Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw: How to be Almost, But Not Exactly, Like Stephenie Meyer

Some books need no introduction.

Some books need no introduction.

When Twilight was first published in 2007, it shot to fame immediately. Its cover, in particular, was much-admired, even by people who despised the book’s content, and, consequently, much-parodied. There is no greater accolade for a cover designer.

The design of the Twilight cover is clean and unadorned. The eye travels down the left arm to the image of the red apple, and thence to the author’s name. The title is framed by the position of the arms, calling attention to it. As seen with His Secret Daughter, when it comes to cover design, less really is more.

SM - new moon SM - eclipse As we’ve discussed before, author branding is a paramount consideration when it comes to the success of any title. Naturally, the Twilight sequels followed the design of their predecessor, with vivid red and white splashes on a black background and a gloss finish in order to accentuate the deep colours. This has the advantage of being intensely dramatic as an image, although none of the sequels achieved the artistic success of the original. This is because while the sequel covers are visually striking, they fail to convey as effectively the book’s content and themes, and, crucially, they don’t involve the audience. The positioning of the hands offering the apple gives the impression that it is being offered to the reader. While the symbolism of a red apple being offered may seem trite and clichéd, given how often artists who wish to evoke the sense of “forbidden fruit” use the biblical Garden of Eden story as a reference, it’s important to note that artists use it because it works, and that there is no better reason to use a visual motif. By comparison, the sequel covers are downright mediocre: the designers were not able to find another image with as much borrowed emotional power.

SM - breaking dawnEB Wuthering HeightsOne might say, therefore, that the first and best-known Twilight imitators were the Twilight sequels. Their influence spread, however. Older gothic romances like Wuthering Heights were repackaged in a similar format. (Note that the 2009 Wuthering Heights cover even has a helpful sticker informing a potential reader that yes, this is the book the Twilight protagonists love.) It was a successful ploy: the new cover catapulted it to the top of the Daily Telegraph classics bestseller list for the first time ever.

The colour combination of red, white and black is endemic in gothic romance. The reasons for this are obvious: they have clear associations with classic gothic themes of blood, purity and darkness. Other YA gothic novels with a similar aesthetic can be seen below. In the case of Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty, we can see quite clearly that the designer has also intentionally invoked the idea of the golden ratio by creating the illusion of a rose blooming through a spiral staircase.

LT - Days of Blood and Starlight 2014 RH - Cruel Beauty


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s