I was browsing through Facebook the other night and got a bit of a surprise. Okay, it is not really surprising to get a surprise from social media, I know, but this one was closer to home than anything else that I have encountered. It did not involved a cat or an example of stupid human behaviour or even a photograph of somewhere amazing that I have actually visited. No, this surprise related to something that I had done myself in a creative capacity, it was this:
That above is the cover of Bernard Cornwell’s new book, The War of the Wolf. This is why I was surprised:
That is the cover of my novel, The War Wolf. I think that I can see one or two similarities.
I published my book in 2013 through Amazon. Prior to doing that I contacted several literary agents in a vain attempt to go down the traditional publishing route. One of them was Bernard Cornwell’s own agent. They declined to represent me stating that they could not be sure where to place my book, a historical fiction novel, to get it published. Obviously, they did not have a similar problem with Bernard’s work!
I am not a fan of conspiracy theories. I do believe that coincidences can and do happen. However, sometimes there are facts behind an apparent coincidence that are just too suggestive of something else. Now, it might just be that Bernard Cornwell and the people who work with him have never heard of or seen my book, except his agent of course. It might just be that the subject material inevitably suggests similar things to the imaginations of different people who are exploring it. I cannot speak for Bernard Cornwell and his people of course but here is how I came to produce my book.
When I started writing my novel had the working title of ‘The Battle of Fulford Gate’. I knew that it was not really very catchy but as I was writing about the actual Battle of Fulford Gate in 1066 I was quite happy to use it. As part of my research into the period I read the poem Beowulf. I had read it many years previously and I thought that it might contribute something to all three novels. I am not sure what in particular but in the end Beowulf gave me the titles to all three of my Saxon books. The War Wolf gets its name from this passage:
“War-wolf horrid, at Heorot found a warrior watching and waiting the fray”.
In my imagination the War Wolf was King Hardrada of Norway invading England, Heorot was York, and Coenred was the warrior waiting for the fight to begin. It all seemed to fit together very nicely and gave the story something of an epic feel.
For the cover of the book I wanted something that, to my mind at least, captured the elements of that quote. I created a banner decorated with an idealised wolf in the style of Saxon art. Below it is a Saxon warrior wearing the famous Coppergate Helmet, which was found in York. I used green as a base colour and found that yellow for the fonts worked very well. The composition proved to be both simple and effective. I was able to use the same design with a few singular adaptations for the other two books in the series. This, I believe, gives them an identity as a trilogy.
That is a brief account of how I came to create the cover and choose the title of my book, unfortunately, I do not know the story behind Bernard Cornwell’s novel.
When I showed the the picture of Bernard Cornwell’s book to my wife she was rather angry. She urged me to contact him and complain. I am not sure what I can complain about though. I think that there is a passing resemblance between the two, superficially at least, but I doubt that it extends to the story within. My book is concerned with the end of the Saxon world whereas Bernard’s appears to be about the beginning of it. The War of the Wolf is, I believe, book 11 in his Lost Kingdom series. I suppose that I could assert that imitation is the best form of flattery and take satisfaction in the fact that a struggling to be recognised writer has, even if inadvertently, been recognised by a successful writer in this manner.