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What Color Is Your Book?

“Hey, CJ, what’s your favorite color?”

A simple question with an obvious answer: green. For as long as I can remember, my favorite color has been green. When other girls had pink bedrooms, I chose green. As I type this, I’m wearing a green shirt. (But not the same green shirt I first put on this morning. Along the way, I switched to a different green shirt. I have a lot of green shirts.) In fact, terrible Ruby that I am, I don’t have any red shoes — but I do have a pair of to-die-for emerald green heels.

Lisa asked because she wanted to do something special for my upcoming release, so she was planning to change the blog background. Except, as my fingers typed the quick and easy answer — green — I realized my book isn’t green. Well, I suppose considering most copies sold will be paper and not electronic, it’s not environmentally friendly either — but what I really mean is that I don’t picture green when I think of my book. I see gray.

Not a dark, dingy gray of hopelessness, but a happier gray. A bluish-gray like the North Atlantic in winter or the sky at twilight.

I do have a “green” book. The setting is green — summer deep in the Southeastern Virginia forests. The hero has green eyes, and when he dresses up, he wears a green doublet. If my editor decides to buy that book, I hope the cover contains lots of green. (Maybe a cover with my hero is his green doublet? With his sword, of course. Must have the sword.)

I’d never thought about my books having a specific, unique color. Of course, I admit, one of my first concerns about Lisa’s question was that a green background would clash with my cover. One must color coordinate when promoting a book, you understand. But as I further reflected, I realized the green background clashed precisely because all the cover suggestions I sent to my publisher matched the lovely bluish gray impression lurking in my mind, even when I wasn’t aware of it.

I’ve tried to work book color images backwards into other authors’ works, and I’ve discovered I really can’t. (I asked my 16-year-old C.S. Lewis fan what color The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be. My guess — obviously white, right? He thought purple.) Perhaps I’m too influenced by a cover that someone else has designed, a cover I most likely saw before I read the words. Or maybe I’m just not close enough to the story to have a color so firmly affixed in my mind.

Knowing the book very, very well is key because my book color identity is a nebulous combination of setting and characters and mood and theme. My bluish-gray book has several scenes at sunset/twilight (including the one on the cover) and one at sea — the prevailing mood is dark and gritty but the story ends on a hopeful note. My green book is a story of new life. My white book takes place in a winter setting of ice and snow, and features a heroine (a governess) who feels her dreams have slipped away and her life is growing cold and sterile.

After I discovered all my books have a color, I asked other authors what colors their books were. The question felt a little Barbara Walters-ish, along the lines of “If you were a tree…”  But after some thought, my friends all agreed that each of their books has a color (or even, in some cases, multiple colors).

So, you tell me. Am I crazy? Do I need to step away from the keyboard for a while? Or does your book have a color? If so, tell me what color your book is — and why.

50 Responses to “What Color Is Your Book?”

  1. Elise Hayes says:

    Interesting question, CJ! The first ten seconds that I thought about it, my mind was blank. I admit I was leaning toward thinking you needed to step away from the keyboard. And then it came:

    A stained glass window.

    That’s the image I have in mind whenever I think of the cover my as-yet-unfinished book might someday have. The glass is mostly in shades of blues and reds, with a little bit of white. The colors are glowing (because, well, that’s what stained glass windows do).

    The funny thing is that the book isn’t about stained glass windows at all–it’s about medieval illuminations, which are the paintings that went into the margins of books. But the image in my head is one of rich blues and reds, glowing in stained glass. Go figure.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Whew! One vote that I’m not crazy.

      I can see the relationship between the illuminations and stained glass, but it’s interesting that your mind sees the glass more than the illuminations.

      Sounds beautiful. A really nice image to have in your mind while you’re writing.

  2. Vivi Andrews says:

    Huh. Interesting idea. My Karmics are probably all bright happy primary colors while the shifters would be dusty tans and muted browns. And the post apocalyptic would be grey, right? But I’m not visual like that. I’m lucky if I can remember what my characters look like.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      I have only vague impressions of what my characters look like. When I had to get pictures of what they might look like for the art department, I had a terrible time because I just don’t have a defined image of them in my mind. (And if were as prolific a writer as you, I’d have trouble remembering my characters too! I’m in awe.)

    • Oh, me too, Vivi. When it comes to my characters, I get fuzzy images of them. When other people say they’re doing collages of famous people or models or whatever, I’m amazed. And I dreaded getting the cover art sheet for my book, because I didn’t have any pictures to send. But it all came out all right. Guess everyone does it differently…

      • I always know what my heroes look like. Always. I seem to need a very concrete, very physical picture of what he looks like before I can truly understand him.

