Behind the Cover of...THE UNICORN HANDBOOK by Carolyn Turgeon

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

You may be familiar with author Carolyn Turgeon, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of Faerie Magazine, now renamed Enchanted Living. I've reviewed several of her books over the years and had Carolyn on for various guest posts and interviews regarding mermaids, fairies, and more.

This month, she released THE UNICORN HANDBOOK:A Spellbinding Collection of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects, the third in her gorgeous, mystical Handbook series. Today, you can read the story behind the cover design, which will also appear in the Summer issue of Enchanted Living.

I previously reviewed:

THE MERMAID HANDBOOK: An Alluring Treasury of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes and Projects  by Carolyn Turgeon and the Editors of Faerie Magazine is lush and gorgeous and the perfect addition to any home library! (Video review here!) There's also a FAERIE HANDBOOK that recently came out, which I reviewed here and did a video review for here!

Turgeon has also written books that blend fairy tales and lore into original novels. I adore the psychological twists in GODMOTHER, the twist of Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White's evil stepmother in FAIREST OF THEM ALL (Turgeon also stopped by with a great guest post about the title upon its release), and the fact that in MERMAID, you get the perspectives of both the mermaid AND the convent princess from Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, which you almost never see. She has also written THE NEXT FULL MOON for younger readers, about the daughter of the Swan Maiden, as well as the original novel RAIN VILLAGE (Though it has an almost Thumbelina flair to it). You can also check out an interview with Turgeon here!

Carolyn Turgeon has been editor in chief of Faerie Magazine since 2013. She is the author of THE MERMAID HANDBOOK (Harper Design, 2018) and THE FAERIE HANDBOOK (Harper Design, 2017) as well as five novels: RAIN VILLAGE (Unbridled, 2006), GODMOTHER (Crown, 2009), MERMAID (Crown, 2011), THE NEXT FULL MOON (Downtown Bookworks, 2012), and THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Her books have been optioned for film by Sony Pictures, Random House Films/Focus Features, and Gaumont Film Company, and published in the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, Korea, Spain, and Portugal. She’s published short fiction in Fairy Tale Review and the anthology HAUNTED LEGENDS (Tor, 2010) as well as essays in Allure, the Hairpin, and the New Inquiry, among other publications. She teaches in the University of Alaska at Anchorage’s Low-Residency MFA program and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Visit Carolyn's WebsiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.
Find Enchanted Living Magazine:  Website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

Behind the Cover of...

by Carolyn Turgeon

Coming up with a cover image for The Unicorn Handbook posed a bit of a challenge. The two previous books in the series, The Faerie Handbook and The Mermaid Handbook, both featured wistful, ultra-romantic photos on the cover, the first by Kirsty Mitchell and second by Emma McEvoy. So The Unicorn Handbook needed a photo in the same vein. But despite popular belief, wistful ultra-romantic photographs of unicorns aren't so easy to come by. And what does a real unicorn look like, anyway?

The obvious choice seemed to be to find a big white horse, not to mention a fair and possibly virginal maiden, and photograph them together so that they could both occupy that alluring oval circle on the glimmering, foil-stamped cover. And then either Photoshop a horn on said magical beast or subject the horse to a temporary fashion accessory it might not appreciate. It was hard for me to imagine how we might pull off this shot without making it look like a still from an 1980s film or the cover of a Trapper Keeper. Maybe I underestimate the unending allure of the white horse, but this seemed less than ideal.

Raphael's Young Woman with a Unicorn
When I showed Elizabeth Sullivan, my editor at Harper Design, one of my favorite unicorn images of all time -- Raphael's classic painting Young Woman with a Unicorn -- she suggested re-creating that image for the cover. I thought that might be too untraditional -- or, technically, too traditional -- for them and was delighted by the suggestion. What could be more perfect, I thought, than re-creating a unicorn of old in a modern portrait?

