25 Years of Spectra: LORD OF SNOW AND SHADOWS (2003) by Sarah Ash


When I was first hired by Spectra in the spring of 2008, I was–to put it mildly–an editorial noob. I think I’ve made some strides since then (I mean, people let me edit their books, so that’s always something that never fails to bewilder me), but my first real foray into the world of working with an author was with Sarah Ash. She was working on the second book in the Alchymist’s Legacy duology, Flight Into Darkness, and Anne Groell, her editor, asked me to be a second pair of eyes.
I was, to put it mildly, thrilled. (To put it ecstatically, I was, um, ecstatic).
losas__ash.jpgSo I jumped into the first book, Tracing the Shadow and I found out something–Sarah Ash is a really good writer. I don’t know why I was surprised–Spectra only works with great writers (hold on–need to see if I can get my ego-inflated head out of my cube…yup, still good)–but it’s still nice to find someone you’re proud to have on your shelves. If you’ve ever seen a NYC apartment, you know how much of a premium shelf space is.
Well, having worked on the second book in a duology–and realizing that there was a previous trilogy set in the same world, I went back to Lord of Snow and Shadows, the first book in the Tears of Artamon series. When I finished reading that trilogy, I sat back for a moment, contemplated on the fact that I had contributed to one of these amazing books, and couldn’t help think:
“My job is a lot cooler than other peoples’.”
And that includes you, astronauts.
Below, Sarah discusses in her own words what it was like to work on Lord of Snow and Shadows, as does her editor, Anne.

“A young servant girl dusting a dark-panelled bedchamber pauses to stare at the portrait of a boy with eyes as blue as the sea. She has always felt a special connection with this portrait of the young heir to the kastel…and now she is really excited because she knows that she will soon get the chance to see him at last. But she is also on edge because the reason he’s returning after so many years is that his father, the lord of the kastel, has been savagely murdered, and the murderer may well be lurking close by, waiting to claim another victim.

The seeds of a new story always arrive in the form of a few fleetingly glimpsed scenes, like half-remembered dreams that refuse to melt away with the morning light. I find myself constantly revisiting those scenes, asking questions that demand to be answered. Why is the new young lord of the kastel living so far away? His father has been murdered – but by whom? Why does Kiukiu (and her name was there from the start) feel such a strong connection to this boy she’s never even met? And what is the lingering shadow that haunts the kastel and the bleak, snow-covered mountains beyond the diamond-paned windows of the bedchamber?

From these little seeds grew Lord of Snow and Shadows, the first volume of The Tears of Artamon. Imagine my excitement (some while later) when I heard from John Parker, my agent, that Anne Groell at Bantam Spectra, was keen to publish the Artamon series in the US! I kept pinching myself and saying, “The Anne Groell?” because I knew that she had edited favourite authors of mine such as Lynn Flewelling and Ellen Kushner, and was also an accomplished fantasy author herself. I really enjoyed working on the Artamon books with Anne (her wicked sense of humour was invaluable) and I learned a great deal from her, for which I will always be grateful! Then I was so thrilled when I saw the cover of the book; Stephen Youll’s atmospheric portrayal of Snowcloud (the owl who plays a significant role in the story) has brought me many new readers. I love it when someone takes the time and trouble to email me, saying, ‘I didn’t know your books before, but when I saw that wonderful cover I felt compelled to pick up the novel – and now I’m hooked!’

So, thank you to everyone at Spectra for getting the Artamon series off to such a great start -and my warmest congratulations (as a writer and as an ardent reader) on bringing us twenty-five years of wonderful fiction!”

–Sarah Ash, June 2010


“Sarah’s book, when I first saw it on submission, had everything that most appealed to me as a reader. A rich, deep world with a history that feels real, but isn’t…quite. Deeply twisted politics. A great romantic subplot. When I bought it, I was pitching it as Tolstoy does Fantasy; it has both the great broad scope and operatic intensity of a Russian novel.

But what I remember most profoundly about this book is the cover. It is one thing to have a vision of the book–of the structure of a novel and what it needs to be. That is what I love most about my job–absorbing a book, getting in under its skin, knowing what and where it needs to be and how you can help get there. It is something I try to do with every book I edit. But what is far rarer–at least for me–is having a full-blown vision of what the book needs to look like, physically. Yet the minute I read Lord of Snow and Shadows, I knew exactly what the cover needed to look like. It was crystal clear in my head.

My instructions to Jamie, my art director, were fairly specific. The name of a famous illustrator may have been bandied about. The words: “in the style of” is what I will officially admit to; a cruder term may have been used in actuality. And there had to be owls. (It was Harry Potter time, and owls had legitimate fantasy cred.)

The vision of that cover stays with me today–and mostly because I can just turn my head and see it on the shelf. Because what I got was precisely what I wanted. Can I tell you how rare that is? I have had that same certainly of vision on a few other books, but the final art–while often wonderful in its way–has never entirely matched my mental picture. But in this one case, the art not only matched but exceeded my expectations.

Nor am I, apparently, the only one who loved it. Years later, the artist, Steve Youll, was exhibiting the original painting at one of the big convention art shows. There was a lot of public complaint at the time about artists not allowing much of their work to be sold. So Steve thought: What the hell. I’ll stick a really, really high price tag on it. That way, it’ll look like it’s for sale, but no one will actually buy it.

It sold instantly.”

–Anne Groell, Senior Editor, Spectra

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