        I’ll usually start out with a few ideas for actors or rock stars or athletes to peruse, but even once I narrow it down to the person I’m looking for, I still need one perfect picture to use as my inspiration. But it’s not just about appearance — it’s about expression. I’ve found that actors tend to produce the most expressive photos, or perhaps they’re just photographed more often than other sorts of celebrities.

        Right now, I’m using this one of Timothy Olyphant: http://nymag.com/arts/tv/features/64471/
        (that article also nicely summarizes why I drool over “Justified” — and Olyphant in general)

        • C.J. Chase says:

          Jamie, my cp is the same way. She can NOT start a book until she has a picture of her main character next to her computer monitor.

          Those of us with only hazy mental pictures of our characters have a major advantage when we first get our first glimpse of what the art department came up with. We don’t have that “He doesn’t look like that!” reaction.

        • Kelley Bowen says:

          Oh, Jamie-how I love Timothy Olyphant. But then, who doesn’t? Have you see CATCH AND RELEASE. He’s just…I dunno…he’s yummy.

      • Vivi Andrews says:

        CJ & Anne Marie – Three cheers for vague and blurry characters! Every once in a while I’ll trip across the perfect picture, but more often than not I’ve got nothing when it comes time to fill out those art forms.

        Maybe the lack of character definition comes from all those headless heroes on paranormal covers – chopped off at the neck so we can better appreciate the abs. Though Jamie’s studly Officer Olyphant is worth looking in the eye…

  3. kelly fitzpatrick says:

    Green is my fav color too. I gravitate to green blouses and sometimes change midday to a different green blouse as well. I do not have to-die-for green shoes. I wish.

    My cover for Lily in Wonderland (which is only $1.49 on Amazon right now – PLUG) has much green, but not my other book covers.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Can I say how awesome and fun and wonderful Lily in Wonderland is???

      It’s truly laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are so real! Great quirky small town, a terrific underlying suspense plot, tons of sass and humor….I was reminded of Susan Elizabeth Phillips time and again.

      Read this one, people!!!! And it’s only $1.49 now??? A STEAL!!!

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Hurray–another green aficionado. Did you get to design or make suggestions for the cover? I looked closely at LIW’s cover just now. I hadn’t thought about it before, but even the water is a bluish green instead of a straight blue.

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I have an affection for lime green. My office walls are painted lime green, my bedroom curtains are lime green, and I’m about to buy a lime green car. ;-)

        • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

          I’m not a green gal, but I love that color on the new Camaro and Challenger. Vroooom, vroooom!

  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    C.J., this is so interesting! I’m visually oriented, but book-wise, I tend to think more in terms of structure than color.

    • Elise Hayes says:

      I’m not visually oriented at all, which is why I found it interesting/surprising that I was able to answer CJ’s question. :)

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Interesting. I’m pretty visually oriented (don’t give me directions, hand me a map), but I didn’t realize I was so color oriented.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Whoops. Too soon.

      Anyway, my oldest son isn’t visually oriented, but he is a creative type (writes YA stories, fan fiction, music). I tested this out on him, and he discovered each of his books has a color. Which is kind of strange because he’s not visually oriented AND he’s a guy, which means his color sense is pretty much limited to blue, yellow, green, and red. (I did a test once on all the guys in the house and asked them if they knew what color mauve was. And they all gave me blank looks.)

  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m with my extended family on vacation this week, and all the little cousins woke up this morning and spontaneously (without consulting with each other) all chose to wear green shirts…. It’s a GREEN day…Hurray!

    But what color are my books? Hmm. I always thought of the days of the week as having particular colors, but my books? I think my Golden Heart book is a bright sunny yellow. My darker spy novel is a deep burgundy. Interesting to think about! For those who have to switch between manuscripts, visualizing the relevant color before moving back to a particular one might help you get back into the right focus and mood.

  6. liz talley says:

    Well, this is sorta fun. I’ve never thought in terms of color though I do think it is part of a tone to a book. The one I completed yesterday would definitely be shades of purple to blue – deeper and richer in color than most my works. Hmmm. Neat way to view it.

    I suppose I won’t bore you with colors for all my others, but I can see how color translates to tone and mood of a book. I’ll be thinking on this all day :)

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Lovely color, Amy. I saw a book cover recently where the heroine’s dress was that color, and it really caught my eye.

      Have fun thinking in color the rest of your day.

  7. This was an interesting exercise, C.J. I usually think in terms of color. Ever since I can remember, each month had a certain color in my mind. I never thought about it for my books though!

    The most surprising thing to me was while redesigning my website (www.AnneMarieBecker.com), I pictured dark – black and emerald green or electric blue. But what my husband and I came up with was decidedly brighter and cooler – light blue. I think it works, but it surprised me. :) And my GREEN cover really pops on it, I think.

