It’s time for the November meeting of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which convenes the first Wednesday of every month. This month I’m a little insecure about my book covers and the long-hiatused project I’m giving a near-complete-reworking.
My first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, releases 7 November and is now available for pre-order. I initially had cold feet after creating my cover, but came back to being proud of it. However, I can’t help but feel that some people might find the two book covers I designed to be too amateurish, not modern or trendy enough, not good enough to make people want to buy the books.
I admit I’m not the world’s most professional or experienced artist, but I really felt those two books in particular were so personal, they’d be done most justice by my own vision for the cover. And sometimes a whimsical, simplistic image is what a book needs, more than a glossy image in line with modern tastes and sensibilities. I love hand-illustrated covers, and just don’t feel moved by many modern digital images. Seriously, how many times do we have to see a headless woman, a headless bare chest, the almost-kiss, a generic lovey-dovey couple, a girl in a big poufy dress, or a closeup on a mouth or crotch?
I’m actually considering eventually upgrading those two covers to something digital, though only if I really like and trust the artist enough to create something close to my hand-illustrated originals. I’d never smile and pretend to love yet another headless bare chest or generic cover model.
I’m also a little nervous over rewriting my long-hiatused alternative history, which I began at 16 and did some more work on at 21. As an adult, it’s so obvious the original narration style was an awkward gimmick which took the focus away from the actual main characters. But beyond the usual awkwardness which comes with starting to write about new characters, there’s also the awkwardness of writing about real people.
I never wrote fanfiction for precisely that reason, because even the mere thought of writing about real people made me feel really awkward and self-conscious. I’d also hate to think anyone would accuse my alternative history of being no more than a long piece of fanfiction, simply because it tells the story I wish had really happened. The story has to be true to who these people actually were, while being a wholly original piece of fiction that picks up where these people’s stories ended in real life.
I have to keep reminding myself this story was inspired from a place of love and respect for that beautiful, innocent young man who didn’t deserve to be forever thirteen, murdered a month before his 14th birthday as though he were the lowest scum on Earth just because he was born to the wrong parents in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of the last Tsar’s five children, I’ve always had a soft spot for Aleksey because he was the youngest, so sickly, the victim of centuries of back-and-forth royal intermarriage, denied the chance to grow up and prove himself as a kind-hearted reformer instead of some out of touch autocrat like his father and grandfather. (Not to mention the fact that I’ve always related better to men than women, and preferred male friends to female.)
There have been so many books, both historical fiction and non-fiction, about the four Grand Duchesses, but little Alyosha seems to be left out in the cold precisely because he was so young and sickly. Many people fatalistically assume he would’ve died young anyway. But hemophilia wasn’t an automatic early death sentence, as shown by other royal hemophiliacs who lived into adulthood, such as Prince Leopold of England, Prince Waldemar of Prussia, and Prince Alfonso of Spain. And since I’m the one creating this story, why shouldn’t I make my hero one of the lucky ones?