Guest Blogger – Renee Ryan on Cover Art


Thanks to the fillies for inviting me back to guest blog with some of my favorite authors.  It’s always a pleasure.  I’ve decided to talk about a topic that’s been on my mind lately.  Cover art.  You have no idea how many questions I get about my Love Inspired covers, mainly from people wondering how much control I have over the final product.  Well, it depends.

Here’s the process.  About a year before one of my books hits the shelves I fill out the Art Fact Sheet (AFS) for the book.  That means I have to go a website hosted by the publisher and answer pages of questions about the story.  The questions fall under several categories, such as: Characters, Scenes, Synopsis, as well as a detailed page with basic questions surrounding theme, story hooks, date, setting, story timeline, etc.  The character questions range from superficial things such as physical traits to deeper issues such as psychological wounds.  The synopsis is basically a short and sweet summary of the story, something I would tell a friend at a party or sitting in the stands at a football game.

Most of the above is both easy and fun.  However, I find the section about scene description difficult at best.  The publisher wants three very distinct, yet detailed scene descriptions.  This should be easy for me.  I love putting my setting in my books.  But knowing that a real artist will be using my words to create a picture suddenly makes the ideas freeze in my head.  That’s why I love the last and final portion of my job in the cover art process—creating a separate file of the images I think best evoke the mood of my story.  I get to cruise the Internet looking for pictures of my hero and heroine, as well as possible scenes or other similar book covers I think will work for my book as well, especially in terms of overall tone.

This final component really makes the story come alive for me in my head.  It’s so effective that I now try to capture many of those types of images before I start writing a book rather than after. 

I spent most of my time on this last phase for my current release, MISTAKEN BRIDE.  The final product is one of my best covers yet.  Well, in my opinion, anyway.  In case you’re wondering, I chose images of Alex O’Loughlin and Kate Beckinsale for my hero and heroine. 










Because the three books in the Love Inspired Historical Irish Brides series are so closely connected (each story highlights one of three sisters) the art department decided to create closely connected covers.  If you look at Book 1: THE WEDDING JOURNEY by Cheryl St. John next to Book 2: MISTAKEN BRIDE by Renee Ryan beside Book 3: A BABY BETWEEN THEM you will see that all three covers have a similar color scheme, feel and overall tone.  Each scene depicts the heroine of the story and a ship in some form or another. 

What do you think of the three covers for the Irish Brides Series?  Did the art department knock it out of the park, or what?  Leave a comment and you’ll be included in a drawing to win one of three copies of MISTAKEN BRIDE.  An additional grand prize winner will receive all three books in the Irish Brides series.

Renee Ryan writes for Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired.  Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich.  For more information, you can visit Renee at


Cheryl St.John: Irish Brides Set Sail

When Harlequin does a continuity series, a group of editors come up with a concept and invite the authors they want to participate. The authors are given what is termed ‘the bible,’ a two or three page synopsis of each story and a brief sketch of each character. An overall concept is included, explaining how the threads connect the stories.

After that, it’s up to the authors to put their heads together and collectively figure out how they’re going to make this idea work—and how they will create their individual stories to keep the plots logical and the stories exciting enough to carry them through however many pages.

I’ve participated in several Montana Mavericks continuities, both historical and contemporary, as well as a contemporary continuity about a fertility clinic. One of the most critical parts of this whole process is the brainstorming and chemistry between the participating authors. A good group makes all the difference, so I was delighted after Love Inspired Historical asked me to write the first book in the Irish Brides trilogy I learned Renee Ryan and Winnie Griggs were the other two authors.

I’m fortunate that Winnie is my sister Filly here at Wildflower Junction and Renee is a member of my RWA chapter, so the three of us already knew each other. Working with them was a joy, and I can only hope they feel the same way about my participation. We plotted and shared and wrangled plot points until each of us had a great story to write.

The premise and setting set me back for only a few minutes. Three orphaned Irish sisters leave their homeland and travel to America in hopes of finding a man they discover loved their mother. They need a place to live as well as a new start. I’d only ever written American-set stories and only a couple set as early as 1850. As soon as I began my research I was hooked. The history of these sisters came to life for me, and I had the privilege of setting up each character—with Renee and Winnie’s guidance of course.

I prepared myself for the narrative and dialogue by watching every Irish movie I could fit into my schedule. Quite a hardship I assure you. My favorite is always Far and Away, but there are other great ones.

I enjoyed populating the sailing vessel, the Annie McGee with colorful sojourners and creating conflicts for my character, Maeve Murphy. I slipped in one cowboy, who is traveling back home–couldn’t resist. The tale of The Wedding Journey unfolds onboard the ship, as Maeve is given a position as the physician’s assistant, and their trip is underway. Renee and Winnie have written the stories of Bridget and Nora, Maeve’s older sisters, whose tales begin once the ship docks in Boston Harbor.

