Chris F. Holm worked his way toward a book deal the old-fashioned way–writing well-crafted stories infused with menace. I edited Chris on two short stories and they were word-perfect upon submission, such is his care before sending anything out. Since those early days kicking around the e-zines, Chris sold stories to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and a novella “The Hitter” was selected to appear in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011, edited by Harlan Coben and Otto Penzler. Chris is an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. After years of hammering on agents’ doors, Chris was signed by Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maas. Lightning struck with DEAD HARVEST, slated for release worldwide in February 2012 by Angry Robot Books. A sequel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, follows in November.
Here is my interview with Chris, generously given during time over the holidays, along with valuable commentary from Darren Turpin at Angry Robot, and designer-extrordinare Martin Stiff of Amazing 15. —Elaine Ash
CHRIS F. HOLM: One rainy spring day, I got the call. It came while I was at work, and I went outside to get some privacy. Without realizing I’d done it, I spent twenty minutes standing in the icy, pouring rain, while Jennifer filled me in on the details of the offer. The whole day is a bit of a blur. It’s a two-book deal with an option for a third, worldwide English language rights for both. Jennifer and I elected to retain both dramatic and foreign-language rights, should anyone be interested (hint, hint).
Lucky for me, I wound up with an editor in Marc Gascoigne who really got what I was trying to do. He leapt headlong into the art design for my covers, hatching this fantastic idea of referencing the iconic Marber-era Penguin covers of the ’60s and ’70s.
CHRIS: Trial and error. The weathering’s actually an overlay, so we were able to see what the cover would look like with or without it. What we realized is new, the design just didn’t look right. Our eyes are too used to seeing that style plucked from the discount bin at a used book store; bright white and unread is never how we see ’em. When we added weathering, DEAD HARVEST began to look like some lost dime store classic. That look was hard to resist for us.
MARTIN STIFF: The brief from Angry Robot was quite concise – they wanted to echo the famous Penguin crime novels designed by Romek Marber during the 60s and 70s, with stark images and a minimal colour palette.
MARTIN: I did the Angry Robot books. We do a lot of covers for Titan Books (we did the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman and we’ve done covers for books by Michael Moorcock, James Blaylock, Kevin J Anderson and Jack Campbell as well as a some Sherlock Holmes spin-offs). We’ve also recently finished a book cover for 24 Bones by Mike F Stewart. You can see the stuff we’ve done on our portfolio website: http://amazing15.com/
ELAINE: Another amazing post with pictures of the evolution of DEAD HARVEST’s cover can be found here. A must-read for authors unfamiliar with the print-publication process, and fascinating.