Going UnderCOVER Archive

Many of you are heading out to see the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower this weekend. Many more of you have read the books the movie is based on. Today we get to chat with the man responsible for bringing new life to the book covers, and impacting the visual for the next wave of readers for this series.

Tony Mauro is an artist who has been working in the movie poster and book cover illustration world since the early 1990’s. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’d bet a quarter you’ve got one or more books with his designs on your bookshelf! (He’s done over 350 for authors including Nalini Singh, Yasmine Galenorn, Delilah S Dawson, Jennifer Estep, Keri Arthur, Jamie McGuire, Kelley Armstrong, Jack McDevitt, Wilbur Smith, James Wesley Rawles, John Connolly, James Rollins, and many more.)  You can check out a bit of his cover art gallery, here.

I’m a MASSIVE fantasy art fan, and am especially drawn to the artwork that supports the books I love. I have quite the collection of cover design prints, to which Tony has contributed heavily. I’m thrilled to get the chance to talk to him about his art, and in this case, the recent re-cover project for the Stephen King catalog.

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1) Your portfolio contains hundreds of illustrations, covering every genre and media format available. Do you still get “excited” about particular pieces? Not just happy to do them, but actually EXCITED about a particular job?

 

I learned a long time ago that every project is only what you make of it and its up to you as an artist to find something about every project to get excited about.  That being said…when I got the call to do the trade paperback edition of Under the Dome by Stephen King I was REALLY excited. That was the first King cover I got the call for and was largely the reason why so many others followed.
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2) Are there any kinds of projects you *haven’t* worked on, that you’d like to? Murals on public buildings? Paint the nose of an airplane? Anything?

 

I am absolutely obsessed with automobiles. New and old and I would really love to do some work for the automotive industry. I couldn’t think of a better job than being able to combine my two greatest passions. I keep thinking how sweet it would be to establish a working relationship with an exotic car manufacturer with some kind of barter situation or even just be able to get an employee discount LOL.

 

3) Do you create artwork for yourself? Just spend an afternoon goofing around and come up with something cool to hang in your hallway? If you do, who’s work would it be hanging *next* to? Who are some of YOUR favorite artists?

 

I do actually and it’s funny that you worded the question this way because the last thing I did for myself is literally hanging in the hallway outside of my office. As far as what’s next to it, I have a fine art piece by Craig Elliott hanging in the same hallway and Brom’s work hangs in my office. I did a lot more for myself when I was putting out my When Darkness Falls wall calendars for Tide-Mark press. Those ran for 10 years and always gave me an excuse to keep creating new images. Unfortunately 2016 was the last year of the calendar so i don’t really have a home for those personal projects anymore beside my website. I may sign up with another publisher in the future but my commercial work keeps me pretty busy so I can’t say I totally miss it. It was stressful having to create 12 images a year outside of my regular workload.

 

I draw inspiration from lots of different people but if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be Brom. In addition to being a phenomenal illustrator he’s also an excellent designer and surprisingly enough those two things don’t always go hand in hand. I often look to his work for inspiration and can always appreciate the way that he constructs an image. The other illustrator that was an exceptional designer and a master at leading your eye around an image was Norman Rockwell. I have a growing interest in doing some teaching and I know I could do at least a full day on Norman Rockwell and some of the design techniques he used.

 

4) Is there any book (aside from the Stephen King titles, and we’ll get to those in just a second) that you love, that you would like the chance to re-cover? Any favorite book that you wish someone would ask you to work on? (I asked Dan Dos Santos this, and his answer was Frank Herbert’s DUNE.)

 

My favorite author is James Patterson, I would absolutely LOVE the opportunity to work on his Alex Cross series of books. I’ve read every one of them and really think I could knock that out of the park. It is possible to be too close to something though so as much as I’d love to do it I know I’d be really stressed over it at the same time. lol

 

Re: The Stephen King re-covers

 

5) HOLY FANTASTIC JOB OPPORTUNITY, BATMAN! How in the world did this project come about, and did you make the *squee* sound out loud? (You can tell us, we’re all friends here.) Have you read any of the books? (Full disclosure, I have not… his stories are a bit too creepy for me. But I’m seriously impressed by his storytelling, based on friends’ reactions.)