Once my story was finished, Harlequin asked me to write a free online serial for their website, and gave me free license to come up with a prequel to the Irish Brides. Again I dove into research for something to snag my interest and found stories of the poor starving Irish being sent to penitentiaries for stealing food or not paying their landowners. The story sprang to life from there.

In 1850 Ireland, Darcy Keegan secretly plans to escape the drudgery of the prison where her father is warden to start a life elsewhere. Her plans are thwarted by a young boy who’s been imprisoned and whom she can’t bring herself to leave until she knows he will be safe.

Vaughn Donnelly has recently returned to Castleville to add a wing to the penitentiary, and is captivated by the young lass he observes in the prison yard. His job prevents him from staying, so love and marriage are out of the question–or are they? When he intervenes on behalf of a lad being mistreated, he wins the admiration of the Irish lass he admires.

Their shared concern for the laddie quickly turns into something more–read Donnelly’s Promise FREE on the Harlequin website: CLICK HERE

By the time I finished with these two stories I thought and dreamed everything with an Irish accent! I had so much fun with these characters and their tales of love that I can’t wait for readers to discover them.

The Wedding Journey is available for pre-order.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Lawman Claims His Bride

Thanks to the fillies for inviting me back to guest blog with some of my favorite authors.  It’s always a pleasure.  When I was last here in May my daughter was on the verge of graduating high school.  Now, she’s nearly finished with her freshman year at the University of Kentucky.  I’ve had the joy of moving her into the dorm, agonizing over her first sorority rush, flying her home for the holidays and sending her back for yet another round of school and fun.  By the way, I’ve decided to call her college, Camp UK.  If she wasn’t pulling a solid 4.0 (Yay!) I might think she was having too much fun.  Instead, I miss her dearly.

But I’m not here to whine about my empty nest.  I’m here to talk about my latest release, Book Four in the Charity House series, THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE. 

For those of you who have read any of the other books in this series you already know that Charity House is no ordinary orphanage, but rather a unique home for the by-blows/mistakes of prostitutes and gunslingers.  By its very nature, Charity House lends itself to unique stories.

THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE is no exception.  The book reintroduces two familiar characters, Logan and Megan.  Both have been along for the ride since Book One, THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE.

Because my hero and heroine have been around from the beginning of the series I found myself faced with a large problem.  Logan and Megan met and fell in love back in Book Two, HANNAH’S BEAU.  But Megan was too young and Logan wasn’t ready to be a family man.  Well, that’s what everyone said anyway.  But no matter what they’re told, they can’t help loving one another.

The reader finds out in Book 3, LOVING BELLA, that Logan has taken a job in San Francisco to make a living worthy of his beloved.  He plans to marry Megan as soon as he returns home.  There is no doubt these two will end up together. 

But therein lays the heart of the problem.

What fun is a romance novel where the hero and heroine are already in love before the book even begins?  More importantly, how was I supposed to accomplish the daunting task of writing a full-length novel with zero romantic conflict?  Can you say: Boring?

Under the circumstances, I did what any self-respecting writer would do.  I started playing the “what if” game. 

What if one or both of them is only in love with the idea of being in love?  What if they’ve each built up the other in their minds to impossible proportions?  What if a newly appointed US Marshal comes home to marry his one true love, only to find her in jail for murder? 

Now I had the makings of a story.

But wait.  There’s more.  Another issue I wanted to tackle was the touchy subject of intimacy between newly married Christians.  We in the church tell our youth that a strong physical attraction will translate into a strong sexual connection once vows are spoken, but not before.  Never before.  Christians, especially Christian women, are taught from a very early age that intimacy is bad, bad, bad.  Unless, of course, inside the sanctity of marriage.    

But isn’t that sending our girls a confusing, dare-I-say mixed message?  For a bride’s entire life she’s taught that intimacy with a man is something to be avoided at all costs.  “Don’t even think about it, much less do it,” she’s told.  But then, on the night of her wedding, she’s supposed to flip some invisible switch and suddenly intimacy is a good thing.   

Want to know how I, as a believing Christian and a mother of a teenage girl, addressed this very touchy issue in THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.  J

Leave a comment today or tomorrow and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE, book 4 in my CHARITY HOUSE series.  I’ll be giving away three copies today.  An additional grand prize winner will receive a copy of all four of the CHARITY HOUSE books. 

Renee Ryan writes for Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired.  Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich.  For more information, you can visit Renee at



The Lawman Claims His Bride (Love Inspired Historical)