Same Book, Different Cover

The Lady and the Laird Nicola CornickNicola here, talking today about why books have different
covers depending on which country they are released in.

My latest book, The Lady and the Laird, has had the closest
to simultaneous release I’ve ever had (within 6 weeks) in the US, the UK and
Australia, and this has provided an interesting contrast in terms of the covers
chosen for the three different editions.

First up is the US version. I think it’s very pretty and I
absolutely love the colours, the subtle use of tartan and the landscape.

The UK cover sticks with an elegant style that has been used
by MIRA for my books
Laird_uk_350 for the last few years. Again it’s very pretty. One reader
commented: “I love the romanticism and mystery of this cover. It says classy,
sensuous and intriguing.”

Last but very definitely not least is the Australian cover,
which I first heard about when it caused a stir on Goodreads! It’s hard to
believe but in my entire writing career I have never had a single cover
featuring a bare-chested man or even one with his shirt open so when I saw my
hunky, topless Scot I was pretty much overwhelmed!

The Lady and the Laird mystery coverBoth the US and Australian covers say “Scottish historical”
but in a very different way from each other. The UK one simply says
“historical” I think. Interestingly when I asked readers to vote on which they
liked best, people didn’t divide up according to where they came from. There
were plenty of UK readers who loved the US cover, plenty of US and UK readers who
adored the topless Scot, and others who thought the UK cover was gorgeous. So choosing cover art by territory is not an exact science (as it were.)

Designing cover art is a fascinating business – how do you
make a book appealing to readers at the same time as capturing the spirit of
the story? What is even more fascinating is that putting different covers on
different editions of the same book is pretty common. Evidently publishers really do feel
that what appeals to readers in the US is different from what appeals in the
UK and vice versa and that German taste, for instance, will vary from Portuguese.

Harry Potter 2The story of what happened with the cover of the first Harry
Potter book is pretty well known. In the UK
Harry Potter 1 it was called Harry Potter and the
Philosopher’s Stone
.  The cover is on the right. In the US it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and
the cover is on the left.

They not only changed the cover but also the title.
And in the UK there was also an “adult” version of the book for those people
who didn’t want to be seen reading a kid’s book! I don’t know if this happened
in the US as well.

A different but equally interesting contrast is provided by
Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall.
The US cover is on the left below and the UK one on the right. The US cover has an instantly recognisable image of Anne Boleyn on it whilst the UK one is intriguing if a little more obscure.

Hilary Mantel 1It’s interesting that the major reason given for varying the
covers of books depending on which country you are in is that the cultural
tastes of different countries vary hugely and so what will appeal in one
place won’t have the same
Hilary Mantel 2 impact in another. Certain layouts and imagery may strike a chord with readers in different parts of the world, but as we’ve seen
this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.

What do you think about putting different covers on
different editions of the same book? Do you think it’s a good idea or should
books, like films, have a global identity?

Visiting Scotland in the Regency

Welcome_to_Scotland_sign_A1_roadNicola here. It’s no secret that amongst the Wenches and our
readers there are a lot of fans of all things Scottish. It’s a beautiful
country, one of the places in the world I could never tire of visiting and I
have had some amazing experiences there, from climbing mountains to swimming in
the lochs, from sailing amongst the Northern Isles to wandering the cobbled
streets of Edinburgh. I’ve fallen over in Scottish bogs, been bitten by midges,
danced at a ceilidh and been marooned in every sort of weather you might
imagine, flood, fog and snow. It’s been brilliant.

In making my frequent trips to Scotland I’m hardly unique.
Nor is heading to the Highlands a recent phenomenon. Scotland was a tourist
destination as early as the 18th century and in the later years of that century and in the early 19th century its popularity exploded. “It has now become fashionable to make a tour
into Scotland for some weeks or months,” The Weekly Magazine commented in 1772,
whilst Eliza Diggle observed in 1788: “All the world is travelling to Scotland
and Ireland.”

Here are a few of the snippets I've picked up about the history
of tourism in Scotland when I was researching the background to The Lady and
the Laird
(with a few of my own photos for illustration!)

Intrepid Travellers

The earliest authors who wrote about Scotland, including
Martin Martin in 1698 and Daniel Defoe in
Intrepid travellers 1724, were intrepid individuals whose
writings inspired other travellers to venture into those wild lands. In 1771
Thomas Pennant published his Tour In Scotland, which was a vast success.
He had previously written a similar guide to Ireland, which he admitted was
very incomplete “owing to the conviviality of the country.” Visitors to
Scotland were attracted by Pennant’s descriptions of landscape and his account
of folklore. His enthusiasm for picturesque views and for nature was keen. He
did much to inspire Dr Samuel Johnson’s travels and despite disliking Pennant’s
politics Johnson said of him: “He is the best traveller I ever read; he
observes more things than anyone else does.”

