The Hypnotic Secrets of the Cover for THE CURE FOR DREAMING

Two weeks ago, I was able to reveal the cover of my newest novel, The Cure for Dreaming, coming October 14, 2014, from Amulet Books/Abrams. You’ll be able to see the full cover at the end of this post, but first I’m sharing a pictorial journey of how this cover started and what the book’s designer, Maria T. Middleton, did to make it so mesmerizing.

First, she took an archival photograph that I sent her, which features a young hypnotized woman from the Victorian era . . .

(Note: This is only the right half of the original image. The full photo will wrap around the finished dust jacket and will appear in the interior pages.)

(Note: This is only the right half of the original image. The full photo will wrap around the finished dust jacket and will appear in the interior pages.) Photo courtesy Corbis/Bettmann.

. . . then she added her Maria T. Middleton magic to the image. She replaced the plain backdrop with a creepy Victorian pattern . . .


Do you see the spooky faces? The skulls and crossbones?

. . . add selected a gorgeous Victorian-style font . . .


. . . plus she added hypnotizing circles that radiate outward from the girl’s head. Those circles will turn into an eye-catching special effect on the finished dust jacket.


Voilà! The full cover of The Cure for Dreaming:


The synopsis:

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.


What’s in a Cover?

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently (especially during school visits) is some iteration of  “Did you have any say in designing your cover?”

The answer (thankfully) is always, “No.”  I’m not design-oriented, nor do I have a strong head for the market and what might be visually appealing to the target audience, so I happily await that thrilling e-mail with Cover! in the subject line.

MANOR OF SECRETS was no exception.  When this landed in my inbox, I was thrilled.


The model looks like a cross between Lady Mary and Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey.  Her dress is stunning, the jewelry gorgeous and the manor stairs and window behind her historically and visually evocative.

And a little sinister.

Do you see it?

My reply to my editor was I love it!, to which she responded, “Don’t worry, we’ll edit out the creepy face in the window.”

Now you see it, right?

A few weeks later, I got to see the full spread, complete with amazing cover copy and that color!  I love the blue (even more now that I’ve discovered that a blue Sharpie is exactly the same color, and makes a pretty autograph).


I especially love that Charlotte is pictured close up, and thoughtful (probably imagining some grand adventure).  Janie is in the distance, as if she’s trying to be unobtrusive, as a good servant should.  But of course, a downstairs maid would never be caught on the main staircase… And if you know anything about historical costume, you’ll realize that Janie’s wearing what is typically an upstairs maid’s costume (the black is a giveaway), but we’re willing to presume that things are different at The Manor.

What I love most about this cover is that it illustrates one of the themes I try to get across within the pages of the book itself.  Unfortunately, I’m not tech-competent enough to enlarge the photograph for you to get a good look at these two girls (you’ll just have to find a copy of the book!) If you look closely, you’ll see that they are the same model.  To me, this just reinforces the idea situation and costume are all external and underneath it all, we’re all basically the same.

Image 4

photograph by Keely Parrack

Cover Girl

I often judge a book by its cover.  Doesn’t everybody?  We are a society obsessed with visual images.  They’re everywhere.  Television, movies, magazines, billboards, Smartphones, newspapers, t-shirts, graffiti.  Even the sleep mode of my e-reader uses a visual.  Images are appealing—they entice, excite, incite, soothe, disgust.  They demand attention.  It’s no wonder book covers provoke so much buzz and debate, both online and in person.

However, even though I consider myself a creative person, I know that my creativity does not extend very far to design.  The innovation and experimentation that must go into producing a book cover seems like magic to me.  So I await every book cover with thrilling anticipation and receive them with awe and delight.

My first novel, GILT, has gone through several design processes, and every single one gives me new insight into my own work.  I love seeing how my words and characters have inspired beauty and richness.  And I am amazed at being able to look at my work through the eyes of another.


Because I write about the Tudors, I fully expected the usual cover image of a beautiful Renaissance gown (possibly even two), worn by a girl with part or all of her head cut off by the top of the book.  It seems to be industry standard for the Tudors (who were, after all, famous for cutting off heads.)

But that didn’t happen.


GILT published in hardcover in May of 2012, and was decorated with a cover image not a gown, but an extreme close up of the face.  This cover is so different from anything I’d seen—either in adult historical fiction or YA lit.  I agreed with booksellers I met that this was a cover that would grab attention.  It didn’t matter to me that, although women occasionally painted their lips at the time, perhaps the lip color was anachronistic. (and I immediately went out and found a shade of lipstick to match.)

gilt pb

Design and marketing decided to go a slightly different direction with the paperback cover.  When this image first popped up in my inbox, my reaction was, “Did I write that?”  This image is so very sex-ay.  And here I thought I’d written a book about a dysfunctional friendship.  But like I said, it’s pretty enlightening to see your book through someone else’s eyes.


However, there were some quarters that felt the original paperback design would not be a good fit for the YA shelves.  So the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with a series design that I think is elegant, appealing and still visually very different from other books on the shelves.  To me, it begs to be picked up—like a gorgeous box on the shelf of an antique store.  And the embossed jewel and lettering just beg to be touched.  I’m delighted that this image stuck, and has been continued for all three books in the US.

Gilt UK

My publisher in the UK decided to take a different route.  I love this cover because it gives Kitty the spotlight, and even Kitty would agree that Cat usually takes that for herself.

I’m also absolutely thrilled that I get yet another cover for my novel.  It’s just been decided that GILT and TARNISH will be bound together  (with a teaser excerpt of BRAZEN) and published in paperback in March of 2014!  The omnibus will be titled COURTED and again, the cover is vibrant, eye-catching (and very different from all the others!)


What I love about all of these covers is that none of them screams historical.  There are no castles, no obviously Tudor gowns, no props.  And because the historical label can be a hard sell, I hope the covers draw a wider audience.

How about you?  What book covers speak to you?  Do you pick up or avoid books because they have certain images on the front?

Cover reveal for Jessica Spotswood’s SISTERS’ FATE

Almost as exciting as a book’s publication day is the book’s cover reveal day. Yesterday, our own Jessica Spotswood got to reveal the cover for Sisters’ Fate, her third novel in The Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy, and we’re thrilled to pieces to be able to share the design right here.


To find out Jess’s thoughts about the cover and enter her spectacular giveaway of Penguin ARCs, visit

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New Covers in the Group: MANOR OF SECRETS and A MAD, WICKED FOLLY

We’re always thrilled when one of our members shares a brand-new book cover, and we realized we should start interrupting our regularly scheduled programming with showy cover reveal announcements worthy of an Edwardian debutante ball.

Speaking of the Edwardians, two of our members, Sharon Biggs Waller and Katherine Longshore, just had the opportunity to reveal the covers of their novels set in this opulent early-twentieth-century era. Without further ado, we formally present A Mad, Wicked Folly and Manor of Secrets.

MadWickedFollyA Mad, Wicked Folly, by Sharon Biggs Waller
Viking, January 23, 2014

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

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Manor_of_SecretsManor of Secrets, by Katherine Longshore
Point, January 28, 2014

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure—and most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage—or the means—to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives…forever.

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