Every book needs a cover, or so I’m told. Back in the dawn of books I guess covers acted pretty much just to protect the pages themselves and carried little more than the title and the name of the author. These days products of all kinds are sold to a greater or lesser degree on how they look. This is certainly the case for one-off purchases. If the image and the blurb isn’t visually appealing to the punter then you can probably wave that sale goodbye.

I’ve been very happy with the covers of my first two novels. This morning (Sat) I enlisted the help of my work colleague Jean-Marie, a photographer (well he has a camera and tripod), to shoot a pic for the front cover. I knew exactly the shot I wanted and accordingly arranged to meet him at Portelet Common. Things didn’t augur well when, waiting for him to arrive, I got a ‘phone call.

‘Hi Roy, I’m at Plemont. Where are you?’

Plemont is several miles away and has nothing to do with the setting of Tess of Portelet Manor. Whatever, JM eventually bowled up and off we set. The common was rather windswept today with a mean northerly whipping down. The tripod was pretty much essential as JM lined up some shots of the very mysterious little cottage that sits atop the La Cotte headland, reachable only by a rough track. It looks in remarkably good condition and I’ve often wondered (but never bothered to enquire) who took it into their head to build it in the first place. I can however see the attraction of living there if you want to isolate yourself from 21c life – as a writer might?

Onwards, around the footpath that circles the common. Much of the common is knee-deep and higher in gorse these days. In centuries past this was tenanted land and the grazing animals would have kept this summer growth to a minimum level. This time of year the colours have gone and it is pretty bleak. Past the inevitable German fortifications, though these are not as prolific as elsewhere. After all the next headland along is Noirmont which the Jerries chose as their alpha stronghold, their Batterie Lothringen.

The view across Portelet Bay to Noirmont Point, from Portelet Common

And indeed there’s the shot I want, suddenly opening up. Noirmont Point a mile or so away. Below us Portelet Bay with the Ile au Guerdain, a tiny islet with Janvrin’s Tomb atop, stranded by the low tide. JM set to work, understanding that it’s a portrait shot I need. It works, I think. We need sky against which to have the title stand out, and today’s weather gives us a well-defined subject with clouds scudding across an intermittently blue background.

Next step is to let my cover designer Colin Pereira get to work on it. I still need a back cover – perhaps I’ll use another of the excellent Caroline Ainsworth’s works. And then it’s off to the printers with the text file and the cover! I don’t want to rush the process but it would be great to have it ready for Christmas.

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