Dr Johnson and James Boswell followed swiftly in Pennant’s
footsteps, travelling mainly through the Western Isles. Here they found the
Highlands in a state of change. The clan system had been dismantled, the
wearing of tartan was prohibited and the land was being cleared. Johnson
wondered if he had left it too late to witness the “old” way of life of the
Highlands. He did note, however, that illegal whisky distilling was common and
that there was a custom called the skalk, whereby a man took a glass of whisky
as an aperitif before breakfast. (My husband turned a bit pale when he heard
that. He likes a wee dram but not before breakfast. I remember visiting the
Talisker Distillery last year and doing some whisky tasting at about 11 in the
morning. The rest of the day is a bit hazy.)

The Guidebook – An Insipid Tour

Edinburgh guide bookBy the turn of the 19th century guide books to
Scotland abounded. The Quarterly Review of 1806 complained: “There is Johnson’s
Philosophic Tour, Pennant’s Descriptive Tour, Gilpin’s Picturesque Tour,
Stoddart’s Sketching Tour, Garnet’s Medical Tour, Mrs Murray’s Familiar Tour,
Newte’s Nautical Tour, Mawman’s Bookselling Tour, Campbell’s Crazy Tour,
Lithie’s Insipid Tour…All those Caledonian memorabilia that the more desperate
visit in person.”  I must admit I am a
keen reader of guidebooks. The guide book to Edinburgh I used last year was
particularly good on helping me put my itinerary together even if it wasn’t
called “An Insipid Tour of Edinburgh.” (Here is a photo of me consulting it in the famous Greyfriars church yard.)

It’s difficult to know how many of the 18th and
19th century travel guides were bought by people who simply had an
interest in reading more about Scotland and were not actually intending to
leave the comfort of their armchair. The tour guides definitely played a part
in encouraging a growing interest in the country, its landscape, the rugged scenery,
the geology, the literature and the legends. Perhaps some of those people who
read about the country still saw it as too wild and dangerous to visit but
reading about it at home made it seem safer.

At the same time the refurbishment of inns and the development
of hotels does suggest that people were travelling in increasing numbers. The
Napoleonic Wars certainly benefited travel in Britain as much of the continent was closed to tourists; one newspaper commented:
“Edinburgh is as much visited by every dashing citizen who pretends to fashion
as Margate or Tonbridge.”

An Opportunity for Tour Guides

With tourism came a need for people to show the visitors
around. Guides could make a good income
Handbook from fees and tips and some
supplemented their talks by selling handbooks and souvenirs. By the 1790s the
more entrepreneurial were designing advertisements offering their services.
Towns such as Perth and Sterling appointed town guides and abbeys offered
guided tours, as did stately homes. In 1814 the Duke of Atholl’s factor devised
a set of guidelines for the people who showed visitors around the gardens at
Dunkeld. They had to wear a badge for identification and they had to ensure
that all visitors signed in. The tourists were not permitted to walk round on
their own because some of them would help themselves to “souvenirs” of plant
cuttings or carve their initials on the trees! The Head Gardener himself would
show the more important guests around although on one occasion he made a
mistake when two rich American visitors came posing as sailors. He took one
look at their shabby attire and consigned them to an underling, thus missing
out on a substantial tip.

The Visitor’s Book

In Scotland the visitor’s book started its life in the 18th
century as “the album given to strangers.” Most people simply signed their
names but a few made comments about the place and whether or not they had
enjoyed their visit. From this developed the idea of feedback on the
attractions which today manifests itself in Trip Advisor! I haven't found any rude comments in Scottish visitors' books but I was
intrigued to read that the gardens at Nuneham Courtenay in England had a
problem with people writing uncomplimentary comments in the visitors book in 1815. One
visitor wrote: “Well does the dinner and the day agree; the food is cold and so
are we.”

By Land and Sea

Taymouth_Castle_James_NorieAs tourism started to take off it gave a boost to Scottish
hotels and inns. This was much to the relief of the nobility and gentry who had
previously offered friends and acquaintances accommodation in their own houses.
In 1773 Lord Breadalbane commented that: “We have had a good deal of company
here this summer… Many of them from England, some of whom I knew before, others
recommended to me. Sometimes it is a little troublesome…” Guest had to be fed
and entertained, which could be expensive, and they all wanted to participate
in some Scottish country dancing.  Poor
Lord Breadalbane found that he had barely a moment to himself before the next
carriage load of visitors rolled up to the door!