 

LOL, YES!!! It was a fantastic opportunity and although I may not have let out an audible squeal I was definitely excited about it! As I mentioned earlier I did the Under the Dome Trade paperback a couple years ago and that was my first Stephen King cover. By the time the rebrand came about I had already done 4 or 5 other King titles and they were going over well with the King camp so they called me to take on the rebrand. Although a did a large majority of the titles in the rebrand I should mention that there was at least one other artist working on the list at the same time. There were simply too many titles to be done in a relatively short amount of time.

 

I have read a bunch of the books as well as seen all of the movies. There are a few books in there that I haven’t read but there was enough information out there for me to go off of.

 

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6) Were you given some kind of direction from Simon & Schuster about what they expected, or did you come up with the concepts for each one on your own? Did you approach each as an individual, or try to create an overall feel to the catalog?

 

I received more direction on some titles over others. There were so many on the list that we tried to discuss where I was going to do with each one on the phone first to avoid too much back and forth. That approach worked out really well it certainly helps that I’ve been working with S&S long enough that they really know what to expect from me.

 

Each book was treated as an individual book because we knew they’d all get the same Stephen King header which would make it very clear that they were all part of the same rebrand.

 

7) With the Dark Towers movie being released, more people (if possible) are being introduced to Stephen’s stories, and that series in particular. Did you feel any added pressure, knowing that your artwork was going to be the first impression many would have of this story? Did you feel an obligation to keep parts of the original cover designs, as a nod to the existing fans of the series?

 

It’s always a little tricky when working on a project that is SOO well known. I certainly tried to retain elements from the previous artwork that’s out there and believe me…there’s a lot of artwork out there on this series. At the end of the day any re-brand’s purpose is always to introduce the story to new audiences, so luckily I didn’t have to worry too much about what had been done before. But it would be foolish to ignore it as well.

 

8) This project was a HUGE undertaking. Knowing that you generally work on multiple commissions at a time, were you able to work on other art during this, or was all of your time dedicated to the re-covers? 

 

I was able to make time for other projects and am really happy that I did because as an artist it’s always good to get away from what you’re working on and do something different just to keep things fresh. In the beginning of the process I had a list of around 10 King books that needed to be done in a relatively short period of time so during that time I was pretty exclusive to the rebrand. After that initial push the remaining covers came in at a slower pace and were spaced out over the next year or so. It’s very rare that I’m not working on multiple titles at a time and I learned to juggle a lot of projects when I was working in the movie business. That’s also where I learned that I do my best work under pressure. Too much time on any project can be a de-motivator. (is that a word? lol)

 

9) These covers are DEFINITELY works of art. If fans want to take a bit home, are you selling prints of the covers in your online store?

 

Funny you should ask…I actually just teamed up with Suntup Press to offer limited edition signed fine art prints of the Dark Tower murals. I’m very excited about that partnership, they are creating really beautiful prints over there. Here’s a link to their blog post from August 1st when they announced the prints being available for pre-order. The Dark Tower murals are only available through Suntup but if anyone was interested in any other prints they can always email me for pricing at tmauro@earthlink.net

 

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10) So, what’s next? What should we be on the look-out for?

 

What’s next?? That’s always a great question when speaking to a freelancer LOL. The exciting thing about my job is I never really know what’s coming next. I’m always looking forward to what the future will bring and what projects may cross my path. I’ve got several books on my plate right now as well as some pretty interesting private commissions that I’m excited about.

 

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I’d like to thank Tony for taking time away from his work to chat with us a bit. If you’d like to check out our first interview with him, click here.
So… what do you think of the new Stephen King covers? Are you planning to see The Dark Tower or It in the theatre? Are you a cover art fanatic like me? Do you have a favorite designer/artist?
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GoingUnderCOVER2

Well, hello there, my lovelies!! Things have been a bit crazy for me here in book blog land. I’ve just done a major host move and things are still a bit wonky, so please pardon the bits of dust and a few missing pieces.

I’ve been rushing to get the site all prettied up because TODAY we get to see the brand new cover for the trade paperback version of a book from one of my very favorite people!!!! SERVANTS OF THE STORM was the YA debut from Delilah S Dawson. Not only did she write a kickass, creepy, insanely unique YA paranormal, but the cover “powers-that-be” at Simon & Schuster gave it an appropriately creepy hardback cover. Regina Flath is the designer that took on the project. First, we’ll take a reminder peek at the hardcover, then chat just a bit with Regina and Delilah about the covers… then… at the end… the big reveal of the just-as-awesome trade paperback cover!!