Thus began the process of finding a baby goat up for the task. This involved a number of phone calls on my part to various Maryland farms, and then waiting for a new crop of baby goats to be born, and then settling on a heartbreaker named Mario, who agreed to be our star model even though he was brown with black-and-white stripes. The unicorn in the Raphael painting is also brown, and Mario was astonishingly beautiful, so he seemed to be the right choice and also, as it happens, my one true love.

On the morning of the shoot, I drove to Mario's home, Emma's Daisyhill Farm in Glenelg, Maryland, and met photographer Steve Parke, model Sarah Bentman (who also appeared on the cover of our autumn 2018 Outlander issue), and hair and makeup artist Nikki Verdecchia. I was also armed with a goat-proof yet super glamorous gown from Jill Andrews.

Mario proved to be a bit of a diva, but that's to be expected when dealing with unicorns. There are about 5,000 outtakes of Mario squirming in Sarah's lap and occasionally trying to make out with her and generally doing anything other than what we wanted him to do, but the law of averages demanded that among those thousands of outtakes, Mario would look appropriate in a few. And by appropriate I mean fabulous.
At that stage, there was some disagreement about what needed to be done to make Mario, through the wonders of Photoshop, more unicorn-esque. Some felt he should be more baby goat-ish, others more horse-ish. Some that he should stay more dark, others that he should gleam a more silky white. [Below,] you can see Mario's gorgeous transformation from baby goat to unicorn, in a series of images by Steve Parke, as well as the resulting masterpiece.
A week after the shoot, I went back for goat yoga at the farm, though I accidentally didn't do any yoga and mostly just hung out with my new best friend.
What does Mario think of the final cover? Sadly, now that he's famous, he no longer returns our calls.



The article The Unicorn Handbook Cover Shoot (Summer 2020 issue) and its accompanying photos were run on A Backwards Story
with permission from ©Carolyn Turgeon and Enchanted Living Magazine.


O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  THE UNICORN HANDBOOK: A Spellbinding Collection of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects
Authors: Carolyn Turgeon
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Publisher: Harper Design

From Carolyn Turgeon, editor in chief of Enchanted Living and author of The Faerie Handbook and The Mermaid Handbook, comes this exquisitely illustrated and beautifully designed lifestyle compendium, a complete guide to the world of unicorns covering fashion and beauty; arts and culture; and home, food, and entertaining with step-by-step crafts and recipes. 

Strong, regal, and dazzling, there is no more romantic a creature in both folklore and pop culture than the majestic unicorn. Known for its preference for solitary living in the depths of enchanted and perfumed forests, the unicorn will only occasionally reveal itself to virginal ladies and/or save the day with its magical horn, which is said to neutralize poison when dipped into food or drink.

In medieval times, unicorns were a symbol of chivalry and aristocracy, so it’s no surprise that they became the ideal companion for gallant knights, and eventually, the symbol of Jesus in many illuminated bestiaries. They also came to represent unknown danger in the ancient city of Persepolis in 515 BCE, a belief immortalized on the British coat of arms with the unicorn shown as the mighty lion’s fiercest opponent. This feud also appears in a traditional English nursery that was the origin of the quarrel between The Lion and the Unicorn in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass.

It wasn’t long before a piece of the unicorn’s mane, blood, and horn became hot commodity in man’s pursuit for immortality. Today, unicorns can be found in modern tales like Harry Potter, television shows like My Little Pony, colorful Lisa Frank-inspired fashion and makeup trends, and must-have food crazes like the Unicorn Frappuccino and bagels.

Divided into four sections: flora and fauna; fashion and beauty; arts and culture; home, food, and entertaining—The Unicorn Handbook is the ultimate compilation and guidebook filled with step-by-step projects and recipes throughout. Learn how to make your very own unicorn tail loop braid or unicorn dust for that extra sparkle in your life. There are recipes to make a plum cake straight from the world of Alice in Wonderland and tips on how to throw the most unique garden party ever (complete with instructions on how to make unicorn horn table favors and utensils). And there’s also an exclusive interview with Peter S. Beagle, the author of the classic tale The Last Unicorn.