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Copyright 2004 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Tara K. Harper:
Stories Behind the Cover Art
Anecdotes and Explanations

Shadow Leader
Storm Runner
Wolf's Bane

Cat Scratch Fever


  Wolfwalker thumbnail: link to wolf_1 file     Wolfwalker  (published 1990)

I still really love this cover.  I love the detail, the shadows on the snow, the background details of the mountains...  And of course, after all the horror stories I had heard about first novels, I was thrilled to see that Dion did indeed have clothes on.  None of that steel-bikini-in-the-snow look for my books, thank heavens.  I am very pleased with this Edwin Herder cover.

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  Shadow Leader thumbnail sketch: link to wolf_2 file     Shadow Leader  (published 1991)

This cover was designed to be more of a graphic pattern than a standard cover.  Del Rey knew they would promote the book in a cardboard dump (the ones that display 12-15 covers of the same book at the same time---you often see these displays in the front of bookstores), so they asked the artist to make sure the design would be eye-catching in such a display.  As a display, with a dozen or so covers all together, the effect is almost Escheresque.  

I have to say, however, that I have never understood the need to give Dion a vampire-red cloak--or any other of these scarlet-colored clothes--on the covers, when in the book, she wears clothing colored  in woodsy tones and earth shades.  You'll see the bright colors repeated, cover to cover, regardless of the artist.  If nothing else, the contrast of all the reds sets off the background nicely, but it is always a bit startling to me.

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  Storm Runner thumbnail sketch: link to wolf_3 file     Storm Runner  (published 1993)

I call this cover the Artist's Revenge.  It's not really his fault (the SF element chosen for the cover wasn't really appropriate), but the pudgy runner who is missing a leg, the nuclear-glowing Siberian Husky, and the SR71 in the background require some explaining.  Unfortunately, I can't explain them.  The Siberian Husky was a nice improvement over the more doglike "wolf" on the Shadow Leader cover.  I did suspect, however, that because I had sent in some pictures of wolves for the artist, that I had somehow offended him enough that he took out his revenge by making the Storm Runner wolf glow.

The Storm Runner cover is the result of a rush job, my losing my own sketches that showed the sky tethers originally built by the colonists, and Del Rey insisting on featuring the SF elements of the story on the cover.  Unfortunately, the truncated mountain where the skyhooks were originally built is described in the book from the top of the mountain--not from down inside.  I have no idea why there is an SR71 in the background; the skycars are actually shaped more like a cross between a sailplane and a glider--and they aren't featured at all in this Wolfwalker story.  There is a massive electromagnetic grid which guides the skyhook cable into the slot which is cut through the mountain, but the grid really doesn't look anything like a holodeck grid, so I'm not sure where that came from either.  And Dion, who runs trail almost every day of her life, should not be pudgy, pouty, nor petulant.  She's opinionated, acts before she thinks, and is stubborn as a Missouri mule, but she has never been pouty or petty.  

This was the cover that created my insistence on having cover consultation, if not cover approval in the future.

Storm Runner is not about SF so much as it is about obligation--a human, not a technology, issue.  The cover is misleading.  Unfortunately, there are apparently enough cover flats left in the warehouses (they are stored separately from the printed novels), that even though Storm Runner is ready for a new print run, the old covers will continue to be used.

By the way, this book is cursed.  Check out the German cover to see what I mean...

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   Wolf's Bane thumbnail: link to blurb, cover     Wolf's Bane  (published 1997)

This cover is already one of my favorites.  I love the edges of the ice, the contrast of the blue-white ice with the black rock, and pretty much the entire cover.  Eric Peterson's style is wonderful; the person who did the lettering was right on the money; and the embossing is perfect--neither too much nor too little.  My only real regret is that I wish the cover had not been cropped as extensively as it actually was; the original art showed more ice, giving a much more detailed sense of the structure of the ice caves in which Dion ends up, and a more chilling (if you'll pardon the pun) feel to the sense of danger.  Also, one of the wolves was cropped significantly, leaving only its head sticking out into the cover.  

Although I love the cover, according to Eric, the artist, the cover was a nightmare to complete.  His original sketch had Dion half-jumping off that ice ledge, giving the impression that she was about to jump across the crevasse.  The art department requested more detail on the wolves, so there was one go-around.  They requested changes to the ice, so there was another go-around.  And finally, after everything else, they requested that he add a rock under Dion's foot so that she didn't look as though she was falling off the cliff.  Adding that was apparently quite difficult.  But the kicker was that, after all the work in creating a balance with the amount of black vs. ice-blue, shapes, etc., after the details on the wolves, the changes to the ice, and so on, the cover was cropped so that the wolf with the additional detail nearly disappeared, the rock under Dion's foot is barely seen, and the ice stalactites and stalagmites are practically absent from view.  Sigh.

In spite of the problem process of creating the cover,  the cover itself quite clean, very eye-catching, and even though I wish it had not been cropped quite so close, I am extremely pleased with the overall effect.  Wolf's Bane is definitely one of my favorite covers, and I hope that I will be able to convince Eric Peterson to work on my book covers again.