    Only Fear probably had a black feel for me, whereas the sequel has a more sexy red feel.

  8. What a fresh and fun way to look at books, CJ!

    My current WIP is yellow, though mostly because of the setting. It’s a Northern California summer, and the high grass that covers the valley floor has turned to dry straw. The sun is strong and high in the sky, and the sandy shores of the river are the color of cornmeal. There’s a mountain lion who figures strongly in the book, too, and her coat is yellow-ish. I suppose her eyes would be, too.

    Lots of red and black, too, though those are emotions.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Love the way you describe that setting, Jamie!! I can just see the color!

    • C.J. Chase says:

      I can picture the perfect cover already, Jamie. Background is a golden landscape. And then in the foreground, a splash of red and black. Maybe your characters’ clothes? An object or vehicle?

  9. Diana Layne says:

    Pretty cool concept, CJ. I think my pirate book is colors of blue-maybe because a lot of it takes place on an ocean. :)Fun!

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Oh, yes. Pirates and sailing books lend themselves to blues. Is it a Caribbean blue?

      I was just in NC (Hatteras and Ocracoke islands) researching Blackbeard last month.

      • Diana Layne says:

        wow, hands on research! For a book or for homeschooling?

        • C.J. Chase says:

          Book. Don’t know if I’ll be able to use it or not, but decided I should at least go investigate, so we packed up the kids and went for a weekend. My initial idea won’t work as I first envisioned it, but I had a few other ideas that came to me while researching. Took lots of pictures and notes about the topography, flora/fauna, sounds, etc.

          And hey, my expenses were tax deductible, so that part was cool. (Of course, considering I’m only 5 miles from NC, I didn’t ring up huge costs.)

  10. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Just about everything in my world has color—the heroine in my third book, while legally blind, sees everything and everyone in energy auras of varying color, for heaven’s sake—so the fact I never made the correlation with my books astounds me.

    The first book in the series (now that you’ve prodded me to think about it) is gold. The energy is revelation, so, yes, gold.

    The second book is red—my favorite color. The villain is a roiling caldron of anger and hatred, the heroine tempestuous but repressed, the hero vengeful and tunnel-visioned. A wide swath of red colors that book.

    The third book is black—at least thus far. Black encompasses all colors, absorbs them, hoards them. Only my heroine can see past the darkness to the truth. Since the story is in its infancy, the color may change, but I doubt, considering the mythology that drives it, it will rise above a deep jewel tone.

    Thanks for this, CJ. A new perspective is always a revelation.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Yes, I “see” all the moods and themes.

      Your legally blind heroine reminds me of something from my past. Before I had laser eye surgery, I had truly bad vision (but mostly correctable with thick glasses). When I had the glasses off, everything was one giant blur. Color and movement (which was really just a shifting in the colors) were the only things I could see without my glasses. I couldn’t make out specific objects or people, just changes in the color.

      • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

        Kendra’s “sight”, although of the psychic variety, is very much like that! I may have to call on you to make sure I’m getting it right!

  11. Hmmm, interesting question. I never though if my writing in terms of color.

    My first thought after reading this was at first there’s this flash of brillant white which disappears into the deepest of blacks. Then slowly shades of gray appear. Then blotches of color as if a canvas is splattered with paint balls. In the end, and depending on the end, I either see a radiant hues of beautiful sunrise or the vivid colors of a tropical sunset.

    Does that make senses to anyone?

    Okay, Now I’m thing in terms of music. Hmmm.

  12. Rita Henuber says:

    My book is most definitely a crimson streaked sunrise or sunset color.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      I really like those colors, Rita. Kind of makes me wonder if I could work my book colors backwards so I could live with the color(s) of my choice for months. You know, decide I’d really like a book that makes me think of sunsets, and then write the book. Probably not, huh?

  13. Kate Parker says:

    It must be neat to see your books as a color. I rarely see colors when I write. When I dream I see colors better than when I’m awake. Your colors for your book sound beautiful, CJ.

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Do you dream about the characters or situations in your books? (I once dreamed an entire story, so I decided to write it. Of course, by the time I finished writing the book, it was nothing like the dream. But it gave me a great starting place and premise.) Maybe your book colors are lurking in your dreams.

  14. Really interesting. I knew immediately that my fantasy novel was a nice, warm brown (and the second is the series is black and light blue). My contemporaries are harder. My GH book is red and gold. The one after that is green and gold. The most recent one is black and blue again (don’t know why — way different story than the fantasy). And the WIP is stained glass, like Elise’s. Fun, and rather strange how easy this is. Thanks, CJ

    • C.J. Chase says:

      Nancy, you answered a question I was wondering about. I hadn’t gone back further in time with my book color analysis, but I wondered if I would ever find colors repeating. Interesting that the stories are so different.

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