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Q & A with cover designer Regina Flath:
As a member of the S&S design team, are you able to choose projects, or are you assigned a book cover to work?
What’s great about my team is that we all respect each other’s preferences for types of books we like to work on. Usually when a list is presented to us by editorial, the designers will all take a look through a quick synopsis of the books and then decide what we like to work on best. After we’ve picked our preferences, everything else is assigned based on work load: if I have less titles, I’ll take the stragglers from the list, that kind of thing.

In either case, what were your first impressions of SERVANTS OF THE STORM?
When the book was presented and I heard the words demons, secrets, and missed medication, I KNEW this was my kind of book! I loved the dark tone and rich atmosphere of the world. I also loved how respectfully the author treated the main character’s mental illness in the book; it’s such a huge part of the story (and I won’t spoil it for you!) and I thought that was really well done. Plus, demons, I mean, you can’t go wrong!

Did your initial design ideas make it through to the final cover? If not, what were the major changes that were made?
With SERVANTS OF THE STORM, it was a little bit different as far as process. I actually found the cover image when searching for imagery for an entirely different book! When culling images for that other book, the editor expressed that image could work for SERVANTS. The next season, when the book came across my desk, I pulled the image back up after reading the book and realized that yes, this would be a great image for this cover. I did additional photo research but none of that ended up being used. We knew from jump that that image was perfect. There were some changes to the image, color shifts to make things a little more dramatic, but this was one of the rare projects where the first idea went to final.

How was the decision made to create a different cover for the paperback release? What was the goal in giving the cover a new look?
Often times paperbacks are an opportunity to give a book a new readership that it didn’t have in hardcover. For SERVANTS, we all LOVE the original cover, so there was a lot of back and forth about whether changing the cover for paperback would even happen. It was decided that we wanted to give this book a more atmospheric look in paperback, to showcase the incredibly dark and interesting world that the author built. There are some great scenes at a fair ground (again, no spoilers!) and the Southern Gothic feeling was what the team wanted to emphasize. I did a pretty exhaustive image search to find images that evoked the feeling the book gave me. I settled on the creepy signage because it reminded me of the gothic Savannah setting, almost welcoming the reader into this strange and perilous world. I put the title in the sign in an off kilter way because I wanted it to feel almost like graffiti; as if the residents of this story were simultaneously warning you about what’s to come and inviting you to look closer. The original photograph didn’t include the lightning; I added that to give a sense of foreboding and emphasize the STORM in the SERVANTS OF THE STORM. The ferris wheel is another thing I added, again to reference the creepy fair ground scenes. My hope is that it all comes together to give you a creepy-cool image that makes you want to pick up the book!

What’s your favorite book cover that you did NOT design? If you could design a new cover for any book, what book would it be, and what would you like to do?
My current wish-I-designed-it cover is by S&S’s own Lucy Cummin’s “We All Looked Up” by Tommy Wallach. It’s GORGEOUS, simple, and so striking. I don’t know that I have any books that’d I’d want to re-cover. Maybe a few of my own that I did early in my career (which shall remain title-less, haha). Often, I find myself wanting to cover adult books in a way that would position them for YA audiences. I’m not sure what I would do and it’s also hard to describe a concept in words (I’m much better at the images part!).

 

Thoughts from author Delilah S Dawson:
We know most authors don’t get a lot of input in their cover design. BUT, did you share your ideas about what you would *like* to see on the cover of SERVANTS OF THE STORM?
Nope– both times, it arrived like magic in my inbox to thoroughly delight me. But I have complete trust in Regina and am always amazed by her work. My entire editorial team is magnificent, and they really get my books and care fiercely about them and me.

How well did the final cover fit your original idea? How well did it capture the overall feel of the book.?
As my first YA, I had no idea what would make a good cover for Servants of the Storm. The closest Southern Gothic-y comp title I know is Beautiful Creatures, and that one’s all typeography. My only concern was that I didn’t want a white girl in a prom dress or anyone in a black bustier. To be quite honest, it feels like a tough concept to represent, and I love both the hardcover and paperback takes on it. Both covers capture the off-kilter creep factor without being too overt about the secrets revealed as the story unfolds.

