New Cover Design: A White Room

Author Stephanie Carroll and I worked on this cover in stages, and though it took us nearly six months to perfect it, I think it's one of the best covers I've done and I'm really proud of it. If you read my interview with author J.A. Coffey, you'll remember I talked about what happens when a client isn't in love with any of the initial cover mockups I present to them. That was the case with my first round of mockups for Stephanie. So we gave it some good thought, and as I knuckled down for round two, I decided to start browsing Edwardian-era artwork to see if I could find what had been lacking in stock model images. I landed on this beauty from one of my favorite painters, John Singer Sargent. His portraits are as close to life-like as any I've seen. Stephanie fell in love with her too and a cover was born! (I also designed a bookmark for Stephanie!) Here's the book description:

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be "the angels of the house," even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family. John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house's grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled. A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one's own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

A White Room is available now in print and ebook formats on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Smashwords. You can also find more reviews on Goodreads, and check out Stephanie's blog, The Unhinged Historian, where she explores the dark side of the Gilded Age.

And here's what Stephanie had to say about me!

Jenny went above and beyond as my cover and bookmark designer. She has been extremely professional, knowledgeable, and supportive. The cover she designed for A White Room is amazingly beautiful and fits what I had in my head so perfectly that it feels like it had been the cover from the day I started writing it. Not only is she talented as a designer, but she is patient, polite, and easy to work with. I felt completely comfortable giving her my opinion on design and telling her what I did and didn’t like. Further, her clients are her top priority. She spent countless extra hours helping me to work through several snafus with my printers. She made phone calls on my behalf and even worked on a holiday weekend to help me meet a deadline. I couldn’t have asked for a more talented or professional designer, and I am so grateful that I found her. I plan to work with her again and again in the future.

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  1. What is it with all these historical fictions covers that cut off the woman's face [at least yours only cut off part of her face]. Surely Sargent didn't paint her like that. I can understand it for novels about Henry VIII, who beheaded his wives, but I see these everywhere. Jenny, you're a cover designer - please explain this alarming trend. I find it offensive, as it seems to dehumanize the heroine. Also it's so overused these days.

    1. hi Maggie. Many publishers and designers opt for a more vague representation of a character's face so the reader can form their own visualization. Obscured faces and rear views work too, but can be hard to find. Often artwork can be found that matches the time period and clothing, but not the face or hair, so we have to play to the strengths of the image. We want the potential reader to be drawn in by the whole ambiance of a cover, and not concentrate too much on a definitive face that may not match the reader's ideal of the character.

      Sargent didn't paint this subject like that, but he did paint her with under-eye circles, and she is also at least 20 years older than the heroine in this novel.

      I'm sorry you have such a strong reaction to the trend, but I certainly don't think anyone in the industry intends it to be offensive or dehumanizing. It doesn't bother me as a reader or a designer, and as long as it continues to sell books for the big publishers, and since I strive to keep my clients' covers in line with cover styles in the genre so they can compete, I'll use it when necessary.

  2. Absolutely love this cover, Jenny. It's just stunning!

    1. Thank you, Holly! I'm really proud of it, and the author has been getting tons of positive feedback on it, so that makes me really happy!


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