Mar 19, 2023

Client: R.M. Connor
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

Fonts: Dragon Fire & Seraph
Stock: Deposit Photos, Period Images


My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am the Cover Villain. I’m here to talk about the concepts behind the cover. Today we’re going to be talking about Shattered Book 1 in the Lucy Thorne Series by R.M. Connor. This book sits in the Urban and Dark Fantasy category and even has a bit of romance in the subplot. This is the fourth collaboration with Connor, and I always look forward to her mix of bold inspiration and willingness to step back and allow me creative freedom.

Connor came to the table with a lot of symbolism in her design brief. She wanted a dark, mysterious tone and offered items like mirrors and crows as part of the brief. There is a portal element to the story that utilizes mirrors. Urban fantasy comes with a lot of visual cues and reader expectations. There’s typically visible magic, a heroine, an urban setting, and plenty of drama. Because of these iconic visual cues, it is important in an urban fantasy project to find key elements to focus on that make it unique to the author.

I had just come off a project relying on a mirror to frame the subject on the cover, and I wanted to avoid a literal translation. The typography offered a chance to incorporate glass and because of the title Shattered, it only made logical sense to break it. Dragon Fire also works for this title because of the sharp jagged edges, which relates back to the idea of broken glass.

For urban fantasy, the model is the most important element. Sometimes she can be found with a sword or gun depending on the flavor of urban fantasy. Unless a weapon is central to the story, I like to rely on a dramatic pose. I had bookmarked this photograph from Period Images months ago. I loved the leather pants and black trench coat. But the selling point for me is that she is in the middle of an action. I like a model to have energy which means they need to be doing something other than standing still. Something as simple as removing her cowl with her hip pushed out to the side creates a beautiful S-Curve. With her hair being a rich blonde, it helps frame her face with a little change in saturation and color of her lipstick, we have a face that catches our attention.

Colors schemes play an important role in Urban Fantasy. For the brighter side of the genre, we’ll see a lot of yellow and blue glows. On the darker spectrum, we’ll often see blues into purples. And for the sinister books in the genre, we see a lot of red and black. Because I knew we’d be working with a model covered in so much black, I wanted to make sure the background remained lighter. I decided to use a city-scape that could be any city and left it a monochrome blue. This would allow the black of the model to pop forward. It also meant that I had purple in reserve for any rich pops of color. The yellow halo, however, wasn’t the original plan. But thanks to the model’s hair, it only made sense to create a pillar of magic that helped drive the viewer’s eye back to the red of her lips.

For the crow, I knew I wanted to go with a more suggestive shape than a literal piece of stock photography. In another cover, the two styles might not blend. But because of the magical nature of urban fantasy, and the special effects radiating from the model, the thick brushstrokes of the crow continue to create energy. It also helps frame her face, which ultimately is the key focal point of this design.

When I sent the project to Connor for review, she came back with some strong thoughts. At the time, the bottom of the design faded to black to help show off the title. She didn’t think it was as striking as the rest of the composition. I always value a client’s input. Even if they’re not sure about the vocabulary for design, they understand their books. We had a dialogue, and she revealed her love for the show Supernatural and how much title card caught her attention. With a single reference, I knew we needed an explosion of dark magic that bled into the crows. To help step away from the pristine aspect of the cover, the shattered glass came next, helping with this “burst” effect we see in the title.

Lastly, the entire project gets a bit of Photoshop magic to help create cohesion between all the design elements. This helps unify the lighting and mesh the objects so they appear to belong in a single space. For this particular design, I pushed it a bit further than normal and it almost leaves the model with a painterly effect. This might not work in other designs, but because of the paint strokes of the crow, it works.

And that is the concept behind Shattered. While there might be visual cues expected in a particular genre, it’s always important to find elements that help make a design unique. This can be achieved when author and designer have a strong collaborative spirit.

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