I must admit, I’m really, really pleased with this cover. For me, the first thing that I saw was the puma’s face. However, I’ve heard from a few people that for them the puma took a moment to resolve out of the swirls. I’m curious. What did you see? A puma’s face against a star field or a stellar nebula with a puma’s face at the heart?
Often the author has no idea what the cover art will be until it’s already done. This time, courtesy of the book’s editor, Claire Eddy, I was asked if I had any thoughts to contribute. Since I’ve long been fascinated with what makes a book cover “work” or not, I was thrilled to be included.
My first thought was that I would prefer an iconic image to an illustration. Probably because I’m the author, book cover illustrations featuring my characters rarely look “right” to me. This doesn’t mean the cover is bad, just not to my taste. Also, I realized that as a book buyer I’m more likely to be drawn to an interesting image than to picture of what may or may not be a scene from the book. I realize that this is not the case for everyone – and I can certainly think of times when an illustration cover has caused me to pick up the book. Several of Michael Whelan’s covers for Joan Vinge’s novels immediately come to mind.
I also wanted a large image, one that could be seen either across a bookstore or in a thumbnail image on a screen. A cover like that for The Buried Pyramid, lovely as that painting is, would be lost in either of those situations.
So what iconic image might I suggest? Artemis Awakening is a fairly complex book. I couldn’t think of any one image that would encompass it all. Very well, if not one image, how about a combination of images – especially images that wouldn’t necessarily occur together in the world as we know it but make sense in the context of the novel?
Eventually, I came up with an image I thought might work: a puma holding an earthlike planet in its jaws. However, I wasn’t sure that I could explain what I had in mind. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could draw…
Then it hit me. I can’t draw, but I have several friends who can. I put out a request. I felt very fortunate that Cale Mims had time to take out his sketchbook and pencils. He provided me with several interpretations of the “puma holding planet” idea.
Cale drew another image, replacing the puma’s eye with a planet. He decided to experiment with using half a face, rather than a full one, because it would leave room for title and author name, as well as being more iconic, less an illustration. He also added some understated flourishes, similar to tribal tattoos.
I sent photos of Cale’s drawings off to Claire. She, in turn, showed the pictures to various people at Tor. From Marketing came the odd – but useful – comment that the puma with planet in mouth reminded them of the unfortunate feline tendency to cough up hairballs…
However, the half-faced puma idea definitely caught interest. The idea evolved to include a star field for a background. After this, I heard nothing more about the project except for an update in August that the cover art was indeed underway and we should see it within a month or so.
Then, last week, Claire sent the image above. I was fascinated how, at the hands of artist Cliff Nielsen, Cale’s original drawing had evolved, but was still recognizable. The star field was there, but now included swirling veils that reminded me of nebulas, melding the puma into the heavens in a very interesting fashion. Cale’s touches of tribal art accents had been retained and emphasized.
So here it is…
I hope you like it… And I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse of the process by which this particular book cover came to be.