What do you think about changing the design for the trade paperback release?
I think it’s fantastic! I’m not precious about my books, so I love trying new things and seeing if maybe we can hook some new readers. Plus, it’s just a really amazing cover. I’m going to need a framed print on my wall…

Anything else you’d like to share??
Well, if you haven’t picked up Servants of the Storm, I hope you’ll give it a shot. Southern Gothic Horror demons in a storm-ravaged Savannah, complete with a mixed race heroine, spooky cemeteries, an abandoned amusement park, and a demon Basset hound. What’s not to love? We also recently revealed the cover for my April 2015 YA, HIT, which is about reluctant teen assassins in a bank-owned America. (http://fashion-by-the-book.tumblr.com/post/100746321166/here-is-the-cover-of-delilah-s-dawsons-newest) This masterpiece is also Regina’s handiwork, and I think you can begin to see why I consider her a goddess.

Thanks so much for letting me SQUEE about this new cover! <3

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And… since you transitioned us so nicely… I’m happy to present the NEW cover (for the trade paperback, available in June 2015) for SERVANTS OF THE STORM…

 

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So… I LOVE it… what do you think???

Going UnderCOVER with Kaitie Wood

Posted December 3, 2013 By Jennifer

Today is release day, my lovelies!! As are all Tuesdays, but today I’m excited to be celebrating the release of Dakota Cassidy’s newest Accidental novel, ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF 2: SOMETHING ABOUT HARRY. To add to our celebration, Dakota is offering a digital copy to one of YOU lucky readers!!! Here’s a bit about the book… and then a special Q&A with the cover illustrator, Katie Wood. See below for how to enter to win the digital copy!!

17239873He’s in a furry situation.

Accountant Harry Ralph Emerson has always been a by-the-numbers kind of guy. But when he finds himself trapped at work sprouting an obscene amount of hair, he knows his odds for maintaining normalcy are zero to none. After a frantic internet search, Harry goes through the OOPS—Out in the Open Paranormal Support—checklist and comes to a disheartening conclusion: He’s turning into a werewolf and he needs help ASAP.

She might be the only solution.

Werewolf Mara Flaherty has long carried a torch for Pack Cosmetics’s sexy single accountant, even after her attempt to seduce him went down in flames. When her sister-in-law, Marty, shows up to handle Harry’s OOPS emergency, she tasks Mara with showing the hirsute hottie the ropes. But Mara knows Harry’s condition is a result of her lab experiment gone wrong—and the previously mild-mannered object of her affection is about to give her a piece of his mind

All of the covers for Dakota’s Accidental series, and her Hell series, were done by fanciful and talented cover artist and illustrator Katie Wood. I just love her style and how she incorporates little bits of the story into her cover design. Big thanks to Katie for taking a few minutes to chat with us today.

1. I love your whimsical style. Is that a style you’ve intentionally developed, or has your work always had that kind of “free-flowing” design?

I think it’s important to stick to your individual voice when creating artwork. That’s what makes it unique. I’ve been lucky to work as a freelance illustrator for a few years and I think that your style naturally develops over time. I try not to think about how to create the artwork too much – I just like to go for it and see what happens!

2. I work in a bookstore, and have seen your illustrations in a few of the children’s series we carry. I also LOVE the covers you sophiedo for Dakota Cassidy’s Hell series and Accidentals series. Was illustrating for books and covers always your career plan? How did you get involved in the publishing world?

How wonderful! I love bookstores! Illustration for books and cover art is kind of a dream job for me. I love getting involved with the characters and trying to get their personalities show in my drawings. Dakota writes amazing characters, they always have a special sparkle!  It’s also so wonderful to see your work in print and hold a book in your hands!

3. How much input from an author do you need to create the artwork? Do you read the who book, or do you create from bits and pieces of information?

It depends on the type of book. If it’s a children’s book then it’s usually already been written and they are looking to pair an artist with the story. I get the whole manuscript and a brief explaining the type of illustration the need for each page. For adult books then it’s often the case that the manuscript hasn’t been completed before I receive the brief. I usually get a synopsis and character description so that I can get the general vibe of the book. Unfortunately I’m not usually in contact with the author but the design team at the publishing house.

4. What series would you LOVE to do artwork for? What’s your dream cover job??

I think maybe a classic. Famous Five would be amazing!

5. Can you run us through your design process? From original concept drawings to finish product?  How long does each design usually take?

As soon as I read a brief I usually have a character design in my head and I start to sketch them out until I’m happy with how they look. Then I’ll submit up to 8 cover sketches for the design team to choose their favourite. Dakota’s books are the most fun books because they challenge me to find a subtle hint about what happens to the character during the story.

