Guest post: The Birth of a Title and Cover by Mark Allan Gunnells

Posted: March 15, 2016 in Guest blogs
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Today’s guest post is from horror author Mark Allan Gunnells. Mark loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then.  He lives in Greer, SC, with his fiance Craig A. Metcalf.

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When Sinister Grin Press first approached me about the possibility of submitting something to them, I was ecstatic. I still feel like that writer just starting out who had trouble getting publishers interesting in his work, so it always thrills and humbles me when a publisher requests to look at something from me.

At the time they asked, I was in the middle of writing a zombie novella called FORT. They said they’d be happy to read it when it was done, but in the meantime I inquired about their interest in a short story collection. That’s not always an easy sell, but to my delight they were enthusiastic about the idea.

So I immediately set out choosing and arranging stories to go into a collection. I have hundreds of shorts so I had plenty to choose from and the hardest part was narrowing it down.

Once that was done, I had to decide on a title. I think titles are important, and the title of a collection should be something that sort of captures the spirit of a diverse assemblage of tales. Only once did I name a collection after one of the stories in the book, and that was just because the title of the story—“Welcome to the Graveyard”—just seemed to fit perfectly. Most times I like to come up with a unique title to sum up the collection.

With this one, I was having trouble coming up with something that felt appropriate. Inspiration came from the unlikeliest of places. My fiancé is a Buddhist and likes to listen to talks given by Buddhist monks. One day he was listening to one of these about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and are a positive influence as opposed to being companions in ruin.

COMPANIONS IN RUIN! As soon as I heard that phrase, I fell in love with it. I instantly knew it would make a great title, and it Companions in ruin coverseemed like a wonderful match for this collection. I have received some positive feedback from readers regarding the title, and I’m rather proud of it. And to think, I have a Buddhist monk to thank.

When it came time for Sinister Grin to come up with a cover, they consulted me for ideas. I freely admit I’m not great when coming up with cover concepts, but I gave it a shot. Suggested maybe a group of people that vaguely resembled some characters from various stories wandering through ancient ruins. An admittedly lame idea, so the fine folks at Sinister Grin asked me if there were any stories in the collection that I thought contained particularly striking imagery that could be utilized for a cover. I sent a list of four or five stories I thought might do.

The story they settled on was a flash piece titled “Sentinel”. The tale concerns a couple driving down a deserted road and up ahead they see a figure standing by the road draped in a white sheet wearing a skull mask. It was this image they decided to run with.

Frank Walls was the artist assigned to do the cover, and when I got a load of what he’d done, I have to say I was one happy boy. The startling red of the background in sharp contrast to the stark figure makes for some nice ghastly eye-candy. I have received a ton of compliments on that cover, and my fiancé actually says he thinks it’s the best cover to have appeared on any of my books, and all the credit for that one go to Frank Walls and the Sinister Grin team.

So there you have it…how the title and cover of my newest collection came to be. A pretty good title, if I do say so myself, and a hell of a great cover. Now I only hope the stories within do them justice.

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Visit Mark’s blog here:

Visit Mark’s Amazon Author page here:

Purchase Companions in Ruin here:

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