We do have a copy of every Heyer from Arrow including the mysteries, here in house. As for the mysteries, the only cover that we have kept the same image with the same title is on Behold Here’s Poison, and that was because it was a fantastic cover!!
Since that, we may use some of the same images, but they are different titles. For example, as the commenter pointed out, our Why Shoot a Butler is actually the image from the arrow edition of Envious Casca. I think as readers see more mysteries coming from us and they see the newer romances, they will realize that we are moving in our own direction away from the Arrow editions, but they definitely have been a big inspiration and great partner to work with bringing Heyer to the US!”