KatieCard6. I also noticed that you’ve created your own greeting card designs. How did that come about?

Creating my own greetings card range is always something that I’ve wanted to do. I was creating some personal artwork and a character appeared that I just couldn’t stop drawing! That’s when I knew that I should go for it with a range of greetings cards. Oh My Studio was born! It’s been such a friendly industry to start working in I haven’t looked back.  I’m constantly thinking up new design ideas for my range, it’s my pet project! My sister has recently started working with me on this too – we’re a great team!

7. Your blog is gorgeous. I love that you illustrate each of your posts. How long does it take to do those images? Do you do other artwork just for fun?

Thank you! I wasn’t sure if anyone actually read it! he he! It’s a great way for me to let people know about my latest artwork, like a diary. I try and do as much artwork as I have time for. I wish I had a camera in my mind for all of the ideas and an extra day in the week! I try and keep a sketch book of scribbles and possible designs, some of them make it to final artwork. For some reason this always increases when I’m working on a big project, I guess it’s a way for my imagination to release! Unfortunately my personal work usually takes a back seat but I think it’s really important to grow as an artist. Note to self: make more art and put it on my blog!

8. Who were/are some of your biggest design influences?

I’m a really big fan of Adolie Day. Her illustrations are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen and her characters are so charming! My other favourites include Helen Dardik – how one person can create so much artwork I’ll never know! Her blog and use of colour is amazing. I like to try keep an eye current trends around me, in fashion/home decor etc and hopefully reflect it in my work. I’ve also just discovered Pinterest (I know, bit late to the party!) and it’s like opening a door to the most amazing art gallery in the world. It’s so inspiring! Although I don’t look at it when I’m trying to create artwork because I find that it kind of clouds my ideas. It’s a great way to find new artisits though, my new favourite is Olaf Hajek.

9. Can you tell us about what you’re working on now, and what’s up next for you??

I’m currently working on a brilliant children’s book by Jenny French. It’s about a fantastic character called Betty and her love of cycling. In this story she is cycling around London with her grandpa. I’m having so much fun with these illustrations. I also have a trade fair coming up for my greetings cards so I’m busy designing for that too. Never enough hours in the day!

*****So, my lovelies!! I’d love to hear what you think of Katie’s designs, or your thoughts on Dakota’s Accidentals series! Comment below with your thoughts on the covers of the Accidentals books, AND/OR suggest another “Accidental ________” title for the series. If you’ve been following Dakota, you’ll know she’s got a lot of imagination. I’d love to see what YOU all think her next accidental creature should be, lol!! One commenter will win an ecopy of ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF 2: SOMETHING ABOUT HARRY!! Contest will end tomorrow night (Wednesday) at midnight pacific time. GOOD LUCK!!*****

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Going UnderCOVER with Skyla Dawn Cameron

Posted October 29, 2013 By Jennifer

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Today we get an unusual cover treat. Skyla Dawn Cameron has designed covers for many, many books. But today we’re talking about the evolution the covers for her own series, Demons of Oblivion. After you finish checking out the cover info… be sure to check out book one in the series, BLOODLINES, it’s free during this blog tour, from Oct 28 – Nov 1!!

Bloodlines…has had a few different covers.

It was first released in 2008. Covers using 3D art were fairly common at the time. Poser used for covers still has quite a negative bias against it, in some cases for good reason; as a digital artist, I’ve always found it quite useful, though (more on that in a second).

The first Bloodlines cover was done by an excellent digital artist, Ana Winson.

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I felt Ana did a wonderful job with this cover as it did the most important thing: it exemplified the main character of Zara Lain. You look at that cover and know she’s about to pull out a weapon on you.

It was 2011 when I was able to do a rewrite of the book (I’d originally written Bloodlines in 2004 or so; several years later I’d grown enough as a writer that, when I had the opportunity to clean it up, I jumped at it…and added about 25K words and gutted the whole thing). To go with this and the release of the next few books in the series, I received permission to redo the cover myself and give it an update.

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Astute viewers will know this is also done with Poser (same model and outfit, in fact). And I love this, not just because I made it, because it also so completely encompasses the character of Zara Lain.

This one was a bit of a hit or miss with readers. Interestingly, it wasn’t the Poser that seemed to get people (in fact, many I know who are specifically anti-Poser were impressed with this one), but the sheer boldness of it—the stark white background, the blood—was polarizing.

