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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?