Of the inns, the best were excellent but the worst had a
name for being appalling. The Inchture Inn between Perth and Dundee was noted for
serving a very poor breakfast of stale eggs, rancid butter and inedible bread.
The well-organised tourist sent ahead to organise rooms, request fresh bedding
and make sure there would be good food. The roads were equally mixed, some in
excellent condition, others very poor. Whilst highway robbery was almost
unknown by this period, other mishaps were all too frequent. Tourists
frequently got lost because there were no road signs. Even Queen Victoria got
lost in the hills above Dunkeld, and carriages could easily overturn and horses
go lame. North of Perth the inns did not always provide horses for hire which
meant that travellers had to rest their own teams until they were able to continue.

Travel on the water was even more perilous. The journey to
see the famous Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of
StaffaStaffa was considered extremely
dangerous (and I have to admit that it was pretty rough the day we visited and
our dog didn’t much appreciate being lifted in and out of the boat by two hefty
sailors!) This is one of our photos showing the sea breaking over the entrance to Fingal's Cave.

The Medicinal Visit

The therapeutic value of sea bathing was not as quickly
recognised in Scotland as it was in England, perhaps because it’s cold getting
in the water in Scotland whatever the season.  (There is a photo of me swimming in Scotland but it's censored because of my horrified expression when the cold water hits!) A saltwater bath was built at
Peterhead in 1762 to augment the existing mineral spring treatments and in 1788
there were bathing machines for hire at Tynemouth and other resorts. By the
turn of the 19th century there were a number of seaside towns near
Edinburgh that offered sea bathing and this was generally recognised as being
good for the health.  Dr William Buchan
recommended seawater as a cure for skin complaints and a preservative of
general health. These towns also developed coffee rooms, circulating libraries
and music chambers for those occasions on which the weather turned wet.

Nicola at the top of the mountainScotland also offered other opportunities for a healthy
holiday. Equestrian trips, pedestrian tours and mountain ascents were all on
offer by the end of the 18th century. As the 19th century
progressed the idea of a picturesque tour of Scotland to admire the scenery or
a medicinal visit for exercise and sea bathing was joined by the sporting visit
so beloved of Victorian and Edwardian aristocrats. Scotland’s popularity as a
tourist destination hasn’t waned since. 

Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to taking a
trip? Do you like to read the guidebooks beforehand or simply turn up and
decide what to do when you arrive? And have you ever visited somewhere that was
completely different from how you expected it to be? (For me it was Stonehenge – I expected it to be bigger!)

Life in a Georgian House

View of EdinburghNicola here, fresh from a fabulous research trip to Edinburgh! I'm writing a new trilogy set in Scotland. Book 1, The Lady and the Laird, is set in the Highlands and Islands, book 2 in Edinburgh and book 3 in the Scottish Borders, so of course I have to go and visit. A lot. Visiting Scotland is no hardship for me. It’s one of my favourite places in the world.

But I had not been to Edinburgh before and I knew I had only a few days to pack in all the things I wanted to see, so before I went I put together a “must see” list. Top of that list was The Georgian House in Charlotte Square, in Edinburgh’s New Town. (Edinburgh has an “old” and a “new” town. The Old Town is ancient – even the “new” one dates from the late 18th century. In that, it’s rather like the “New” Forest. Newness is relative.) Lady Mairi MacLeod, heroine of the second book in my series, has a fashionable town house – as well as a little tenement building in the Old Town that she uses for secret purposes, and The Georgian House was going to be my model for Mairi’s home.

In 1766 the architect James Craig won the competition to design Edinburgh New Town. Numerous plansThe Old Town 2 to improve Edinburgh had been put forward over the preceding years but it was only in the mid-18th century that there was the political stability and increasing wealth to do so. The New Town was to be a fashionable residential area for the wealthy and privileged, away from the cramped and squalid living conditions of the Old Town. (These days the Old Town is fascinating with tiny narrow alleys and charming ancient buildings but in the 18th century it was filthy and smelly with people packed into the tenements and throwing their waste out into the streets.) The New Town was also intended to turn Edinburgh into a centre of culture and commerce.

