Despite the advice not to, we do all judge books by their covers – how else are you to know whether a particular title is the type of book you love, or not your cup of tea? So getting the right cover for Unlawful Things was a big challenge for me.
I spent a lot of time hanging around libraries and book shops, looking at the shelves. Where would my book fit? What sort of covers did thrillers and mysteries have? What made one book stand out and catch my eye, while others barely registered?
There are clear conventions in book genres. Curly writing, pastel colours and idyllic settings or pretty illustrations spell romance. Stark, often brightly coloured text against a dark background, perhaps with a woman looking fearfully over her shoulder – psychological thrillers. I was after something that conveyed mystery, intrigue and a historical back story. I had a few ideas, including using the skulls on the graveyard gates where Marlowe is buried, and where some of the key scenes in the novel took place. I commissioned cover designer Jessica Bell.
After some discussion about the book and my ideas for the cover, Jessica sent me some options to choose between. One very spooky graveyard scene was particularly impressive – but after asking people what they thought, it was clear that it suggested a horror or ghost story. Good as the cover was, it promised the wrong thing. I asked Jessica to rejig an image from one of the other options, with a mysterious staircase – and she came up with this terrific cover, which I really love. I hope it intrigues you and makes you want to take a look inside – which, after all, is the only real way to judge a book.
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