Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Braxton Woods Mystique Cover Development: Part 1

This is the first of several posts about the creation of the cover art for my upcoming upper middle grade novel, Braxton Woods Mystique.
Final Cover by Robyn Diaz

The development of the book's cover art happened slowly. I have a background in art that goes back much further than my writing career—so any time I write anything, my mind conceptualizes visual images to accompany the work. I will often sketch out characters, items, or locations for a manuscript as I write. Braxton Woods Mystique was no exception, and I produced more behind-the-scenes art for this project than for any one I had ever done previously.

Growing up, I was always fascinated by the "Art of..." books that were released about my favorite films. I enjoyed seeing the many sketches of what was conceptualized by artists and designers during the process of movie-making. Seeing what might have been for films like Star Wars, Blade Runner, Time Bandits, and Rock and Rule had me entirely fascinated, and these books were directly responsible for my decision to become an artist. These early conceptual sketches also helped open up films to me, beyond just what was on the screen to a larger world where I could let my imagination run wild. I could build the world in my head, beyond what was on the screen. Seeing such examples of creative art and imaginative thinking influenced my childhood playing and eventually led to my love of writing. Novels, obviously, are not films—but making sketches and thinking visually helps me to create a real image of unformed ideas in my head. Writing after sketching has always been easier for me.
A few film art books that inspired the creation of much of my own art and imaginative play growing up. 

Below are some very early sketches I did while I was writing Braxton Woods Mystique.
One of the very first sketches I did for the novel. 
This is my bird's-eye-view sketch of the central location in the story.
Five model homes built in the middle of nowhere, at the end of a 7-mile dead end road.
Leo and his friends come across abandoned equipment
in the woods behind their new homes. 
More character and location sketches
My very first cover sketch and my early title for the novel. 

As time went on and I finished the novel—it took me two years—I eventually reworked the title to Braxton Woods Mystique because I did not want the fact that there is a buried carnival as the entire focus of the novel. Covers can evoke quite a lot from readers, and I did not want to give the false expectation that the book centered around a buried carnival and nothing else. The story is a mystery that unfolds for the characters, and hopefully for the reader at the same time. And I never wanted to give away too much too soon. Hopefully this post and the reveal of these sketches piques curiosity rather than spoiling the mystery too much.

There is a popular saying attributed to H. P. Lovecraft that Stanley Kubrick used to quote all the time. Because I a huge fan of both creative thinkers, I have come to apply it to my work too: 

"In all things mysterious – never explain." —Lovecraft/Kubrick

In the novel I do explain quite a lot, but I don't explain everything. I have faith in the infinite vastness of each reader's unique mind, and that their imaginations will help to fill in the few blank spots I've left to make the story as rich and exciting as possible. 

In my next few posts, I will show and discuss my many cover design drafts and how I eventually abandoned them all for an artist friend of mine who ultimately created the final cover for the novel. 

Thanks for reading.