Anarchy of the Mice is an adventure tale in the spirit of the Indiana Jones movies: huge, wild, dangerous, fun. Halfway through the book, the world literally descends into anarchy. Law and order crumbles. Personal and territorial security becomes privatized. Currency breaks down. The only ones who can stop it are three mismatched, larger-than-life heroes: Molly McGill, Quaid Rafferty, and Durwood Oak Jones.
I want a cover that’s just that: huge, wild, dangerous, fun.
Style-wise, I would absolutely love it if somebody could give me a cover in the old pulp style, along the lines of Joyland or any of the vintage examples I’ve included. I realize it may be difficult technically to achieve this illustrated effect; that’s why I am setting such a high bounty.
Although of course I welcome any concept or vision, I have two concrete ideas going in.
1) Molly receiving a flaming note from Hatch, a member of the Blind Mice.
Early in the book, Molly McGill poses as a radical blogger in order to gain entry into the Blind Mice. The Mice are rabidly secretive and insist on a number of cloak-and-dagger rendezvouses before inviting her into the group. The night she finally does join, she ventures to an abandoned strip mall where she meets Hatch, a nearly 7’ tall Libertarian, bald, covered in tattoos from head-to-toe. He shows her a scrap of paper containing an address, then sets it ablaze and tosses it toward her: she must hurry to it on the ground and memorize its contents before it turns to ash.
I believe that image—Molly and the tattooed giant with the flaming note between them—could work great in the old pulp style.
As for Molly’s appearance. She’s a single mother in her mid-30s. Resilient. Tireless. Optimistic. Stressed. Wholesome. She has a heart of gold and always seeks the best in people.
The only physical detail I’m committed to is a strawberry-blond bob haircut … but even that I’m willing to rewrite if you show me a more compelling Molly with different hair. (Note: strawberry- blonde is a very natural color, just blonde with a hint of reddish-brown.)
(If you don’t like the abandoned strip mall and want to try something different for a setting, or to work anarchy into the backdrop somehow, go for it. I’ll rewrite around it too if necessary.)
2) Our three heroes on a bluff, overlooking--or perhaps walking into--a city in steaming ruins. I’m including a picture of The Gender Lie cover, which might be a starting point. (Without the lightning and red skies of course.)
As I mentioned, the world descends into anarchy. So just about anything could go here. A crumbling bridge. Burning buildings. Riot police. A couple elements that actually are in the plot: a hijacked helicopter, a corporate fortress built into the side of a rock-face in the Boulogne Woods.
I imagine the heroes would be in silhouette, seen from behind. If you have a way of showing their faces or putting them in action, great—but I worry that could start to get too busy.
(Side note: if somebody wins with a design that includes a great pulp-style depiction of Molly or all three, I would likely do a 1-on-1 project immediately afterward for individual pictures of each in the same style, for promotional use around the web.)
On the heroes’ appearances. I covered Molly above. Quaid Rafferty is an ex-politician in the Kennedy mold. In his 40s. Handsome. Connected. Smooth talker. Wavy, mussed-just-so blond hair. I always see Matthew McConaughey when I think of Quaid.
Durwood Oak Jones is ex-military. Also in his 40s. Boots and blue jeans. Hunts. Serious. Believes in right and wrong. Man of action. Dark eyes and dark hair. Has a trusty dog named Sue-Ann, an elderly bluetick coonhound who’s important to the story. Any details you'd like to add to make him more distinctive -- rifle, some kind of hat -- are on the table.
Feel free to change anything about any of the heroes besides their age.
For #2, I would again prefer the vintage pulp style, that illustrated, almost oil-painting feel … but since this one probably won’t have faces, it might work okay with a more conventional cinematic/realistic style. I trust you all to come up with something amazing.
Another thing to mention. In the story, the Blind Mice have a symbol: an abstract nose-eye-whiskers symbol. I do have a cover in a more technothriller style, which features a version of this symbol. You are free to incorporate it if you wish, or create something different that fits your cover’s style, or leave the symbol out entirely. Because I’m asking for a pulp look, my sense is that this Mice symbol will be too modern and tech-y for this contest winner. But I did want to provide it to you.
The subtitle, “A Third Chance Adventure,” should be included somewhere. Bonus points if it looks like an old pulp magazine subtitle.
Anarchy of the Mice is the first of a series. I would love to establish a long-term relationship with a designer whose style matches what I’m envisioning for these stories. I can see myself writing more big adventure tales with all three heroes, or Jack Reacher-type books featuring only Durwood, or domestic thrillers with just Molly, etc. All with covers in this thrilling pulp style. If you win this contest -- demonstrate that you can create the look/feel/mood I want -- any of these future covers are going to be yours, 1-on-1.
I believe there’s an opportunity for the art to play a huge role in defining this series. I’m really looking for a partner here, someone who can take these big characters and wild plots and give them a unique visual identity.
A couple quick notes about how I'll run the contest. Since this will be limited to mid- and top-level designers, I'm certain this won't be an issue -- but please do respect other's work. I expect to see plenty of versions of my two ideas above, but if somebody else creates an astonishing, totally-fresh concept that gets a 4- or 5-star rating, I'd rather not see a bunch of very similar designs in the following hours. [THE CONTEST HAS GONE BLIND, SO THIS IS NO LONGER RELEVANT.]
Also, I will be blunt in my feedback. If I don't think your design or style is likely to win, I'll tell you immediately. Please don't take this as a comment on your talent. I am sensitive to the fact that designers end up doing lots of work without getting paid in these contests, and I want to minimize that as much as possible. I won't string anybody along. Take your best shot, and if it's in the running, we'll work on making it better. (Or closer to what's right for Anarchy of the Mice.) If not, I don't want to consume more of your time.
That said, I will let you know why I didn't choose a design. I will comment every single design -- that's a promise.
Thank you for reading my brief. I look forward to seeing your work, and please know that I am extraordinarily grateful for all the time, talent, and creativity you devote to my project.