Looking at the Clues: A Cover Story

A well-done fiction book cover does many things at the same time. It attracts the designated customer base. It gives readers an idea of what’s between the covers while keeping its plot twist secrets. It informs the reader of the basics. It stands out in a crowded bookshelf. It creates an emotional reaction in the viewer.

To be effective, the design needs to be thought out and every detail made to count.

The upcoming Fair Stands the Wind by Catherine Lodge was designed puporsefully to make use of each design element in communicating those layers. Discovering the meaning of cover elements is often like unwrapping a gift. As you read the book, you come across a detail or an event and then go back to the cover and look at it with fresh eyes like peeling away the gift paper to reveal what’s below.

So without taking all that fun away from you, we’ll refrain from discussing all but one of the details of the cover.

There is a compass rose layered behind a map and above the letter in the upper left hand corner of the cover. Take a moment to think about what that represents to you and what it has to do with the story.

I’m sure everyone made the connection to Captain Darcy being in the navy and this is a very obvious nautical element everyone can connect to men of the sea.

What other meaning did you find?

Many times the compass rose is used symbolically to represent direction and purpose. It can represent finding or knowing the way home. Conversely, losing a compass means you are lost, so having one means you are not lost.

Poetically speaking, telling someone they are your north could mean that they are the center of your world like the north star is the center of the sky. It could mean they are what gives you purpose or keeps you centered.

Now what about the placement of the compass rose? It sits just behind Elizabeth’s head. What does that say? Is she Captain Darcy’s way home? Is she the center of his world? Or does she give him purpose? Does she keep him centered? That’s one of the secrets best left to the book to define.

And yet there’s just a bit more of meaning in the placement of the compass rose. Do you see how it surrounds Elizabeth’s head like a crown? It is an echo of religious symbolism. Think of all those representations of saints with a circular crown around their heads showing their status as having reached a step closer to godliness above the rest of us mere humans. It might mean that Elizabeth is innocent and pure, or maybe she has the patience of a saint.

But also think of artists who have taken that symbolism and given it a new meaning like Alphonse Mucha. He used it in many of his works depicting beautiful innocent or shy looking women who at the same time were sensual and godesslike. The circular diadem element maintains the aspect of deity, except it elevates women to goddess status.

So is Elizabeth more of the pure and innocent saint or the sweet, sensual goddess? Is she one thing to some people and the other to one man? In this case, it’s up to you to add your interpretation of what you read into this story to see which ways Elizabeth might lean towards the divine.

2 Responses

  1. Suzan Lauder

    The cover artists at Meryton Press are famous for reading the full story, listening to the author’s ideas, then coming up with a cover that exceeds expectations and is a standout within the range of JAFF covers these days. This story only speaks to a limited part of the cover of “Fair Stands the Wind,” but as a reader, I can see many other aspects of the images that tell the story within, and I’m sure there are more hidden messages than I’ve discovered. Thanks for an excellent article detailing one in ways more than I would ever have expected!

  2. Janet T

    Excellent post, Zorylee. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on placement and all aspects of your cover design. I’m looking forward to reading this one and studying the cover as I go. 🙂 I love covers that depict parts of what is inside and make me want to know more! Thank you!