The letter I sent the art department at Tor that led to the GHOST TALKERS cover.

GhostTalkers_comp_webLook! Look at the beautiful cover that Tor has created for my new book!

Now… Let’s talk about how we got there, eh? Because this is always the fun part. Ghost Talkers has been turned in since April. On July 1, Liz Gorinsky, my editor at Tor, asked for details for the art department. Here’s the email I sent back to her.

Hi Liz,

Whee! I love this time of the year.

A WWI propaganda poster is an interesting thought. There were a ton of them that were women-centric, which might be interesting to play with.

Here are some propaganda posters that might be interesting to look at.

I have a pinterest board of costumes.

And one of locations.

–Do the ghosts look like ghosts in this or do they look like normal folks?

They usually look like normal folks, but slightly translucent and with an aura of colors surrounding them.

Here are some period photos of mediums —

>What do Ginger and Ben look like? 

Ginger — Slender, red-headed society belle. She has long hair, that is worn up like a Gibson girl. She is usually in uniform, which looks like this, except with a black velvet collar and a shawl.

She goes dancing with Ben and wears something like this:

She appears in trousers once, but I think let’s stick to the feminine wear, eh?

Ben – He’s a captain in the intelligence department of the British Army.

“He was leaning against the wall of the warehouse, scribbling something in the tiny black notebook he kept perpetually tucked in his uniform pocket. His long lean figure had always been dashing in evening dress, and seemed to exhibit the British Army uniform to equal advantage. He had his hat tucked under his arm and a lock of his dark curls had worked its way free of its pomade to hang over his forehead. The line of his mustache was turned down in a scowl as he concentrated on his notes.”

>Is there an insignia for The Spirit Corps?

No, but there probably should be. Do you want to give the artist free reign on that, or shall I come up with something?

>Do you have any cover comparisons?

Er… I usually just trust Irene.

I will mention that there are two secondary characters of color that feature prominently and I’d love it if we could get some representation on the cover somehow. One is a Caribbean medium. The other is a Sikh soldier. I’ll understand if they don’t fit, but if the cover winds up having figures in the background, then I’d just like it to not be an all white grouping.

>….and basically, the cover concept memo info. 

WWI. The book is primarily a wartime spy novel, driven by a love story.  [Discussion of spoilers to keep off the cover] I want something that promises History, WW1, Ghosts, and a love story. But I totally trust Irene to figure out what that looks like.


Notice what I’ve done here. I’ve got reference images already collected so I can just hand them over to Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) who gave them to the artist, Christian Mcgrath. I have descriptions of the characters. When talking about the cover concept, I describe the feel of the novel, but not the plot.

This is a description of the novel.

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force. Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

So… what do you think? Does the cover deliver this?

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17 thoughts on “The letter I sent the art department at Tor that led to the GHOST TALKERS cover.”

  1. I don’t know if the cover conveys all of that, but it’s enough to tempt me into pre-order land…(I can’t zoom in enough to really look at it, I don’t know why).

  2. Looks fantastic and definitely conveys the WWI aspect well. It would definitely make me pick it up and read the blurb

  3. Holland Dougherty

    Ooooh! I will preorder it from Borderlands when I’m there next weekend. Loved hearing a snippet from it at your signing!

  4. It’s an absolutely gorgeous cover. It’s certainly enough that, were I to see it in a bookstore, get me to turn the book over or open the front cover to read the synopsis, and contains enough of the description to make me feel confident of what I would be entering into once I had bought it and started reading!

  5. Oh wow! Excellent choice in those era posters for a cover idea! And with the sky motiff in the background it covers some bases regarding spirits and afterlife. And yet only teases at what may happen within the novel without ruining any suspense or plot points.

    Only one… issue. By that blurb and the image of the male soldier before her… If her romantic interest dies… Yeah, the cover sort of gives it away, IMO >_>

    (obviously not expecting you clarify any plot points at this stage in publication, lol )

  6. Instant reaction: “I am going to read the crap out of this book.”

    I love how colorful it is. I’m a big historical fiction fan, but I get tired of how everything is sepia brown and olive green.

    (If there’s one thing historical fiction covers have taught me about history, it’s that everything is brown, brown, brown.)

    It’s gorgeous. I love it. Great typography, too!

  7. Paul Weimer (@princejvstin)

    Central focus in Ginger.
    Clear signs of magic
    Iconic-poster sort of layout.

    It’s a striking cover. This is yet another book of yours I want in hard copy, because of the cover art…

  8. Obligatory “Shut up and take my money!”

    Seriously, looks good. Just finished Conny Willis’ Blackout and All Clear. Ready for more British War adventures!

  9. Oooh, I missed this.

    It is SO perfect. That little bit of magic-stuff coming off Ginger’s hand… Ben’s downcast air… the recruiting poster layout.

  10. Awesome! Having read the beta version (or whatever), I think it captures the mood beautifully. Nice job.

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