SF & Fantasy

Cover & Interview: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks


weeks-blindingThis summer has some fantastic novels publishing!

One of them is The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks. Brent has become one of the newest writers whose fan base has grown exponentially in just a few years. With the publication of his Night Angel trilogy, fantasy fans have eagerly awaited his book releases, loving his blend of strong writing, intriguing characters, and plots that extend beyond what has been done before.

When The Black Prism, the first book in the Lightbringer trilogy, published in 2010, old and new readers praised it.

Now, in September, its sequel will be released!

Here is a bit more about that sequel, The Blinding Knife:

Gavin Guile is dying.

He’d thought he had five years left – now he’s got less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son and an ex-fiancĂ©e who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin’s got problems on every side. As he loses control of his magic, all magic is running wild, threatening to destroy the Seven Satrapies. The old gods are being reborn. Their army of color wights is unstoppable, and the only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.

A few days ago, Brent and Orbit Books released the cover for The Blinding Knife. I find it absolutely stunning. While it maintains the current fervor for featuring cloaked characters, it does it in an entirely new way. The colors are gorgeous while maintaining the darkness found in the cover for The Black Prism.

I decided to ask Brent a few questions about the new cover and how covers come to be!

INTERVIEW: THE BLINDING KNIFE BY BRENT WEEKS

Shawn Speakman: Cover art is extremely important — for story integrity as well as trying to capture new readers. You have been fortunate in your own cover art. Give us your impressions of it from the author’s point of view?

Brent Weeks: For an author, cover art is terrifying, because we’ve all seen incredibly bad fantasy art covers. I also keep in mind that I am not the target audience of my own book–I bring experiences and an aesthetic to my judgment of a book cover that may not be shared by the vast majority of the right readers for my books. I remember looking at my Night Angel covers and thinking, “Yeah, I think I like them. I think they’re good.” Now, I look at them and see what Orbit did right away: those covers were brilliant.

SS: Talk about the process of creating a cover and how much input an author has — or doesn’t have?

BW: I can only speak about my own experience with Orbit, and I feel they’ve been very good to me. Orbit wants their authors to be happy with the covers they get, but at the same time, it’s Orbit’s call. When you get the email–which is a terrifying email to open–it says something like, “Here’s your cover! Isn’t it great?” It doesn’t say, “Would you please give us thirty critiques of this cover so we can go change it.”

My process has been that at some point when I’m deep in writing a book, I start getting emails asking me to describe the clothing, the ethnicity, the weapons, the architecture–every part of my world that the artist might be able to grab hold of to make something visually catchy. It’s a lot of work, and you do it knowing that they may or may not use anything you throw their way. You sort of give them your best, and pray.

Later, you might get to see a rough draft and talk through some things. This is the stage for your freak-out, if you’re going to have one. I think it’s good to remember that everyone wants to get it right, but you’re also dealing with people who may have dozens of other covers to get done. I try to keep my critiques brief, specific, and manageable. You are dealing with limited budgets and limited time.

SS: I know THE BLACK PRISM had a few different covers before settling on the one that is published. How many incarnations did THE BLINDING KNIFE cover go through?

BW: We basically got the rough draft, which sort of leaked a while ago, and I gave my input on that, and then they worked on it some more to really amp the color, and then sent it out to the photo illustrator, who polished it.

SS: What is it about publishers putting caped characters on covers these days?

BW: I think we’ve all had that experience when a movie casts a character, and they aren’t quite what you wanted them to be, and you’re disappointed. Book covers often try to dance on that line of giving you enough to know what this book features:

[X] A masculine guy with a soft streak running through his roguish ways
or
[ ] A butt-kicking librarian with a tramp stamp and leather pants.

At the same time, they want to preserve the special magic of books: which is that it engages readers’ imaginations. The result is often a heroine in the shadows–or wearing a cloak–or wearing a hood. It’s a tradeoff that is actually so good that it’s been made a bazillion times now, so now, it’s actually bad just through repetition. (Although I should point out that though bloggers and authors are probably sick of hooded men, we look at them a lot more than the bulk of fantasy readers do, so our perceptions may not be shared by the people who matter–the people who buy books.)

SS: You are well read. What are some of your favorite non-Weeks covers?

BW: Staying within fantasy, but branching out beyond my own little niche, I really dig Mary Robinette Kowal’s new cover for Glamour in Glass. Beautiful and evocative. I still have fondness for the old Darrell Sweet covers because they brought me such joy as a child, and I really like the homage Michael Whelan’s done in his new Wheel of Time cover. I also like Doug Hulick’s British cover for Among Thieves (but let’s not get into the debate about UK vs. US covers!), and while I’m at it I should say that my French publisher Bragelonne consistently puts out stunning covers. I thought Mark Chadbourn’s The Age of Misrule covers were striking. My own publisher Orbit has had some real freedom in the US by having newer authors, and they’ve really taken advantage of that, experimenting with often-brilliant results like The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, and in the more mainstream cover for The Heroes, which I think hits that photo-realistic gritty note better than any of his others so far (and sorry for that mixed metaphor, but Joe is my nemesis and deserves no better.) Who would have thought in 1970 that a fantasy book would look like that?

In the end, though, a cover is important, but the story is much more so. Certainly Robert Jordan got a bigger jump out of the gate because of the Darrell Sweet covers, but does anyone remember George R. R. Martin’s first covers? They weren’t bad, but just meh. Even as they’ve played with the formula, the best they’ve gotten is to classy and non-offensive (at least until the HBO covers, which are as one would expect, amazing). Those books blasted right past the covers because of the storytelling, so I’d advise writers not to freak out too much. Concentrate on the story, because that’s what you control–and ultimately, that’s what everyone remembers.

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks will published on September 11, 2012!


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