Interview with Melissa McPhail

1374950_553324728054025_1462719812_n“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool. It gives me all the world and isolates me from it.” Ursula K. LeGuin

My love for writing and composing found its own about the same time I did — at boarding school in Oregon. I begged my mother to send me across the country to a school that offered an independent study program perfectly suited for my independent nature. But more than in pursuit of education, I sought freedom from the whips of childhood bullies. The years of junior high in my small Southern town had been rough in too many ways. My soul felt like sandpaper and I was barely fourteen.  I knew little about life but enough to understand that a new environment was paramount to my survival as an individual.

Over the years, Chephrael’s Hand has also evolved.  It’s had many names representative of its own evolution — An Odd Sort of Magic, The Truthreader, The Fifth Magic…others I liked less which lasted only briefly.  It’s in Oregon that Cephrael’s Hand found its way finally into the form it holds now. Ultimately what I have attempted to do in these books is to introduce you to characters in whose future you become truly invested, characters you want to spent time with — characters who inspire you, motivate you, perhaps even shock you, but whose acquaintance leaves you changed in some way.  In order to give my characters a rich background in which to play the First Lord’s game, I’ve woven a tapestry of mystery and adventure that I hope will keep even the most detail-oriented reader intrigued.  I’ve put some of the wisdom I’ve had the benefit of gaining from others into the story as well, hoping that you may find some concept agreeable and make room for it to root in the gardens of your own lives.

But most of all, I’ve tried to entertain you.  I hope that I succeeded.

Cephrael's Hand - NEW COVERHow important do you think cover art is to selling your books?

I think cover art is essential to book sales. A well-crafted cover will tell the reader in which genre the book is classified, represent in some way the story’s theme, and give an overall impression of the world. Fantasy book covers are vital to presenting a sense and feeling of the world. In many cases, the cover is the only visual representation a reader gets.

And of course, we all know that a book cover done well will catch a potential reader’s attention. It’s your best and sometimes only chance to make that memorable first impression. 

For self-published and small house published authors, what do think is important to remember when deciding on the final cover for your work?

I stand firmly on the side advocating book covers that support the central themes of the story they contain. For literary fiction, you can get away with more creative (or minimalist) covers that don’t have much to do with the story itself but are artful and visually compelling. 

But for fantasy and other genre fiction, covers should capture a particular feeling that’s prevalent in the story (loneliness, peril, mystery, love, longing…) and give the reader some sense of the world.

No matter your genre, ensure your cover communicates the things you need and want it to communicate, and don’t settle for anything less. The cover is your first communication to a potential reader. Make sure the communication you want is what gets across to them.  

Who did you choose to use for cover art, and why? What was your process for deciding on who to use?

With the original covers for Cephrael’s Hand and The Dagger of Adendigaeth, I used an independent digital artist, Kentaro Kanamoto, to create the artwork, and then I designed the covers around the artwork. 

The new covers were produced by I really liked their approach to cover design and was attracted to them originally when I saw a cover they produced for another independent author. They ask for a lot of information about the story and its central themes up front, and then they get busy creating. They worked with me through a number of revisions until I was happy with the covers.

How does the new cover better relate to the book and its characters?

It was important to me to ensure that the new covers give a sense of the world as well as some of the story’s key thematic elements. All three of the new book covers give a visual representation of more themes that are central to their part of the story. 

Cephrael’s Hand is the name of a constellation that features prominently in book one, so of course those stars are represented on the cover. 

Patterning is the name of the magic system in the world, and some representation of Patterning is included on all of my new covers. 

For the cover of Cephrael’s Hand, the most central character in the story is working a pattern. This was important to me, as I feel having that image there helps establish a visual concept of Patterning for the reader early on in the series. The new Cephrael’s Hand cover also gives a sense of the time period and setting of the story.    

Can we expect similar covers for the rest of the series?

Yes. I decided to rebrand the entire series with new covers. Having all of the books similarly branded as part of the same series is important for continuity and will help readers from becoming confused. The covers also help establish a growing concept of the world as the story grows.

Interestingly, I debated rebranding the earlier books, since ideally once your readers are heading into the second or third books, they’re already committed to your series. It brooked the question if book covers were still that important later in a series. But as I looked at this topic, I saw that you never know at what point a reader will come across your books. Too, it isn’t always the first book that grabs their attention. So great covers are a must for every book.  

Speaking of the series, when will books 2 and 3 be available?

Book two, The Dagger of Adendigaeth, was released in 2012, and book three, Paths of Alir, will be available in October 2014.


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