The cover for New Ghost Stories, our sixth anthology, is pretty straightforward, but also a little bit revolutionary — at least by our standards. The covers for the first five volumes were simple photographs, with very little processing. They followed fixed rules: everything had to be in front of the camera, and only paper and the written — or printed — word could be featured in the photograph. New Ghost Stories was originally intended to follow those rules, but ended up breaking them in a last-minute rush to get the files to the printers.
The original plan was to repeat the cover design from our first anthology, Various Authors, but with gravestones in place of the figures from the original cover.
Where the text on the cover of Various Authors is a rambling mission statement for the series, the text on New Ghost Stories is an equally rambling, stream-of-consciousness ghost story, made up on the spur of the moment to fill the page. (Don’t worry: the cover is the only place in a Fiction Desk anthology where you’re likely to find much in the way of stream-of-consicousness prose.)
However, when the gravestones were cut out, they didn’t really work as well as the original figures had: there’s something, well, lifeless about gravestones, even with the addition of the bird from Richard Smyth’s story (er, top left).
With a couple of hours to go before the files were due at the printers, there wasn’t time to start a new design from scratch. I ended up flattening the gravestones back down into the paper, and taking various shots of the text. I layered these on the computer with varying levels of opacity, altering the colours and inverting the top layer. There was a brief flirtation with the use of a ribbon to hold the title — see the photo at the top of this post — and the cover went off to the printers with minutes to spare.
It could have wound up as a complete dog’s breakfast, but actually I’m rather pleased with the cover of New Ghost Stories. And breaking the rules once has set a precedent for the future. Anything could happen… now, where’s my scalpel?