Evolution of a Cover: MENTATS OF DUNE

Writing a novel is just the first step.  Brian Herbert and I spent the past year brainstorming, outlining, and writing MENTATS OF DUNE, the second novel in the “Schools of Dune” trilogy (following SISTERHOOD OF DUNE). We have finished the penultimate draft of the 173,000 word manuscript, it’s been accepted by the US and UK publishers, and I have one final round of minor editing changes to incorporate before it goes into full copy-editing and production.  The novel is scheduled for release in March 2014.

Along the way, we worked closely with Stephen Youll, our cover artist, to develop the right concept and image for the book.  Steve has worked on my covers starting back in 1995 when he painted TALES FROM THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA and BLINDFOLD, both in the same year.  He has done the covers for my Saga of Seven Suns series, most of our Dune books so far, and the Hellhole trilogy.  Almost twenty-five covers, by my count.  So, we work well together!

For MENTATS OF DUNE, Brian and I decided we would like to see a scene of the imposing, isolated Mentat school built by Gilbertus Albans out in the dangerous marshy wilderness of Lampadas.  We sent Steve parts of the draft manuscript describing the building complex and suggested having a Mentat candidate appearing at the gate like a supplicant, looking up at the giant, intriguing buildings.  The Mentat school is protected by a broad lake, and candidates can approach across the water by knowing where to find barely submerged and invisible stepping stones.  Steve provided several incredible sketches for us to look at, positioning the character differently.

We liked those a lot, and chose the figure positioning we liked best, but discussed the architecture of the school itself. We had envisioned it a little more like a Tibetan monastery, and wanted to pick up on some of that feel.  Steve, a real trooper, went back to his sketch and made some alterations within a few days, offering this alternative.

When we could compare all the alternatives, though, we felt that the original architecture better conveyed the grandeur and scope we wanted, so with a few minor alterations, we asked Steve to bring the painting to completion.  I remember when I first opened the attachment, I let out an audible gasp because I loved it so much.

I think it’s one of the most striking of all our Dune covers so far.  The color scheme evokes a sense of wonder, the size and “inaccessibility” of the school adds a real mystery and majesty.  And at first glance it should catch your eye in the bookstore.  Here’s the version with the cover type added.

The novel will be released by Tor Books and Simon & Schuster UK in March 2014.  In the meantime, if you haven’t read the first novel in the trilogy, check out SISTERHOOD OF DUNE.