The reason Poser was used for the initial redo, and for the Hunter and Lineage covers at that time, is because stock photos are quite limiting the more particular you want to be with your characters.

I’ve worked as an artist and I know how ridiculously caught up authors can get in the fine details of a cover, missing the overall picture; I skylastrive to not do that. For example, Zara never wears a corset in the course of Bloodlines—does that matter? No, it doesn’t; the point is that she would wear a corset, which is why I gave her one there. The tone and feel of the book/character is more important than what colour nail polish she’s wearing.

But Zara Lain is a very particular sort of person and, not to sound like I’m insane, but she would not let me use just any stock photo. It couldn’t be a black-haired chick with a sword, as she doesn’t use a sword; it couldn’t be a blonde with a gun, as she isn’t blonde; and by god she’d better have good clothes.

Similarly, with Hunter, it was difficult to find a woman of colour carrying a katana. Ryann’s also a nun and the hot-chick-in-leather-pants or bare midrift sort of cover wasn’t going to work for her. And Peri from Lineage is Asian, and finding a non-sexualized image of an Asian woman with a weapon wasn’t easy (Japanese school girl carrying a sword, though? Oh, that’s doable).

In a perfect world, they’d have custom art like books from large publishers (my dream for these books? That would be Chris McGrath, no question). But I don’t live in a perfect world: I have lived in small press and epublishing, where the budget just isn’t there.

With the 2011 covers, sales still weren’t where we’d hoped. It’s one thing if people pick up a book and don’t like it, but if they’re not picking it up to begin with, well, there’s a problem. So I went back to the drawing board one last time in the hopes of injecting some life in the books: I loves these characters and this world, and I’d love it to be financially viable enough to spend more time with these stories.

This time I decided to forget about swords, guns, and leather pants urban fantasy heroines, and start by finding people who look like my main characters. Not merely their physical features but the overall feel of the character.

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That. That right there is Zara. The model is naked under the curtain and is certainly sexualized, but Zara is an overtly sexual character to begin with. And the look on the model’s face says she doesn’t need to be holding a gun on the cover to kill you.

I did have some people question as to whether this made the book look more paranormal romance than urban fantasy. They’re likely right but there’s some sex in the book and…and my particular brand of romance (which never ends well), so it’s still somewhat fitting.

Similarly, with Hunter, it was important for me to find someone who looked at least similar to Ryann. I absolutely refuse to whitewash people of colour on my covers. The model also had to have a vulnerability to her without looking weak, and couldn’t be sexualized in the way Zara’s cover was.

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And then there’s Peri:

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Her hair’s too long, her clothes are too nice/girly, but she’s holding a gun and she will not hesitate to shoot you; this was as appropriate as I could find for Peri (as most of the Asian models were too cutesy and smiling; Peri is vaguely sociopathic and suicidal, and Happy Fun Time just did not work for her).

So there you have it. For better or worse, my art graces the covers of my books, and where they succeed or fail rests entirely on my shoulders. The first purpose of a cover is to draw the reader’s attention to maybe read the jacket copy or a sample of the writing, and it’s my hope the revamped art does just that.

The remainder of the Demons of Oblivion series covers…

4-Exhumed      5-Oblivion

Thank you for having me, Jennifer!

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Going UnderCOVER with Cover Artist Kanaxa

Posted July 10, 2012 By Jennifer

Yesterday we heard a little about the musical influences in Moira Rogers’ newest Bloodhounds release, ARCHER’S LADY. Today, we’re lucky to have a bit of “undercover” info from the cover artist for the series, Kanaxa.

1) You’re an established author in the sci-fi genre (as Nathalie Gray), as well as a cover artist. Did you intend to be involved in both aspects of the publication world? How did you go from one to the other? Do you design your own book covers?

I have always enjoyed reading comics, and I think that’s why I process stories visually. I’m one of those who will pick up a book for its cover. I may not buy it, but a good or intriguing cover will stop me and in the end, that’s what covers are for.

