This book has been a real labour of love from the beginning. I put off writing it for years, afraid I wouldn’t do it justice, and I have rewritten it many times. Now I’m just involved in the final, minor tweaks, which although annoying, add that last, lustrous shine to my baby .
One of the most challenging parts of the process has been the cover, and I thought I’d talk a bit about how my cover designer, Laura Morrigan, and myself slowly built it to the final version.
First off, the book is set during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, in Zululand. There are plenty of images, taken from paintings made after the war, and from sketches by soldiers who were talented amateur artists, of the battle that forms the heart of the novel, but that wasn’t the look I was going for. This isn’t about a battle, but about a woman who has to balance love, loyalty and a deep-seated sense of honour in an extremely difficult situation.
Slowly, Laura and I (mainly Laura!) waded through images of Zululand, and eventually chose the one on the cover. Because amaZulu means people of the sky, I wanted the sky to be the spectacular Zululand sky I grew up with, and the main focus of the cover. In the end, it was hard to choose the best one, and I picked the sunset one, because I liked the colour contrast.
And then, the woman — Elizabeth, my heroine.
She’s the sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, and was taken in by the Zulus. She has red hair, which is an integral part of the book, and I wanted her to dress like a 19th Century Zulu woman would, which means she’s naked from the waist up. This is where a GREAT deal of sympathy needs to go to Laura. I think her eyes must have crossed with all the half-naked women (but still tasteful!) she had to look at. I wanted the military nature of the book — two countries going to war, with a woman caught in the middle — to come through, so we added the assegai, the Zulu throwing spear, which also shows how Elizabeth is stepping up to the plate as a warrior herself.
I think we’ve managed to capture some of the book’s essence in the cover, but it was definitely an effort, and hat’s off to Laura for her unflagging enthusiasm and talent.
What kind of covers do you like best?
About DAUGHTER OF THE SKY:
( Published 1 March 2013)
About Daughter of the Sky:
The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don’t accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he’s gambling with isn’t his own . . .
The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15 year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand’s most important spy.
While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth’s disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned – no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs.
But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire.