‘Maze of Blood’ arrives in Cooperstown, New York

Marly Youmans has taken delivery of copies of her latest novel, and has e-mailed me photographs. Here’s a box full of Mazes. That’s Marly’s foot bottom left.

Mary-Frances Glover-Burt has done a beautiful job on the design of the book. Judging from Marly’s photographs I couldn’t be happier with the result. For one of the page decorations I’d used scrolled paper-streamers to form the convolutions of a brain, and it was Mary-Frances’ idea to use the scrolled motif on the title-page. However she needed some extra drawings in order for the streamers to flutter horizontally, and I was happy to oblige by making and sending them. She also deftly lifted the lettering I’d made for the cover, and used it on the title-page, unifying the jacket artwork with the interior of the book.

But beyond the sensitive book design, underwritten by the excellent production values at Mercer University Press, lies the fact that Marly and her publisher trust me implicitly to produce the work. Before I begin we barely discuss what I might do for her, and for the most part she doesn’t know what’s going onto the cover of whichever book I’m collaborating on, until the finished artwork arrives.

This process suits me perfectly. I’m a painter, and like to get on with things in pretty much my own way. Luckily I can choose my projects, and work only on those that interest me, and with people I trust.

Making images for the covers and the pages of books, is a long process. I read texts repeatedly to find my way into the authors’ worlds. I have to ‘cook’ the material, let it simmer away in my head like a stew until the images begin to float to the surface, where I can retrieve them and go about my work. After that there’s the process of designing, which is not my job, though I like to be a part of it. Finally there’s the printing, and the new work comes into the world, hopefully as I’ve been expecting it to look. Sometimes the results are better than expected, and thanks to Mary-Frances, Maze of Blood falls into that category.

Four heads for ‘Maze of Blood’

Here are three of six planned page division images for Marly Youmans’ forthcoming Maze of Blood, together with the cover artwork I produced for the book. Mary-Frances Glover Burt of Burt & Burt, is the designer to whom this project has been entrusted by the publisher. Mary-Frances and I have worked together previously at Mercer University Press, on Marly’s last book, Glimmerglass.

completed first interior page decoration for ‘Maze of Blood’

All these images were taken at night by lamplight. In reality the drawing is in black pencil on white paper, but I like the soft antique glow of how it looked under electric light. In the book all will be crisp black and white.

The drawing photographed in natural light


‘Maze of Blood’: Marly and Clive

Front cover art work for Maze of Blood


Maze of Blood is the latest novel by Marly Youmans, due out from Mercer University Press in 2015. I’m charged with producing the cover image and interior decorations. Here’s Maze of Blood as described by Marly in the acknowledgements of the book.

‘Maze of Blood was drafted during a residence at Yaddo in 2007. I thank The Yaddo Foundation and its staff for quiet, time, and a room of my own. While fiction, Maze of Blood was inspired and shaped by the life events, works, and times of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. Secondary sources most essential to me were: One Who Walked Alone, by Novalyne Price Ellis; Blood & Thunder, by Mark Finn; and Two-Gun Con: A Centennial Study of Robert E. Howard. Poems quoted are from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert E. Howard.’

Early concept for the cover

E-mail from Clive Hicks-Jenkins to Marly Youmans, 19/02/15

“I never wrote to tell you how much I love Maze of Blood. I was so daunted by its dark beauty and darker psychologies. Daunted by the notion of conjuring a cover for a book that makes a poem of the life of the man known as the ‘Father of Sword and Sorcery’. (There will be illustrators that want to kill me for having been given this opportunity!) Daunted by the task of serving you as well as I can, and yet serving myself too. And last but not least, daunted at the task of making images to walk hand in hand with your matchless prose, so that I balked at writing to tell how much I loved it, for fear of putting the challenge onto paper, for fear of frightening off my muse. But now, as I tweak and adjust and make my way to the finishing-line of the cover, I write to say that you never disappoint, and I love discovering the terrains of your books. The interior images are going to be somethin’ else, and you are going to love ’em! Just saying’!”

Early concept for the cover

Facebook message from Marly Youmans to Clive Hicks-Jenkins, 19/02/15

“I am so glad that long ago I mentioned you, and you found me. Friendship is a great sheltering tree, full of birds and beasts and a homemade treehouse in the canopy!”

Preliminary studies

Final study


Drawing to scale

Beginning to paint

Paint and pencil render

At my desk


From Maze of Blood

‘He could hear the clock on the other side of the room. It reminded him of the bird that used to peck against the glass. Peck, peck, peck… Maybelline flew in the window in the shape of a tiny, tiny cardinal and sat on his knee. “I know what it is now,” he told her. She tilted her head, eyes like jet. “Love is like a bird. That’s why the old Greek writers gave Eros a pair of wings. You can catch the little flying creature in your hand and keep it, and your fingers will be the bars that curl into a cage. It will stay in the dark where it can never be seen or known.” Her feet tickled his knee through the coarse pants.’

You can read author Midori Snyder’s pre-publication review of Maze of Blood, HERE

‘Glimmerglass’ lands safely


My ten copies of Glimmerglass have arrived from Mercer University Press in the US, neatly and safely packed. I’m cock-a-hoop with delight. This is such a pretty book, from it’s generously-sized reproductions of my chapter-headings, to the tawny endpapers picking up colours from the jacket-flaps.

Mercer and the designer Mary-Frances Glover Burt have between them done a great job. Marly must be a happy author. I’m certainly a happy illuminator!

Even under its jacket, this little book is pretty, with its tiny Minotaur stamped onto the spine!

‘glimmerglass’ framed

Marly Youmans’ novel Glimmerglass will be published in September by Mercer University Press. The books have been printed and are currently stashed in a USA warehouse. Soon they will begin to move out into the world. Meanwhile, and on the the other side of the world, from today anyone visiting us will be greeted by the framed original collage/drawing that is the cover of Glimmerglass, the first artwork to be seen on entering Ty Isaf, hanging at the half-landing of the stairs next to shelves packed with treasured books, including all my collaborations with Marly.

Whether going up or down at Ty Isaf, the cover of the book is there to greet and remind me of all the pleasures of friendship with Marly. I love her work, and I love her.

Marly, right, with Montserrat Prat at Ty Isaf, 2011. Both had contributed chapters to my monograph, published by Lund Humphries.

A taster of ‘Glimmerglass’

Glimmerglass, a novel by Marly Youmans

Due this Autumn from Mercer University Press

Cover artwork and chapter headings by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Cover design by Mary-Frances Burt of Burt&Burt

“You might not know what you are seeking, but once inside the pages of Glimmerglass, you’ll find exactly what you need: ‘a cup of music, a hill of sea.’ In the Republic of Letters. Marly Youmans is our Magician in Chief.”

John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture

Glimmerglass is a series of mirrors and panes that splinter and soften to let you fall deeper into the heart of myth and artistic desire. A resonant, beautiful exploration of fragile hopes and the courage that comes from resisting their trampling by others.”

Margo Lanagan, author of Sea Hearts, Black Juice and other novels, winner of Worls Fantasy and Pritz awards

“I know of no writer other than Marly Youmans who has the genius to combine the spine-tingling suspense of Gothic storytelling with the immense charm, grace, glamour, realism, and simplicity of Hawthorne. Youmans, one of the biggest secrets of contemporary American fiction, writes with freshness and beauty. Whether she’s writing historical fiction or fantasy, her characters leave one breathless. Her ability to describe a person, a place, or the psychological underpinnings of a plot or individual, ranks with the great novelists, the highest literature. A tale of love and intrigue, mystery and pathology, Glimmerglass’ appeal is the warmth and charge of a tale told round a fire fused by Hitchcockian anxiety, empathy, and relief. Nature, architecture, dread, thrill, sexual dilemma, and murder echo against Youmans’ gorgeous prose and terrifying romance, which glides like a serpent―without a single extraneous or boring word. Youmans is my favorite storyteller. I come back to her as if to a holy well.”

Jeffery Beam, award-winning author of The Broken Flower, Gospel Earth and many other poetry collections

Glimmerglass on the way

Above: detail of the Glimmerglass cover

Below: the front cover unveiled in the Mercer University Press Autumn 2014 catalogue. (There is a minotaur on the back cover!)

Marly Youmans’ Glimmerglass is now in the Mercer University Press catalogue of forthcoming publications. I made the artwork and the design is by Burt & Burt, who have done a fantastic job.


the last for Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass vignette: finch in a fall of leaves

After a spell away from Glimmerglass while I completed work for my exhibition Telling Tales at the Tegfryn Gallery, the weekend was spent making the last few black and white vignettes and a rustic border for the title-page of the book. On Sunday evening these were dispatched in e-files to the publisher and designer. My work is done. Here are a couple of the page decorations, as a teaser for the book.

Glimmerglass vignette: fish swimming in stone

In her new novel Marly revels in references to the fauna of the natural world, but also includes the beasts of more fanciful realms. Then there are the denizens of the between-places, such as the fossils from ancient seas she describes embedded in the stonework of a house with surprising secrets. These were the ideas that led to my images for the page decorations of Glimmerglass. In the Youmans universe ammonites coexist with sea-serpents, and a minotaur may be found in a quite unexpected place.

The design for Glimmerglass is in the safe hands of Burt & Burt, who produced the award-winning design for an earlier Marly Youmans book for Mercer, The Throne of Psyche, which came wrapped in a detail from my annunciation painting Touched. (A work, by the way, given its title by Marly’s husband Mike, who came up with the idea I liked best!)

This has been, as have all my collaborations with the author, a delight to work on. Thank you Marly for making me the book-embelisher of your choice.


a novel by Marly Youmans

Due from Mercer University Press in September 2014

Detail of the cover for Glimmerglass