Monday, 12 August 2013

Lockwood & Co UK Blog Tour: Guest Post from Jonathan Stroud


I am delighted to be taking part in the UK blog tour for Lockwood & Co. and today I would like to welcome author Jonathan Stroud to Narratively Speaking to talk about something close to a blogger's heart...book covers.


UK                                                       US


Hauntings are our business . . .

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in...

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood.

When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again...



I am married to a covers designer, so you can guess it’s been impressed upon me more than once how crucial a cover is to the success or failure of a book. It has to be one of the basic maxims of all traditional publishing (though the e-book revolution may yet have a thing or two to say about it) that having a decent cover is almost as important as having a decent text. In fact, you could argue that it’s more important, at least as far as the initial sales are concerned – we can perhaps all think of examples where a mediocre book has been airlifted to significant success on the strength of its fantastic cover. Conversely, a really lousy jacket has the same effect as a skunk’s perfume. I still shudder to remember going into a book shop and finding an incredibly horrible edition of one of Paul Auster’s novels, covered in iris-shredding multi-coloured stripes. I liked Paul Auster. I actively wanted to buy that book. But so foul was the exterior that I would rather have taken off my clothes and danced naked in the street than go up to the counter and part with hard-earned money for it. Presumably the cover has long since been changed. But I’ve never bought that book. Sorry, Paul. The moment had passed. This effect of active repulsion is something every author, for their books, would hope to avoid.

Getting it right, however, is very difficult. You’ve got different markets to attend to, different age ranges to please. And when you’re writing fantasy books – and fantasy books with a vein of humour running through them, at that – the problem is compounded, because of the inherent dangers of the form. My Bartimaeus series has been published in 35 different languages, in as many editions. It’s seen a lot of covers. Some foreign editions choose to take the UK or US jackets, but many go their own way, and the variety of depiction of Bart, Nat and their world takes some beating. (You can see many of the variations at: www.bartimaeusbooks.com.) There are a lot of great covers there. But also some that miss the mark. In fact, I soon discovered that Bartimaeus the djinni was incredibly hard to pin down. He’s quite often seen in gargoyle guise, and (understandably) this frequently makes him seem grotesque. Sometimes he’s played quite straight; at other times the artists try to bring his trademark humour out, not always successfully. The root difficulty for me is that my books are both serious and have jokes: but that essential mix is quite hard to pin down in a single image. The Screaming Staircase has three international covers so far (see the Lockwood page at www.jonathanstroud.com), all of which are really good and very different. Wisely, no one’s trying to tap the humour here: it’s the spectral adventure that’s the thing. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens as other countries’ editions come out… Watch this space!

Thank you Jonathan!  Now, it's no secret that whilst I have no problem with scary movies, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary books, and I put that down to the fact that NOTHING is scarier than your own imagination.  And I have a good one!  Having said that, I think that this book sounds so intriguing and I will definitely be reading it...from behind a cushion...probably.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co#1) is published on 29th August, 2013 in the UK and 17th September, 2013 in the US. To find out more about Jonathan Stroud and his books, please click here to visit his website.  Please note that you can click on a UK or a US website from here and you can read the first chapter here.

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