Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday Talk-time with Melissa McClone

This Thursday Romance author Melissa McClone talks us through:


Category romance writers (at least those with Harlequin/Silhouette) provide input for cover art using something called an AFS (art fact sheet), but until the cover–or sometimes even the book–arrives in our hands, we have no idea whether our suggestions will be used or not. I thought it might be fun to see what I wrote on my AFS for my November Silhouette Romance release, Plain Jane's Prince Charming, and compare that with the published cover.

Let's start with the characters:

HERO (I included two pictures of him with the AFS)

Name: Chase Ryder

Age: 32

Occupation: CEO of hi-tech multinational company

Character type: Confident and successful risk taker

Hair: Blond, loose curls and waves, brushes collar in back.

Eye Color: Blue

Other relevant details:

Trait: A jagged scar running through right eyebrow.

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Marital Status: Single

Further Character Description: See enclosed pictures of actor Hayden Christensen (add 8 years) "From the angular planes of his face to the slight cleft in his chin to his oh-so-kissable full lips, each feature fit perfectly together with his warm, bright eyes."

HEROINE (I did not include a picture of her.)

Name: Jane Dawson

Age: 25

Occupation: Coffee house barista/manager

Character type: Hardworking and self-reliant with a heart of gold

Hair: Brunette, long, straight, on length (no bangs)

Eye Color: green (light similar to peridot)

Other relevant details:

Trait: Purple wire-rimmed glasses

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Marital Status: Single

Further Character Description: Pretty, has the fresh-faced girl next door look down. High cheekbones, generous smile.

SCENE (I sent in three scenes. This is the one they used.)

MOOD/SENSUALITY: Playful/Romantic

TIME OF DAY/SEASON/WEATHER: Lunchtime/Fall/Overcast-cool

SITUATION/LOCATION: Picnic/grassy meadow-hillside at hero's estate

He strode down a green hillside and stopped. A breeze ruffled her hair. She could almost taste the scent of freshly mowed grass. He placed his hands on her waist, lifted her up and set her on her feet in front of him. She stared up at him. Gray clouds covered the overcast autumn sky, but a patch of blue attempted to break through.

"Turn around," he said. Jane didn't want to turn. She wanted to kiss him.

"Please." She did and gasped. A picnic basket overflowing with food and wine sat on top of a large yellow blanket spread over the grass.

CLOTHING(HERO): Thick, brown sweater, tan pants

CLOTHING(HEROINE): Jeans, maroon/burgundy sweater, purple wire-rimmed glasses

INTERESTING VISUAL ELEMENTS (e.g. descriptions of specific buildings, scenery/settings visited by characters and props/objects)

Picnic - on a grassy hillside, a picnic basket overflowing with food and wine sat on top of a yellow blanket.


French-inspired chateau winery/estate - Up on the hillside, sunlight reflected off a copper roof of a grand-sized house. The structure looked, built of stone or bricks, like a castle or villa.

Estate Gardens: Lavender scented the air. Low clipped hedges divided beds of flowers and greenery. An arbor of roses anchored one end, a fountain surrounded by colorful flowers and rose bushes the other.

This is the actual cover:

I must give the artist kudos for some little extras that made me so happy. First, the heart-shaped locket around the heroine's neck was not described in detail on the AFS and not in this scene at all, yet the heroine is wearing the necklace as she should be.

Second, I'm a complete and utter Star Wars geek/fangirl so I couldn't help but notice a similarity with the meadow scene in Attack of the Clones with Padme and Anakin.

And finally, compare my hero's sweater on the cover to the one worn by Hayden in this photo, which is what inspired the hero's outfit to begin with!

So what do you think? Do you see any similarities between my AFS and the cover? What about the differences?

Melissa's latest release PLAIN JANE is a Silhouette Romance on shelves this month in North America! Visit her website for more about the book.


