This is where I want to pause for a second and talk about canon. This new cover for Into the Labyrinth? It’s the first one to try and replicate an actual scene from the books. (If you’ve read Into the Labyrinth, I’m sure you recognized it.) The original four covers were all pre-made or licensed art, so they obviously weren’t canon. (Though…well, I’ll talk about it more when it comes time for Book 4, but I paid for the licensed art on it before writing it, and it actually inspired a couple of fun worldbuilding details.) The cover for Mage Errant Book 5, The Siege of Skyhold? It’s definitely not a specific scene from the book, it’s just the protagonist standing in front of the titular location.
Even on Book 5’s cover, I had to worry about canon. It was the first representation of Skyhold, and of the protagonist, and as such it was going to carry a lot of weight for some readers. But…I dunno. I’ve always believed that the image a story summons in the reader’s mind is more important, more canon, than that of authorial dictat. I’m absolutely convinced that readers are active participants in novels, not passive consumers, that to put a story out in the world is to cede control to reader imagination. I loved commissioning these covers, but at the same time I don’t want people to think that these covers are the one true visual canon. There IS no one true visual canon — at least not for my novels. If you imagine something different than this? You’re right. (I’m sure there are other authors out there who will disagree with me on this. We’re a quarrelsome bunch.)
(To be clear, Aaron and Lee’s art actually looks BETTER than my imagination.)
But for this one, I had some new challenges commissioning it, since it was a specific scene. I had to worry about specific details more strongly, and had to make some decisions about where I was willing to compromise my vision for the sake of a better cover.
At several points, I offered Lee and Aaron choices in how we should proceed, because I trust their judgement over mine on art issues. All of those points were canon ones, where I was willing to sacrifice specific story details for the sake of the art. One, for instance, was the origami golem Hugh is following into the depths of the library. It’s an origami hot air balloon in the book, but I wasn’t sure whether to keep that, or to just have an origami bird or dragon golem instead. After we looked at some photos of origami, Aaron decided to stick with the hot air balloon.
There were a few other canon decision points here as well, though mostly minor ones.
Likewise, Lee’s initial colors looked fantastic, but the glow coming from the depths of the library is blue in the books, which is a significantly more important canon detail than what form an origami golem takes or any of the others. Still, I adored the way the pale glow looked, so I asked Lee for his opinion there, and was absolutely prepared to sacrifice that one detail for the sake of the cover.