Cover Me

FATAL CAJUN FESTIVAL, My fifth Cajun Country Mystery, launches tomorrow and I cannot believe I’m saying that. But I am. And it’s awesome.

There are people who say covers don’t sell books. I heartily disagree. I know I’ve stumbled upon an author only because I was seduced by a great cover. My series is the lucky beneficiary of some gorgeous art painted by Stephen Gardner (who also does the covers for my friend Alyssa Maxwell’s wonderful Gilded Newport Mystery series.) Stephen is open to my ideas and suggestions, as is Crooked Lane, my publisher. It’s a three-way collaboration I’ll miss when the series ends.

One debate we had at the beginning of the series was whether to go with the same plantation on all the covers or use different homes as inspiration. We all agreed on the latter. As a lead-up to tomorrow’s launch, I thought I’d share which historical sites inspired which covers, along with links so you can read more about them.


PlantationShuddersSmaller (3)

Anyone who’s familiar with Louisiana’s River Road can immediately identify this as Nottoway. The largest extant plantation in the South, it’s now a resort.


Body on the Bayou (smaller) (2)

The plantation pictured here is Houmas House. It’s where I reconnected with the real Gaynell Bourgeois, a dear friend who inspired the fictional Gaynell in my series. You can read that story in the Lagniappe chapter of Plantation Shudders.


A Cajun Christmas Killing

Bit of a cheat here. You only see part of the home. I’ve chosen to think of this cover as depicting San Francisco Plantation, the only Gothic Revival manor home on the River Road.


Mardi Gras cover art (2)

Okay, this is a gimme. Anyone remotely familiar with historic plantation sites immediately recognizes iconic Oak Alley. It was the first plantation I ever toured and to be honest, I was surprised by how compact it is. It’s a Creole plantation, as opposed to Nottoway, which was an American plantation, and the last built in the area, hence its grandiosity. BTW, if you want a lecture on the difference between Creole and American plantation architecture, pull me aside at a writers’ con.

And finally… for now…


Fatal Cajun Festival

In the mid-1980s, a friend and I took a ride up the River Road and stumbled upon the derelict manor home of Ashland-Belle Helene plantation. Thus began my fascination with plantation architecture. (It’s also where I first met Gaynell.) I’m glad I got to come full circle on this cover. The home, now owned and renovated by Shell Oil Company, isn’t open to the public. But hopefully that will change one day.

As I share these lovely images, I’m also reminded of the dark side to each home. Whether the plantation was Creole or American, it was a keeper of enslaved people. The character of Ione Savreau, who runs Doucet Plantation where Maggie, my protagonist, works, is descended from the enslaved and the irony of her position isn’t lost on her.

I’m so grateful to Stephen, Crooked Lane, and its phenomenal art team for creating covers that intrigue readers and perhap encourage them to explore the real sites. Each location offers an invaluable window into our nation’s past.

And book five. Wow.

Readers, what books have you been drawn to because of the cover art? What turns you on? What turns you off?



39 thoughts on “Cover Me

  1. I have a couple of pet peeves about covers. One is a cover for which the art has nothing to do with the story. In my mind, a good cover should either depict and event in the story or respect its theme. Ellen, I’ll be your books are cozies with a country setting and a basset hound as an important character – that’s a good cover. I also dislike generic, vanilla covers. Having been turned down for ads because my covers are either too distressing or too sexy, I get why people do this. But my books are violent and sexy. If I put a picture of a nun with a poodle on one of my books, I am defrauding the reader. I want you to know what you’re buying when you pick up a Natalie MCMasters novel. If you don’t like the kind of book I write, I’d rather you bought something that you did like.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. So excited for #5, Ellen! And I loved learning about the places on your covers. I absolutely agree with you that covers are important, however, I’ve read some crappy books with gorgeous covers and marvelous books with crappy covers. I guess that means it’s not a deal-breaker or a selling point for me, just one of the many ingredients in the etouffee of fiction. (See what I did there?)

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Yes. Excellent point. A cover may draw me in first, but that back copy will either make it pass or play. And Christine, I’m contracted for one more – MURDER ON THE BONEYARD BAYOU, 2020 – then not sure after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your covers are indeed fab, Ellen! They capture the feel of your books as well as Cajun Country–AND they have a dog!! I’m definitely swayed by covers. They may not convince me to buy a book but they will induce me to pick it up in a store and examine it, which is a necessary precursor to purchase.

    Congrats on book five! I have it on pre-order and am hoping to get it soon!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Gorgeous cover art on all, Ellen! I absolutely love the history behind each.

    I have definitely chosen books by their covers. (Same with wine labels!) It’s what draws me in and makes me want to know more. If I also like the back cover copy and the first couple of paragraphs, I know we’re meant to be together. 🙂

    Congrats on book #5! Can’t WAIT!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Ellen, I was trying to pick my fave Cajun Country cover, but I couldn’t — they’re all great! Covers and titles definitely influence my book choices. Thanks for sharing the info these plantations. When we travel, hubs and I enjoy touring houses of historical and architectural significance — from antebellum to Frank Lloyd Wright!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Me too – it’s how I grew up and where I developed my passion for architecture. Almost every family vacay involved an historic house tour. Jer’s done a few with me, but sometimes he just hangs out and enjoys the outdoor rather than indoor visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like your covers, but what gets me to read your books is that we have visited NOLA and the area since the late 1970s with friends every Memorial day and then every Thanksgiving with other friends in the 2000s and we love it. I have learned a lot from your books about the Cajun Christmas etc. We love NOLA, the Fiver Road, the plantations, the history, and the food and people.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Madeleine, it sounds like you and I share a passion for NOLA and the region. I’m so glad you’ve learned some new things from my series. I recommend a Christmas visit to see the bonfires!


  7. I agree on the importance of good covers. I’ve know I’ve picked up books because of the covers. I also know I’ve sold books because of the covers. Big congrats on #5 in the series! Thanks for pointing out and explaining the different plantations on each cover–love that!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Enjoyed the “tour” of beautiful plantations—and your beautiful covers! I’ve learned so much about New Orleans from the fabulous Cajun Country Mysteries—thanks so much for writing them, El! Can’t wait for your latest.

    Liked by 1 person

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