(Just FYI: I finally cracked and ended up signing up for NaNoWriMo towards the last minute. My name on the forums is Russophile–Estophile, if you’d like to find or friend me. I’ve started a near-complete rework of my long-hiatused alternative history, which has the new working title And Aleksey Lived. If you’re interested, you can see the brand-new synopsis under my Other Projects tab.)
My first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, is now available for pre-order. It releases on 7 November, a date I chose since it’s the anniversary of the October Revolution and my young character Nikolay Kutuzov-Tvardovskiy’s birthday. Even if the October Revolution wasn’t exactly the happiest development, I thought it’d be very appropriate to release it on an important date in Russian history. (The October Revolution is called such because Russia was still using the old Julian calendar at the time, which was 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar by the 20th century.)
I used Chopin Script for the typeface, and added the title and byline in Gimp, on my old computer. (My new computer hasn’t a disk drive, so I pretty much had no choice but to do it on the old machine.) I know this cover can’t compete with modern, glossy, digital artwork, but I’m proud of it for what it is. I certainly am entertaining thoughts of eventually upgrading it to a digital cover, but for now, it is what it is.
I knew for a long time I wanted to use an image from the flashback to the day Lyuba and Ivan skipped gymnasium to spend the day by Patriarch’s Pond, in late March 1917 (really April by the Gregorian calendar). I initially wanted to use the scene of Ivan proudly writing the Roman alphabet in the dirt with a stick, his left sleeve picking up dirt as he writes, but I quickly realized that was a bit too beyond my artistic capabilities.
I based Lyuba on these images of Theda Bara:
I based Vanya on Tony Hicks of The Hollies, my mental image of Vanya for a long time. They have the same thick mop of dark brown hair, big brown eyes, and soft, boyish facial features. (Seriously, Tony’s in his sixties now, and still has a bit of a boyish look.) I modeled him after this picture in particular:
My image of the swans was based on this picture:
My primary artistic passion is modern, abstract art, not realistic human figures, so there’s always a bit of a steep learning curve when I’m drawing a person. I still tend towards simplistic, whimsical, flat, Manga-like figures, not people with lots of depth, curves, and shading. New for me in this cover were drawing a kneeling figure and holding hands. The scanned image really doesn’t do the water justice; in the original artwork, it’s a beautiful deep blue-green color I got from blending two oil pastels.
My primary materials used were Portfolio Series water-soluble oil pastels and Caran d’Ache Pablo colored pencils, which are also oil-based. There are also touches of Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils (for Lyuba and Ivan’s hair, and Vanya’s eyes), Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils (wax-based), and Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels (for the swans’ bodies). Those are my go-to drawing materials. My days of being a marker-based artist are over!
And if you can’t already tell, both from this and my Little Ragdoll cover, I love blue and purple! Purple also happens to be Lyuba’s signature color.