Edinburgh New Town PlanThe New Town developed over the following 50 years. In 1791 Robert Adam designed the north side of Charlotte Square, where the Georgian House is situated at number 7. The first owner of the house was John Lamont, 18th Chief of Clan Lamont and he paid £1800 for it. The National Trust for Scotland has restored the house to look as it would have done in 1796. I was particularly interested in the original colour schemes, the lighting and all those little details that are so important to create authentic atmosphere. Fortunately the staff were unfailingly patient with all my questions and were also extremely knowledgeable.

Here are a few of the quirky facts I picked up on my visit (and a fabulous photo of the Georgian House from the outside by Alan Bulley. Thank you for letting us use your photo, Alan.

The first thing I learned was how useful a lobby was outside the main hall. It was here that there wereThe exterior plain wooden seats for servants to wait on and also a table for visitors to leave their cards. The lobby led to an inner hall and staircase that was top lit by an oval dome. Great care was taken to light the staircase both from above and from the lamps that illuminated the steps. Interestingly the main social season in Edinburgh was during the winter not the late spring and summer, as in London, and so natural light was in short supply during the hours of entertaining. Houses would have been rather dark a lot of the time.

The Drawing Room

Drawing roomThe grand drawing room is on the first floor and was used only for entertaining. When the house was first occupied guests would have been taken directly there to be greeted by the host and hostess. For everyday living – family gatherings, reading, needlework, taking tea – there was a “back” drawing room, or parlour, which was more intimate and more informal. The decoration of this smaller room matched that of the main drawing room. This room was also used by the gentleman of the house for business meetings, which it was perfectly acceptable for him to conduct in his dressing gown – but only in the morning!

The grand drawing room had a fitted carpet which I found fascinating as I hadn’t realised there was any such thing during the later Georgian period. When there was dancing the carpet was covered with a thick rug for protection. This seemed rather dangerous and might account for any number of dancers tripping up!

The curtains in the drawing room were also very interesting as they were festoon curtains, which I had not known were in fashion in the period. I had assumed that the more familiar long curtains (which they had in the other rooms) were standard to the period. The stripy seat fabric is also authentic to the Regency period.


Lord Cockburn’s Memorials, published in 1856, gives an interesting account of evening dining in late 18th and early 19th century Edinburgh. When dinners were early, around 4pm, the habit was to have another meal, supper, in the evening. As dinner moved to be later in the evening so supper moved back too because as Lord Cockburn said: “suppers are so delightful… I have often heard strangers say that Edinburgh was the only place where people dined twice a day. Supper is cheaper than dinner; shorter, less ceremonious and more poetical.”

The dining chairs in the Georgian House were covered in red leather, which was traditional because leather was easily cleaned of any spillages and always looked good! There was also a dumb waiter in the room, a small lift operated on a pulley system for when the servants were not required to wait at table. Gossip and scandal were sold by servants from one house to another – hence the name.

 Apparently the white damask tablecloth would be removed before the dessert and the table relaid, although I'm not sure what the guests did whilst this happened. Chat amongst themselves, perhaps? Table napkins of the period were rectangular and were folded flat. There were no fancy shapes of fans or animals at this date! 

The Water Closet

Between the dining room and the bedroom was a water closet. This contained a portable early 19th Chamber pot century “receiver.” When the brass handle was pulled upwards the hand filled water tank at the back flushed the pan which emptied into the a copper box below. The end result was the same however (as it were). It was the servant who had to empty the box, having placed a brass cap over the opening to “prevent the smell.” Naturally there were also chamber pots in use, this one displayed prominently on the dressing table!

Georgian House bedThe Bedroom

It was the tradition in Edinburgh to have the main bedchamber on the ground floor overlooking the garden at the back of the house. No need for the hero (or heroine) to climb any ivy here to make a clandestine entrance! The bedroom also served as an informal parlour where ladies would take tea.

The servants

As was traditional, the servants’ quarters were down in the basement. This was painted in drab colours; apparently all the left over paint from the rooms upstairs was put in a pot and mixed together and used to decorate the servants’ quarters!

The bell board in the Georgian House showed bells with spiral springs unlike English ones, which were generally curved like a question mark.

The kitchen was painted blue which was the traditional colour to keep flies away! I’m not sure if this works…

At the top of the house there were rooms with lots more detail of life in Georgian Edinburgh, including the fact that sedan chairs remained popular into the Regency period and the use of them far outweighed that of hackney carriages!

It was the detail of life in the Georgian House and Georgian Edinburgh that really made the place come alive for me. When you are reading about the lives of our ancestors what is it that interests you? The food? Travel? Clothes? (At the Georgian House I was able to make my own fichu too!) Entertainments?