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Blurry Forest

Archwilde Cover Reveal … and why I’m not showing you my characters

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Today I’m revealing the cover design for Archwilde! Ta-da!

The Archwilde book sitting on a stone wall in a forest
The Archwilde novel at home in the forest

This beautiful cover was designed by the immensely talented @TheTypinPint! He did an amazing job of taking the amorphous vision I had in my mind and bringing it to reality. I love the two swords in the forest, framed within this beckoning portal—a window into a different world. It’s all surrounded by the crests of the main players in the book, and the gilding of the word “Archwilde” practically sparkles for being a 2D image! Bryan really hit it out of the park with this design, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Until recently, I’ve never really had a clear idea of what the cover should be. I had some ideas over the years for characters in different scenes or poses on the cover—though almost always it was in the forest, so I knew that the forest would be an important element of it. But with these last few of drafts of the book I realized I didn’t want to show characters on the cover after all.

Here’s why:

Have you ever read a book with a character on the cover and thought, as you read the book, that the picture on the cover does not do justice to the image in your head as you read? That happens to me all the time—especially with fantasy books. I much prefer the images that my mind conjures up. But more importantly, I wanted readers to be able to see the characters as they want to see them, and to see themselves in any character that they feel drawn to or identify with, and not have some arbitrary face or race on the cover telling them what the character looks like. Yes, I do describe some characters in my book as being fair, or warmer-skinned, but for the most part I stick just to hair and eye color and try to leave it at that. It’s a world with magic and ogres and glamouries—there’s no reason one hair color or eye color has to go with any specific skin color. That’s the beauty of writing fantasy!

I tried to consciously use phrases like “(the character’s) cheeks warmed” or “color rose in (the character’s) face” to show that it’s not white skin with a blush, unless otherwise stated. Some characters are described as ‘reddening’ or ‘flushing with anger,’ but most of them tend to be rich, older mysoginstic types. Because patriarchy.

I also tried to omit common cliché phrases like “white-knuckled” that would imply a character’s race. Some of these things are so deeply engrained in our vernacular that, being a cisgender white woman, I hadn’t even fully noticed many of them until I really started doing the work to deconstruct these things. It’s a constant, ongoing learning, and I’m committed to doing this vitally important work. I’m also committed to doing the same for gender identity and LGBTQ+ characters. And there are probably things I missed when working on this book, but I will continue to learn and to make sure my writing reflects that effort as I craft future stories.

I know how my characters look in my mind. I don’t know how my characters look in the minds of my readers, and that’s fantastic! I want everyone to see what they want to. I am extremely reluctant to say how I picture my characters for that reason, or to share my version of a “cast” of particular actors. Well, except one character … I just can’t see anyone as Zane other than Jason Momoa. Wouldn’t you just love to see him as a loveable wandering wizard?

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