In honor of the first month mark of The Bell Tolling‘s publication, I am writing my first blog post! Publishing this book has been an adventure so far, and marketing it while writing the next one promises to be equally so. I hope to use these blog posts, in addition to my curious forays on Instagram, to share aspects of my writing and publication journey, as well as facets of my fantasy world and dimensions of my characters. The progress of the posts might seem a bit haphazard for a while, but, as I get into the pace and habit of posting, it will surely even out.
Let us start by covering the various aspects of my book’s cover. (See what I did there?)
The cover of The Bell Tolling is very, very different from most fantasy covers. Instead of depicting full-length images of the main character or characters in center stage with the title in bold letters at the top or bottom, TBT’s cover features half a face, an odd triangle thing, a gloomy background, and, in contrast, an elegant gold frame. The author’s name is the topmost text, almost out of the way, instead of at the bottom, and the title is oddly not very prominent either in the center of the page.
Why the weird artistic choices?
To begin with, I have five main characters who are almost equally important to the storyline. Having not two but FIVE images on the front cover would be a bit much. There are also seven books — if I used one image per cover starting with this one, I would run out. And not having an image at all… well, I tried it, and it seemed rather dull.
While looking for inspiration, I came across the book Fable by Adrienne Young, which splits the main character’s face across two covers. I adored the idea — and quickly turned it into the concept of a single image split across seven covers: the five faces of my main characters atop a cloudscape that represents both literally and metaphorically the condition of my fantasy world, Icilia, during this series. Each character wears a calm sort of smile, the smile that they give to their people as they lift them up from the darkness, and their crown and heavily adorned clothes (more on this another day). And, of my main characters, Elian, with the fold of one wing visible over his shoulder (that’s the triangle), is first.
As for why he is the first… if you read both The Bell Tolling and its complement, The Resonant Bell, this will be quite clear! And, if not, I think I will address it in a post on another day.
Also, yes, this means that Book 2’s cover will complete the character image present on TBT’s! Each image is or will be painted by my best friend, Lee Contreras, an artist of considerable talent.
Second, I really like the frames on a number of fantasy romance covers. Well, not quite the frames themselves so much as the concept of a frame. Accordingly, I set out to have commissioned a frame that would really align stylistically with the ancient sort of elegant feel to TBT. A friend referred me to a friend, Mustafa Pishori, and the result is what ended up on the cover. This frame combines a number of elements: symbols from key facades of al-Masjid-al-Azam-bil-Kufa (located in Iraq) and designs from the windows of Jame’-al-Anwar (located in Egypt). Together, the frame represents my faith and cultural background through the inclusion of Fatemi design.
Third, I chose the text and its arrangement to convey something that is quite important to me: the book is mine, and I am not shy in claiming rightful credit, but the story is the Lord of Freedom’s. Consequently, that name has the customarily most prominent spot at the top of the cover, and, instead, Lee and I arranged for the title to gain noticeability by arranging compositional elements such that the eye naturally falls upon it. The bell accents this, and the ‘Book One’ facilitates the eye’s progression both upwards and downwards.
Finally, the colors of the cover — gold, green, and white — are all the colors of the Lord of Freedom.
Thus is the intentionality behind creating an unusual and strange cover for a story that provides an equally unusual and strange experience to the reader.
Thanks so much for reading! Stay safe and well in these difficult times!