After a few years in the publishing industry, my interest in the art process only grew, especially after having my eyeballs burned by some of the more, hmm, underwhelming science fiction romance covers out there, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

I kept bitching about how we needed some SFR covers that kicked butt, that had rivets on them, that portrayed women in strong, assertive roles (with lots of cool scifi guns, if possible). Almost as a bet with myself, I tried making one, thinking, I can do that shit, man. Oh boy. No one will ever see the aberration, but it did hook me. I couldn’t put my graphic pen down! Red Sage Publishing were the first to buy my covers, followed by Samhain Publishing, for whom I have created over 100 works (and still do).

2) Can you describe a bit of your process, from conception to finished product?

**If you have, and are willing to share, a few images of the process… sketch, photo, beginning paint, photoshop work, end product… that would be fantastic. All could be watermarked if you like.**

I like to think I have a process, but I don’t, not really. I will walk into a light post because I saw something shiny on the ground. That’s the kind of methodical and organized person I am.

When I receive a cover art form, I go get myself tea then read every word of it before going for a quick visit on the author’s website to see what sort of taste he/she has. A website says a lot about a person. So when I think I have a good idea of taste, I start the hunt for good images or details. Sometimes a cover will take me 3-4 hours to create, and others will take 40+ hours. It all depends if I hit a vein right away or if I have to poke around (that sounded gross, but it’s the closest analogy I could find).

For your viewing pleasure, I have included a mock up (it took me a whole 15 minutes to make so please don’t just judge my work from this!)

  • 1. The Black Square of Doom (that’s when I stare at the screen a lot)
  • 2. Ah, here we have a nice bit of scifi sky. Looks nice. I’ll keep it.
  • 3. Hmmm, what about if I merged this image and that image.
  • 4. And for the yummy man.
  • 5. Drawing some nice light effect. A scifi cover needs some light effects, yo!
  • 6. Some type, play a bit with that. Bam, a cover!

3) Many authors use music to help get them in the mood for a certain storyline or character. Do you listen to music while you work? Do you have specific songs/bands that help set the mood for any particular series or characters you design?

I don’t use music for inspiration, surprisingly. I love music, but not when I’m working. Probably because I have the attention span of a Chihuahua.

4) How much input do you need about the book to design the cover? Have you ever started a project, then partway through had to change direction or rework parts based on info from the marketing people or the author?

I had it all: changed direction midway, redid entire drafts when it didn’t work for author/editor/management or spent 8 hours obsessing over a particular font only to change my mind and use another. I’m my own worst critic; if I finish a draft, stand back for a look and find that it doesn’t work, I drag it into the sandbox for future use and/or cannibalism. No mercy, man. A cover HAS to work. We get one shot to catch the reader’s attention!

5) You’ve mentioned on your site, and in other interviews, your plans for world domination. Are there aspects of either of your chosen crafts that you feel will help you on your mission?

I’m not at liberty to discuss my plans for world domination but I will share this: there will be silver gogo boots and heat ray guns involved. And that’s all I can say… 😉

6) What is your favorite part of cover art illustration? What is your least favorite part?

What makes my inner Chihuahua chase her tail with savage glee is when I see a positive Twitter storm or happy authors blogging/chatting about a cover I did for them. Conversely, a heart-breaker is when an author trashes his/her cover and invites others to do so. I know I can’t please them all, but I always, always try my damnedest to make authors proud of their cover.

Oh, another thing I dislike about the art process: fonts. Fonts. Are. The. Devil. I’m telling you, they are! I can spend 10 hours working on a cover and 8 hours just fiddling with the damn text. My Achilles’ heel. Good thing my art director is awesome with that and saves my (Canadian) bacon.

7) What’s your next cover related project (if you can tell)? Can you share any sneak peeks?

I can’t share any sneak peek because I want “my” authors to be the first ones to see their drafts (writing can be such an ingrate job that every bit of positive energy has to be cherished jealously). But I can tell you about my current project. It’s a paranormal romance that just demands some dark, menacing, anti-hero in an action pose. As soon as I’m done fixating on his belt buckle, I’ll be ready to show it to the author and bite my nails until I hear back from her. Waiting is very much like toenail-pulling!

Thanks for sharing your space with me. For those who have questions, I’d be thrilled to answer them. Fire away!

Alrighty… you heard the lady… if you have any questions about the cover design for ARCHER’S LADY, ask away!! Comments on this post, and on yesterday’s music post from Moira Rogers (Donna) will be included in the drawing for a free ecopy of either ARCHER’S LADY (Bloodhounds, #3), or if you haven’t started reading them yet, WILDER’S MOON (Bloodhounds, #1). Good Luck, everyone!!

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