Cover Graphics and How They Grew: What Ho, Automaton!

By Brenda Clough

This is one of my favorite artistic efforts, a foray into a medium I usually don’t dabble in: cartooning.  Inspired by our steampunk stories,  Chris Dolley wrote several stories about a steampunk Jeeves and Wooster.  At Book View, Chris is far and away the most savvy about marketing issues among us.  He immediately realized that the cover of something titled  What Ho, Automaton! had to vigorously signal Humor.  So he asked me to create a cartoonish drawing that he could then turn into a cover, and supplied a couple jpegs of Woosterish images for inspiration.  A chauffeur-driven airship, was his idea. 

Like the lady in the Sondheim song, one of my life mottoes is Never do anything twice.   The necessary corollary to this motto is, always do new things.   Within reason, I make it a general policy to say yes to new experiences and projects.  And if you do this a lot, you start to develop a sense of what you can and can’t do.  I do not do so well with laying tile, for example.  But graphic stuff, yes.  I instinctively went into the trace-and-redraw mode, sketching, saving what I liked, and redrawing what I didn’t.  A dozen or so iterations got me to this:  

I am particularly delighted with the martini and its olive; also note that the passenger car has a rumble seat and whitewall tires.

Chris seized this image and buffed and polished it, to get the final book cover.  You can see what a grand difference it makes, to have color in the image.  An image is not a cover — it’s only the springboard.

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Press.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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