Evolution of a book

Daughter of the SkyI’m really excited to announce that my historical novel DAUGHTER OF THE SKY should be up for sale from 1 March 2013.

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 πŸ™‚ .

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?

( 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.

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. To find out more about her and her novels, you can visit her website.
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20 Responses to Evolution of a book

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Michelle, I’m so eager for DOTS to be out. And that breathtaking sky on the cover will make it stand out. I loved this book from the first time I read it. I think many other people will love this too. I’ve read a lot of wonderful books in my life, and Daughter of the Sky is right up there with all of them.

    I should mention that Laura does all my covers, too, and I love them! She has such great vision, much better than mine.

  2. Misty Evans says:

    Beautiful cover, Michelle (and Laura!). Congrats on tweaking and getting this story out. It sounds fascinating.

    I love all of Laura’s covers. She does an excellent job. the ones she’s done for Edie’s Galaxy Girls series are some of my favorites, along with my Kali Sweet covers. I can’t wait to see what she does for the third Kali book. Cover art is always crucial to the success of any book.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Misty, I love your Kali Sweet covers, too – and your books. I have several favorite covers of mine that Laura did. Dragon Blues, Miracle Lane, Must Worship Cats, and even my first cover, Cattitude. But probably one of the best is the cover for Entangled, a Paranormal Anthology. It’s amazing how she got all the authors name on it. That was pretty fabulous.

    • Thanks, Misty! And I agree about Laura’s work on Edie and your books.

  3. Wow!! What a beautiful cover, Michelle, and the story sounds so intriguing, too!! CONGRATULATIONS on the release of your new book this Friday! πŸ™‚
    Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …“How I Met My Mr. (or Ms.) Darcy”

  4. Thanks, Michelle! (and Edie and Misty!)
    I was very excited to do this cover- I really enjoyed looking at all the photos of Drakensburg. I can’t wait to read the book- I know your wonderful writing will bring the setting and character to life!

  5. Amy Atwell says:

    Michelle–it’s not only a great cover but a GREAT book. I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peek. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m loving the history, the characters, the camp life of the soldiers.
    Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Story Icons: The Protector

  6. Lori says:

    Wow! I love it when authors write out of the box! This is def. different and that makes me very eager to read it! Love the cover!

  7. Liz Kreger says:

    What a terrific job Laura and you did on the cover. It’s really eye catching.

    I know that DOTS is a great book. Definitely writing outside the box and a wonderful story of a time and place that I could never imagine. You made it come to life, Michelle. Well done.

  8. Amy R says:

    Wow, just the summary of the book and the cover takes you away from reality. I look forward to reading this, Michelle! Congrats! Great job to you and Laura!

  9. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Michelle,

    Lovely cover and the book sounds great! Then I’d expect nothing less from you and Laura. Dynamite writer and a dynamite cover artist!

    Looking forward to reading it. πŸ™‚
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Touched by Death – free on the 26th and 27th

  10. I loooooooooove Laura’s covers. She did Deadlier by the Dozen for me and nailed the cover spot on, right down to the different color eyes. I’ve never gotten more compliments about a cover than that one. One look at your cover, Michelle, and Laura’s name screamed at me before I read it in your post. πŸ˜€

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