Roxton Family Saga new covers— A five-year odyssey
Hello dear readers
I ’ve been wanting to tell you for ages, and with the sixth photo shoot all done and dusted this is a great time to let you know what’s coming! I’m so excited to share this with you—finally!!!!
My Roxton Family Saga—all six books—are getting shiny new covers! But not any covers... stunningly beautiful historically correct images tailored to each story. But before I tell you more about them…
Let me set the stage…
The age-old question for authors and publishers is what to put on a book cover to give readers a sense of what to expect from the story. And in this world of ebook publishing, the cover has only seconds to convey that message! The explosion of indie publishing has produced a seemingly limitless supply of cover artists, designers, stock image factories, and everything in between.
While many authors and readers are happy with the covers presented to them, I often hear authors decry the lack of control over the process from concept to cover, and that stock images and genre paintings are being overused and recycled. Also, many readers are unhappy when the hero and heroine don’t match the couple in the story. And with historicals there is general bafflement that the clothing is not period, but looks to have come straight from the racks of a wedding hire company!
You can imagine how challenging all this is for someone like me, with novels set between the 1740s to 1780s. There’s not only a dearth of stock imagery of men and women in 18th Century clothing, but much of what is available is the result of what I can only describe as the Victorian ruination of all things Georgian. The Victorians have a lot to answer for when it comes to our views on the Georgians, from Hanoverian royalty to everyday living, and particularly the clothing! Victorian aristocrats repurposed the hand-me-down Georgian clothing of their grandparents for parties and masquerades, altering sleeves and petticoats, and even the original shape of the gowns to suit their 19th Century corseted bodies. Add to this ludicrous ill-fitting white wigs and theatrical makeup and you have a mishmash of styles that is often presented as “Georgian”, when in fact it is an awful Victorian mash-up.
You know from my books that the clothing of Georgian aristocrats was sumptuous and elegant, the textiles and colors vibrant, the embellishments designed to sparkle in candlelight. Clothes showcased the graceful movement of the wearer, from the glide of the feet when walking, to the subtle gesture of the hand in greeting, when fluttering a fan or drinking tea. Frock coats and gowns were the billboards that advertised a family’s wealth and position. How you carried yourself while dressed in a textile feast was an all-important indicator of your aristocratic bearing.
So you see my dilemma: How to portray carefully researched historical romances on a book cover without descending into caricature.
I shied away from using the Georgian genre paintings of the 19th Century because, again, they are a Victorian construct. Also, not only were such paintings used repeatedly on chocolate boxes and old greeting cards in the 20th century, they are now being recycled on many ebook covers.
With a lack of stock images of models in period correct clothing, the original full-set of Roxton Series covers used head shots as an alternative. Those covers (which are being replaced) represent how I see the main character of that particular book, and I searched tens of thousands of photos to find the right faces too! The head shots were artistically altered to portray the respective 18th Century nobleman or woman, and the background put the character in context of his/her environment, rendered in a crosshatch to echo the engraved images of the time. I was happy enough with them, especially since ebooks are often viewed at postage-stamp size on web pages, so simple head shots seemed like a good compromise under the circumstances.
What about ticking all the boxes?
These fabulous Gorgeous Georgian covers ticked all my boxes, but there was one BIG box I failed to tick. And that was the genre expectation box. My head shot covers don’t provide the visual cue to readers that here is an historical romance. Where’s the couple? Where’s the romantic moment? And if it is a lone woman, where is the big dress? And with my books, where there are no explicit sex scenes, where is the couple dressed in period clothing?
So I thought (dreamed), what if I could give my readers everything they expected and wanted to see? What if I could have covers that reflected the enormous amount of research that goes into my stories? What if I could bring that history and my hero and heroine to life in a romantically meaningful way, so that the cover not only satisfied genre expectations, but most importantly my readers’ expectations?
How hard could it be?
After all, I had done this before with my Georgian historical mystery series. The Alec Halsey covers have the model of my choice and he’s wearing period correct clothing. But while I was able to chose the model and brief the artist on the time period, that was the extent of my involvement, and that’s typically as good as it gets with cover artists.
If I was going to create new covers worthy of the Roxton Family Saga stories, then I wanted more control over the entire process. The saga spans forty years, there are six couples, which means 12 outfits, and six different settings. I dreamt of not only hiring the models of my choosing, but commissioning costume designers, reproduction jewelry makers, and sourcing the right historical accessories to create period correct outfits and settings. And I’d of course need to hire a photographer and digital design artists, and a whole slew of people expert in their fields, so that together we could bring my vision to life and create the most fabulous Georgian covers.
I also dreamt of documenting the entire process to show you, my readers, all the hard work, collaboration, dedication, and artistic vision that goes into creating an amazing cover—a sort of Behind the Scenes tour…
And then I thought—Why dream about it? Do it!
And so my book cover odyssey began. And what a journey! It’s coming up for five years, yes five long years, since my “What if” moment. And I can tell you there have been plenty of starts and stops, promises made, visions unable to be delivered, dreams shattered, many thousands of dollars spent (and yes, I guess wasted)… But, experience is never wasted and perseverance is everything!
So some major lessons were learned along the way… These might not be eye openers to many, and to be honest, most weren’t for me either, but the entire process made me open my eyes even wider!