  1. Hi Melissa! What a wierd coincidence... My son asked me to read him his Star Wars Annual for his bedtime story tonight and I never thought of Anakin as romance hero material. He just looked so young but those are gorgeous pics that you found and I can imagine him a few years older. Your cover is really lovely and is very close to how you described them. There's just nothing more irritating than the cover not looking remotely like how they were described in the book!

    May the force be with you :)

  2. Thanks for sharing! I think that is neat...I always wonder about the input authors have on their covers. I have heard of the cover art fact sheet, but wasn't sure what type of info authors included.

  3. May the Force be with you, Jopee! My son loves Star Wars as much as I do! I always saw Anakin as hero material from the moment he appeared in Revenge of the Sith. I took one look at him flying the fighter and THUD! It took me a few minutes to recover:) Thanks for you kind words about the cover! Much appreciated.

    Jennifer Y - I'm not sure what other authors put on their AFS forms, but this is pretty typical of one of mine.

  4. Wow. This was really fascinating! I had no idea you would get to give so much info regarding the cover art. That's great. I was able to contribute to ideas for my non-fiction cover, but had no idea that Harlequin asked you too. Ooh, I can't wait to be a Harlequin published writer and get to give my own input there too!

  5. This is very interesting! I have to say I have only once been asked to fill in a AFS and that was for 'Accepting The Boss's Proposal' - and I didn't get a curvy redhead!! Was also very tempted to write 'pizza' next to the 'what is the take home' question. :)

    Maybe different editors work differently? Trish, do you get to do an AFS???

  6. This was fascinating to read, Melissa, thanks for sharing! I've heard about the cover art info sheets but never knew anything about them in detail. How wonderful for yours to have been so spot-on!

    Jess x

  7. Gorgeous cover, Melissa! Which you totally deserve. Of course, the process doesn't always work out that way. Several years ago, I meticulously filled in an AFS for one of my Intimate Moments, Mad Dog and Annie, including a full color spread of Russell Crowe.

    The results? Well, let's just say I still refer to that cover as Not Russell Crowe and the Vampire Slut. And no, it was NOT a paranormal!


  8. Good luck with your writing, Nicolette! Hope you are a Harlequin author soon:)

    Interesting, Natasha. I've done an AFS for every book, including the two (this one and my April 07 Harlequin Romance release) acquried by Harlequin in London. Plus I use a Mac so I don't have access to the on-line PERS system to input all the stuff so I email it to my editor.

    Thanks Jess. This one worked. As Virginia posted, it doesn't always. And I've had a couple of those, too.

    Thanks Virginia, but LOL! We should have a PLEASE BUY THIS BOOK IN SPITE OF THE COVER website for all those bad covers we get. We could show readers what we sent in for the cover, like your Russell Crowe spread, and the result ;)

  9. LOL Virginia! She did look like a Vampire Slut :D Hope you had better covers after that :)

  10. Wonderful cover, Melissa!!!! I love it and would buy it just for that great cover alone (but the bonus is I already know what a great writer you are :-). I love the story of your AFS -- and this one with a happy ending, too! :-)


  11. I looove that even his jumper matched Melissa. This just gives me goosebumps.

    Even ten books down the track I still wait in trepidation to see if those on the cover look anything like I have described them in the book. The correct hair would do me just fine!!!

    Lovely post, lovely cover. Ta!


  12. Thanks Shirley and Ally.

    And yes, Ally, I couldn't believe the sweater when I saw it. I ran to my computer and pulled up the picture. My mouth gaped. Seriously! I even pulled up the AFS to see if I'd enclosed the pic!

    Thanks to everyone at the Pink Heart Society Blog for letting me blog today! It was fun:)

  13. Shh....providing all those details was mentioned a couple of books back, but I think my editor may have forgotten since. Or maybe she sensed the vibe that I'd rather leave it to the cover art people *g*. Is that horrid of me?


  14. Not horrid, Jennie. Probably very smart:)