I’m delighted to welcome Ilana C. Myer to the site today! Her fantasy debut novel, Last Song Before Night, was just released today, and she’s sharing some thoughts on cover art—both regarding fantasy cover art in general and the beautiful cover of her new book. If you want to check out a sample, you can also read an excerpt from Last Song Before Night at Tor.com.

Last Song Before Night Cover
Deconstructing the Cover Art of Last Song Before Night

When the time came to talk about cover art for my first novel, Last Song Before Night, there was an uneasy feeling about the topic verging on post-traumatic stress. This for a simple reason: I am a longtime fantasy fan. And as a fan of books coming out in the 80s and 90s, fantasy covers had tended to become synonomous with one word: embarrassing.

There were exceptions, of course. Covers by Michael Whelan were never embarrassing. I especially loved his work for Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, and a close runner-up would be the cover of Melanie Rawn’s The Ruins of Ambrai. And if I’m going to gush about covers I loved, props also to one of my favorite covers ever, the original art for The Harp of Imach Thyssel by Patricia C. Wrede, which did not inspire my book consciously but—who knows?

But most of the time, the covers of the fantasy novels I loved so much were a cause of embarrassment at school, on the bus, and at home when I was trying to convince my parents that the novels I was reading weren’t junk. This last was hard to do when the cover featured a He-Man lookalike being vamped at by a woman in a gauzy gown-bikini. No one would ever believe me that these were great books with great characters. I’m not sure I blame them.

So even though fantasy covers have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, I still approached cover art for my book with trepidation. As is obvious from the result, I need not have worried. My editor had the superb concept for a cityscape, which perfectly sets the tone for the book, set to a great extent in the capital city of Tamryllin. While I was not involved in the process to a large extent—most authors are not—I was encouraged to send a description of Tamryllin to the cover artist, the amazing Stephan Martiniere.

What I told him was to be more influential than I would have guessed. I said that the Tamryllin in my imagination was a cross between Paris and Jerusalem. This had evolved naturally in the telling: I wrote the first draft of Last Song Before Night in the serene Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon. The golden light, the pale stone, and the ever-present honeysuckle and jasmine infiltrated my senses and engulfed my conception of an invented world.

At the same time, the story is partly inspired by the troubadours, and my first visit to Paris—the culmination of a long-held dream—was also that same year. I fell in love with Paris, as of course one must, and that found its way into the writing too, into the shaping of Tamryllin as a place of grandeur and sophistication.

What I would not have predicted—and what I am so grateful for now—is how much of his own passion the artist brought to the project. There is a fire of inspiration in the art that is stunning to see. A framed print hangs on our wall now. And while I can’t predict what future covers will hold (two more books in this series are forthcoming!), this first, for me, is magic.

Ilana Myer

Ilana C. Myer has written about books for the Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Her first novel, Last Song Before Night, is forthcoming from Tor/Macmillan in September 2015.