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  Greyheart thumbnail cover: link to wolf_9 file     Grayheart  (published 1996)

This book was published before Wolf's Bane, and this was the first cover Eric Peterson had done for me.  I don't think I have approached any cover with more trepidation than I have this one.  The artist (Eric Peterson) was fairly new to Del Rey.  When I asked what he did, my editor said, "Oh, he does horror."   Aaaack! I thought.  Horror?  Little girls slaughtered beneath dark, tendril-branched trees that have knives for leaves and blood for sap?  Cracked-make-up clowns chasing skinny women in dark alleys?  What horrible things would this guy do to my wolfwalkers?

I asked (politely, mind you) if I could see some examples of his work.  I asked if I could speak to him directly.  Both answers were yes.  Eric was gracious enough to send me a sample portfolio, and sure enough, he did horror.  He also did romance and some SF and fantasy.  Over 200 covers, but only something like three SF/fantasy covers in the pile.  However, the attention to detail that each sample cover showed reassured me completely:  the sense of color, of texture, of line--all demonstrated well-honed skill.  But what Eric also included in the samples he sent were two photos of landscape paintings--and they were wonderful.  He had the detail, the realism, the meticulous attention to balance...  If I tried to describe his personal style, I'd say he was a classically trained realist.  

Eric and I discussed potential elements for the Grayheart cover at length, and I found myself describing everything from the fungi that infected certain trees, to the leaf structures and biologies of various plants, to the materials-science principles used in the architecture.  I felt assured that my main character would actually look like herself on the cover.  One of the things that was important was that the cover character, Rezsia (the main character in Grayheart), had to look similar to, but different enough from her grandmother, Dion (who is the main character of other Wolfwalker novels) that the two would not be confused.  Between Grayheart and Wolf's Bane, Eric achieved exactly that.

As seems to be standard practice, the original art was cropped severely to fit the cover.  In this case, the cropping eliminated a wonderful sense of line (following the slight fall in the stream at Dion's feet) in the painting.  Even at that though, the cover is well-representative of the story.  The texture of the tree beside Gray Vlen (the wolf), Vlen's wet fur, Rezsia's clothing, the water in the stream--every element has the kind of detail I love.  The lettering was also very attractive, and the colors of the title called out the wolf's eyes very well.  And did you notice?  My name was suddenly larger than the title of the book---I must now have "arrived" as An Author!

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  Cat Scratch Fever file     Cat Scratch Fever  (published 1994)

This was the first cover Rowena Morrill created for me.  I had seen her work for Anne McCaffrey, so I was more than happy that she was available to do the first CatScratch cover.  The one thing I forgot to tell her when we discussed the cover, was that "big cat" is a biological term, and it refers to certain feline species.  I really wasn't asking for an 1,800-lb cougar!  We cleared up that little mishap and the issues about feline skeletal structure on the next cover--the one for Cataract.  One of the things that made it so pleasant to work with Rowena is that she appreciates cats, so talking with her about cats in general was  rather fun.

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  Cataract thumbnail sketch: link to cat_2 file     Cataract  (published 1995)

I think this cover represents one of the few covers I have ever seen--in any fiction genre, in which a felid truly looks like a felid, and not some stylized representation.  Rowena did a wonderful job giving Tsia's cougar the right look  Cataract is one of my favorite covers.

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  Lightwing thumbnail sketch: link to light_1 file   Lightwing  (published 1992)

The Lightwing cover went through one of those "interesting" processes.  When my editor called me to let me know about the original concept for the cover, I was not exactly enthusiastic.  Think:  naked woman in space with gossamer, filmy strand of fabric, on background of stars. I mentioned to my editor that space was, well, rather cold for naked humans, and also that there was really very little in the way of breathable atmosphere in space.  I would appreciate it, I told her, if my main character could have some clothes, and perhaps even a space suit.  

Needless to say, my editor was already on it:  she had requested that the artist do exactly those things.  Although the art department made those changes, what they also did was pick a three-paragraph scene in the middle of the book to make into the cover, and the artist, not knowing the book, turned the solar sails (a sport method of photon-sailing) into glassy, mirrorlike, angelic wings.  But hey, at least the main character had some clothes on.  And in spite of the inconsistency with regards to the actual story, I found the wings on the cover to be both imaginative and intriguing.

One of the strengths of cover artist, Edwin Herder, seems to be in his use of color. His original painting for Lightwing portrayed the main character, Kiondili, with brown hair. The cover looked warm. The brown shade of hair also tied together the shades of the planets, moons, and title, creating a visual line of color which paralleled the graphic line along one solar-sail wing and the main character's body.

However, in the story, Kiondili has black hair and gray, fuzzy skin (she's a human-mutant).  So my editor called the art department; the head of the art department called the artist, and Kiondili's hair turned black.  (Her skin stayed caucasian--no gray fuzz for skin for her. Sigh.)

With that change, what happened to the feel of  the cover was quite interesting. With Kiondili's hair color changed to black, the cover became cool--almost remote. I'd say it shifted the emphasis of the cover from having a character who looked warm and livable to a stellar, more science-fictiony feeling, with the cold, alienation of space more pronounced. Especially when the two versions of the covers are set side by side, you can see the difference.

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Copyright 2004 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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