What I learned:
You don’t always get what you pay for, and sometimes you get exactly what you paid for and it still sucks.
Don’t accept second best.
Artists showcase their best work but sometimes what they showcase and what they deliver don’t align, and then you’re in trouble. This is what happened with the first two cover designers I contracted. I laid down serious money and what I got in return (and this was after months of cajoling and too many emails to count), looked to have been done by someone else entirely. And the high-resolution images from the photo shoot I was promised… they never materialized. These projects were doomed. I walked away, with $$$$ already spent and with nothing to show for it. I was back where I started two years earlier.
The 18th Century is misunderstood, misinterpreted, and mishandled, not only by the book cover business, but also by most costume hire companies and some people calling themselves historical costume creators.
That if I wanted my covers to be the best they could be then I had to be involved in the entire process from conception to final cover art. There could be no leaving anything to chance or compromise—on models, costumes, settings, artwork, photography, production costs etc, etc.
Determined that I could have the covers I wanted and that my readers and stories deserve, I decided to assemble the right team of professionals to realize that vision…
Two years ago, enter Gene Mollica Studio… Gene Mollica is a photographer and digital artist who has mainly worked on fantasy and sci-fi covers. His eye-catching art is attention grabbing. But it was his exuberance, can-do attitude, friendliness, and willingness to discuss and embrace my vision that won me over. He has a fantastic team behind him, and they all contributed to the process from concept to photo shoot to completed cover art.
And so, after a long hiatus, the long process of bringing the Roxton Family Saga book covers to life began all over again with Gene and his team, and went on to include a whole host of other wonderfully talented and generous people expert in their field. They all came along for the ride, and embraced the project. They’ve also been incredibly supportive and discreet, even though we’ve all been bursting to show you these covers for years now!
What I did:
Hired Gene Mollica and his team from Gene Mollica Studio.
Hired New York models that closely aligned with the hero and heroine of each book.
Commissioned 18th Century outfits from dedicated historical costumers.
The resulting outfits are as historically accurate as we could possibly achieve. Countless hours and effort and logistical juggling went into the creation of twelve separate outfits—and this was before one stitch was even sewn by Classic Costume Reproduction Historical Dress, Mrs. Papendick Historical Seamstress, Time Traveler Outfitters, Beau Robbins, and Georgiana Couture.
Gathered together various pieces of 18th Century clothing and accessories.
Stocks (cravats), knee-high stockings, shirts and breeches patterned off 18th Century originals from Darcy Clothing in the UK. A pair of women’s shoes and women’s stockings from American Duchess Historical Footwear. Italian shoe designer Paoul was commissioned to create a pair of handmade eighteenth century mules. And when I needed to recreate Rory’s pineapple reticule, which is a replica of one in the Kyoto costume museum, I tracked down the wonderful KnittyVet from a 2014 blog post, and she agreed to make me a replica too. It’s fabulous.
There’s a beautiful à la Turque folding fan from France, a number of embossed hardbacks of Antonia’s favorite books (Tacitus of course!), a mahogany dining chair was sourced on eBay, and a chaise longue hired for Antonia to recline upon. These are just a few of the little extras that helped set the scene for each cover.
Commissioned 18th Century reproduction jewelry.
As my readers know, my characters’ fabulous clothing is complemented by equally fabulous jewelry. So I commissioned K. Walters At the Sign of the Gray Horse, an 18th Century reproduction jewelry maker extraordinaire, to create the jewelry I describe in the books, from Antonia’s emerald and diamond choker, to the Duke’s emerald ducal ring, and Lady Mary’s equipage (chatelaine). It’s all there!
What is even more exciting, Kimberly will be offering the Roxton Collection of 18th Century jewelry in her Etsy store. All profit from sales go to support the upkeep of Kimberly’s rescue horses. I dare you to resist owning your very own Antonia emerald bracelet, or Rory’s pineapple earrings! Stay tuned for the Roxton Jewelry Collection debut!
My Roxton Family Saga book cover project has truly been a worldwide collaborative effort. I’m in Australia. Gene and the Gene Mollica Studio team are in New York. Kimberly Walters is on the East Coast of the US. And the majority of my costume makers and suppliers are in England. One lives in Wyoming! And as I mentioned, the shoe designer is in Italy. Everyone involved in this project poured their heart and soul into making it work, and they appear in the credits of each Behind The Scenes (BTS) video. This could not have happened without them. The book covers and videos are testament to their expertise, enthusiasm, and commitment.
And a special shoutout to the Roxton Rococo Project FB group (Wendy, Carol, Lucinda, Karen, and Sam) who went on this creative journey with me, providing an invaluable sounding board. Thank you!
Did I just mention Behind the Scenes (BTS) video?
I sure did! That dream about documenting the entire process from concept to cover to show you all the hard work that went into the cover… Well we did that too!
Every new cover reveal will come with a dedicated blog post, and BTS video.
In each post I’ll be discussing the costumes, jewelry, background details, and the collaborative effort that went into the final artwork. Accompanying this will be a BTS video. So you’ll get a Behind the Scenes tour of the entire process, from models, to costumes, to photo shoot, to completed artwork. These videos truly bring my 18th Century Roxton world to life!
All new Roxton Family Saga covers!
It’s been one wild and crazy ride and we’re all so excited to finally be able to share this project with you, my wonderful readers. The first cover reveal is coming soon!