How a cover saved a book

Star Spark is the first novel I’ve ever written, or rather, the first novel I ever started to write. Oh, wait, there was that one novel I started when I was nine, but that doesn’t count. Anyway, I’ve had the idea for this novel for many years now. Its temporary title was The War of the Lunatics. But you know, having an idea and sitting down to write it are two completely different things.

For some reason, I ended up working on the novel that would become Step into Magic before going back to The War of the Lunatics. And then, after I finished creating Cayla, Darian, Karina, and Sian, the characters wanted more stories, so I wrote Kissing Magic, which I really liked. But I couldn’t wrap up their stories there, so I wrote Within Magic. Phew.

Portals to Whyland book series

All this while, Dess and Saytera, the protagonists of Star Spark, kept bugging me, “What about us?”, “What about us?”. And I was like, “Just this novel, then you’re next.”

After I finished writing Within Magic, however, I felt that I needed a story with broader appeal. I tried to talk to Dess and Saytera to wait a little more, but they would hear none of that. They said that if I didn’t write their novel they wouldn’t let me write anything else.

It’s better not to argue with your characters. You know, they live in your mind, and who knows what trouble they can cause in there.

And so I sat down to continue The War of the Lunatics. I was aware that YA sci-fi isn’t very popular and that the plot of this novel was a bit slower than successful commercial novels, but I was happy to get this novel on paper.

For the cover, I decided to go for illustration again. I don’t know, there’s something highly addictive in seeing something so unique in your book! I wanted someone who could draw attractive guys, and after searching for a while, I found Natalya Sorokina (J Witless) who pretty much blew me out of the water with her work. There was just a small hiccup; for reference for Dess I had a picture of an East Asian guy, and I also said it could be similar to Natalya’s own awesome illustrations, like this:

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Envy

A post shared by Natalya Sorokina (@jwitless_art) on

 

She did exactly what I asked, but her first draft had Dess looking a little like Kylo Ren. That would be very awkward, since I’m active in the Star Wars fandom. Of course we can’t stop creating black-haired characters, but it was a little similar. I asked her to make his hair longer, she did it without any issue, and I think it got better. By the way, Dess has been bugging me to write his novel for more than ten years, so there’s no Star Wars inspiration for him other than the whole space opera, magic and technology thing, which is something that I also have inspiration from other sources. Dark-haired hero is a trope.

Anyway, despite the risk of being called out for trying to bank on the reylo fandom, which is not the case, since the characters are very different in terms of personality and arc, I think the cover came out amazing. It’s my favorite cover.

Star Spark

Now you might be wondering how it saved the book. Well, I ordered the illustration and formatted the cover when I was still starting to write the book. I always prefer to do this well in advance, to be on the safe side. So I had a pretty badass cover. And a very old novel.

As I got into writing Star Spark, I had so many doubts and so many negative voices that it became a struggle. I knew from the beginning that it would never be a bestseller, but I guess the idea that it would be a total failure didn’t encourage me to keep writing. I also am a better writer now, and I was noticing a sluggish beginning and a plot that sometimes deviates from common tropes.

In this struggle, I considered tossing the whole project. But I couldn’t. Not with that freakishly awesome badass cover. And it’s not as if I could use it for a different project. It has too many details that are specific to the characters and the world of Star Spark. After much debating, suffering, pondering, I finally sat down to finish it no matter what. I kept hitting the word count, saying “screw it if it’s good, bad, nobody reads it, or if everyone hates it.” The funny thing is that when I started revising the novel, the parts that I wrote after saying “screw it” were the best ones. The lesson I learned is that writing and wondering if it’s catchy, if it’s good, if it’s compelling doesn’t lead to good writing.

The novel is finished now, having taken me way much longer than should have been needed, and it’s on its final rounds of editing.

I have to thank Natalya Sorokina and her wonderful illustration. Without it, Star Spark would never have come to life. Perhaps it will never be a big hit, but at least I gave Dess and Saytera their stories, and now they’ll let me free to write new characters and new worlds. One day I may even come back to them.

Star Spark is coming out on May 26th 2020, and you can preorder it on Amazon.

 

 

05/10/2020 - Category: Day Leitao's books / Writer's life / Writing - Tags: Cover art / illustration / Star Spark / writing

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