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More Than People
Ennis never sticks with one look, and when you browse through his website, you are struck by the fact that he is continually mixing it up and innovating. I would guess that he bores easily. I wasn’t surprised to see people emerging from covers that also suggested still life or sea/landscape treatments.
Remember September by Jon Salem is a suspense novel featuring a heroine who was abused as a child, who then starts receiving abusive communiqués as an adult. We loved this one with the eye staring out at us from the September leaves. On the surface this may seem like a very simple cover but, when you start breaking it down, you will notice that many techniques were used to produce the crisp-looking final product.
We see /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages within /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages, beginning with a small leaf inside of a larger leaf. The large one is dying faster because of its red-brown color. The yellow leaf is still intact and it has the woman’s eye within it. The eye is especially clever. It is green – a nice contrast to the leaves. It is also shadowed in the color of the larger leaf. We know it is a woman’s eye because of the plucked and penciled brow and the mascara separated lashes. But the real streak of genius is with the scoring of the leaves with lines, the lined outline of the small leaf and the bright yellow splotches within the smaller leaf. Without those touches, the impact would not be nearly as strong. In fact, it is the yellow splotches that make us see that small leaf as yellow and not the rest of the colors within the small leaf.
Another tiny introduction of people is found on the Zebra time travel romance anthology, Timeless Winter, depicted on the left . Pristine snow forms the background. Placed on the snow, in the foreground, is a crystal ball showing a historical style sleigh ride with a man and a woman as passengers. Propped next to the crystal ball is an old-fashioned pocket watch. Note the simple, clean color palette again of white, lavender and purple. Ennis is using /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages within /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages as well by placing the sleigh landscape within the dome upon the close up of the snow.
I bought the romantic suspense novel Half Moon Bay, by Meryl Sawyer, because of Ennis’ cover (seen on the right), which suggests the Florida Keys in which it is set. I’ve been to the Keys, and this image, plus the next one, are evocative of my memories. The cover works because of the watery blue image Ennis used as the background.
The way color is used makes this image. It is all white, blue and violet and caught my eye right away. The white is used in the palm leaves but it also was used in the bottom of the pool. You would otherwise not know it is water. Water moves in the open air and light is reflected within, and all of this occurs over the heroine’s face. For her eye to be perceived as that of a living person, a highlight is put in the iris, the white dot next to the pupil. The violet on the woman’s face represents the shadows on her face. Because the heroine must endure plastic surgery after a car crash, her shifting image in the water is apt. The Keys are also known for their production of batik-like fabric, which the white lines (the wax lines) suggest. This idea is a semi-abstraction of what’s going on in the story and worked well for me.
Ennis next uses a whole person in a cover, Stella Cameron’s Key West, seen to the far left. It is a similar concept to Half Moon Bay but this time there is only the water and the woman. The white is very important again because it shows us several things. This water is in a pool because the water is crystal clear except for the white lines, which reflect light and motion. The woman is swimming because the white lines become more frenzied around the areas where she is swimming freestyle. Finally, we can tell she is nude because we can see her white swimsuit marks on her body. Swimming is my favorite sport, so water /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages score very high with me.
I absolutely adored Summer’s End, by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, and the cover directly to the left complements it perfectly. It is both a romance novel and women’s fiction, so making the lake the overriding image was a good choice. That is exactly the way the lake looked in my imagination. This Minnesota “resort” has no modern conveniences, like indoor plumbing and electricity, so that basic cabin looks realistic. The novel takes place over one summer at that lake when a new extended family comes together because each side’s older, widowed parent married the other. Each of the seniors has an adult child come together in yet another romance. Everyone in the extended family has an opinion about their brother or sister becoming a couple and some of these siblings are dysfunctional. That’s the newly romancing couple sitting on the end of the dock.
Ennis is an experienced hand at romance covers and knows that to totally leave out realistically depicted yet gorgeous people from his portfolio would be too big a big risk with romance readers. Some of you have written me stating that you want nothing but muscular, larger-than-life heroes with handsome faces and exposed flesh. You don’t like image space being “wasted” with anything else. Others would also like the heroine included. Many want the people plus dramatic settings on every side of the cover. With these last four Ennis /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages, we hope to fulfill those expectations.
Spell Weaver, seen below on the left, is a romance by Roxi Ashe. The hero, with just a bare hint of background, is the entire cover image. He’s got long blonde hair, is handsome and has an exposed muscular chest and legs. Further, he’s got on a Nordic or Viking-like costume, with war-like accessories, so finally we have a Viking who doesn’t arouse the readers’ ire.
I bought Leigh Greenwood’s Lily (to the right, above) because of its cover. I’m attracted to the romance of the Old West with its gunslingers and saloons, which I wrote about in an earlier column. One of my friends really liked the hero’s being depicted in the process of shaving. She hadn’t seen that used before and thought it was a fresh, sexy view of the hero and a good reason for his chest to be bare. These mini-views of the couple within the story are also very popular.
I also bought More Than Magic, by Kathleen Nance, for its wrap-around cover rather than its story. How do I know? I only have read half of the novel and that was ages ago. I keep meaning to get back to it but I have two bookshelves of romance novels with that “abandoned part way through” problem, all with great covers, of course.
Lots of readers have liked this cover and Sandi and I were both amazed it didn’t it make through the finals and into the 1999 Cover Contest. Sandi bought it as well and nominated it for best paranormal cover; she, along with AAR’s review staff, enjoyed the story too. Although the purple color certainly helped the cover in my case, Sandi hates purple. Thus, I to assumed it was the male wizard in the black costume, chest partially exposed, that was the clincher. I liked the white light streaming from his hands and winding around him.
Our last image, seen directly below, is a SF romance, Black Mantle, by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Although the hero is behind the heroine on this cover, we liked that. It was an unusual placement of the two of them, back to back. It is reflective of the conflict between lead characters, at the heart of most romance novels. It sets the tone much better than showing them in a traditional clinch. The hero is atypical, which we liked as well. Finally, the cut-away rock structure in the foreground, leading into the background view of the rest of this rock-hewn planet, makes for a very dramatic art print. A friend’s husband read the book and liked it as a pure fantasy “with a romantic edge.” The wife loved its cover.
There are a lot of conclusions I can draw about John Ennis’s work. One I didn’t realize, until writing this article, is that I buy a lot of it. Another is that his greatest strength is his ability to formulate overall design concepts, which he is capable of then flawlessly executing. I did not realize, until studying these covers, how much thought he puts into an idea before he ever starts painting it on his MAC. These ideas very much reflect the story line of the novel too, which is what readers say they want.
And how can I reconcile the hated Bewitched Viking image with all of these foregoing splendid /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages? Easier than you might think. Just like the authors complain to us that the publisher wants to get involved with their writing so as to make it more marketable, so too must the publisher want to get involved in making art. My advice to Leisure/Love Spell’s is to stick to publishing books while letting the writers write them and the artists paint them. Case closed.
— Carol Irvin
with technical assistance from Sandi Morris
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