Category Archives: Interview
Were there any difficult challenges or special subject matter you came across while writing this book?
Considering I’m average height, the whole six foot six thing was a bit daunting. I never realized that it was so hard to find clothes that fit or even a bed that was comfortable. The fact that the average door in the US is 6’9” tall, anyone 6’6” and above feel a need to duck most of the time. All problems I don’t have.
Tell us three things about you-the writer-readers wouldn’t typically know.
- I’m a big cat person for starters.
- I work best in complete silence; the stories don’t like the outside competition.
- Sushi is one of my favorite foods.
Where did you get the premise for this book?
I’ve always wanted to write a book based on magic and it sort of evolved from there.
What about this book would make us want to read it more than others of similar taste?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it’s a matter of style, I suggest reading a bit and see if it fits their expectation. Books are a lot like a good meal, I like my steaks medium rare while others love theirs well done and we will never agree. But that’s okay, a lot of people like their steaks medium rare. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
What is your book about?
It’s about a man who lost his way early in life. He left home after his parents died in an accident and went to work for the government as an enforcer for nearly thirty years. With the political shifts and changing views he became an outdated tool that was summarily dismissed.
Once he returns home, like many others, he isn’t sure what to do with himself. He’s clear on a couple of things, he doesn’t want to become a mercenary and he needs to get his feet under him. Of course fate has other things in mind when he’s introduced to the Archive and all its wonders.
He finds a new purpose within the Archive and strives to make the world around him a better place. As he says, peace is maintained by those willing to do great violence in its name. He’s a hard man and one that sees the world for what it is, even if he doesn’t understand it.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope they enjoy the book for what it is, entertainment, but if they wish to take more away, then I hope they take a hard look at the people around them and realize that they’re not so dissimilar.
Please share a short excerpt 500 words or less.
I heard the quiet thud of soft-soled shoes rapidly pounding the sidewalk behind us. My body tensing, I grabbed Heather in my far arm, swinging her around me and holding her at arm’s length, which allowed me to spin around and face the runner. The small yet handsome Asian man barreling our way was barely five feet tall. The officer reached out for him, but the runner ducked and planted a palm into the man’s chest, sending him sprawling through the open gate where he landed hard on his back, slapping his head against the black stone walkway with a sickening crack.
The Asian man seemed at odds with himself, moving like a young man but appearing to be in his mid to late thirties. His bald head gleamed in the moonlight and his focus was on Heather. Increasing his speed, he pulled out a long silver dagger. He was fast, muscular, and most importantly, a threat.
Our attacker hadn’t anticipated Heather being spun around, several feet out of reach, and his blade pierced my coat and shirt, allowing its razor sharp edge to leave a long shallow gash across my ribs. It wasn’t life threatening, yet the warm blood trickling down my side was annoying and a little itchy. He pulled the blade back and flicked his wrist, and slamming the ridge of my hand against the man’s throat, I lifted him off the ground, propelling him several feet back.
He was unarmed now, the dagger seemingly vanishing from sight, and it registered in my mind that I hadn’t heard it hit the ground. Discovering the weapon’s whereabouts was secondary to handling the man who wielded it.
He fell back gracefully, pulling his knees up, rolling over his shoulders and neck back to his feet, prepared for a fight. He was dazed and slow, which was bad news for him. I sped towards him in a low footballer’s stance and he kicked out a foot, landing hard against my shoulder.
He wasn’t heavy enough to slow me down, and I grabbed the leg. Catching sight of the fence, I changed tactics. Forcing myself upright and pulling his leg along with me in a nasty twist, I heard it snap at the ankle and knee before I felt it give way as I pulled it from the socket. He lurched back as I swept a leg underneath him, forcing him around and allowing his face to plow into the wrought iron fence, which was forced downward with all his body weight and a good shove from me. A long black iron fleur de lis erupted from the back of the man’s head, causing him to convulse in an oddly rhythmic fashion for several seconds. Finally, the twitching stopped and he slumped against the fence with his knees on the sidewalk, resembling some sort of gruesome prayer to an uncaring god.
Writing Style Questions:
Are you a plotter, a pantser or a combination of both?
A little of both I suppose; I try to have it all plotted out but sometimes the story or the characters disagree. For example, Heather was supposed to die, apparently she had other plans. It’s a little weird but it happens.
What was your favorite part of the story to write?
All of it, mostly. I always start by writing the first couple of chapters and then the ending, so I can’t change it up too much.
Was there a part of the story that was difficult to write?
The ending was tricky, otherwise it flowed easily enough.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Other than the silence? I suppose, if I have to do anything else that day, writing is pretty much off the table. I need to be able to sit with the story and let it move onto the screen. Interruptions, be it errands, going out for lunch or appointments pulls me out of that space and it’s difficult for me to get anything done.
What advice would you give to other writers?
To be themselves and not try to be someone else. It’s a lot easier that way.
Book Description: Step into the strange and unusual world of the Archive with Gavin Randall, meet Lazarus and learn about the Stone Born. A necromancer is on the move and thousands of souls hang in the balance.
Links to the book on Amazon:
Welcome to our year-long series on book cover artists and designers. Previously, we’ve talked with individual artists Chris McGrath and Gene Mollica. Today we’re interviewing Darja from Deranged Doctor Designs, a company who specializes in creating book covers, branding, and promotional materials for self-published authors.
Check out Deranged Doctor Designs website and social media:
Hi, Darja. Welcome to One Book Two! Okay, so first I gotta ask, what lead you to choose the name Deranged Doctor Designs?
Our primary goal was to find the company name that would be easy to remember, but also unique; the name that will ensure that when clients see it for the first time, there’s no way they’ll forget it. 😀 We brainstormed for days before deciding on Deranged Doctor Design. There were some concerns that we might not be taken seriously enough because of the name, but then we said “What the hell…it’s too good not to make it our own.” 🙂
It’s an awesome name! Your clients are primarily self-published authors. What is your process for working with an author on a design?
The difference between DDD and most other companies doing cover design is that we have a project manager who is the main point of contact. She has significant experience in book promotion and publishing, and is therefore in charge of complete correspondence with the author on one side, while communicating with and handling designers on the other. Meaning, there is no direct contact between the author and designer. This may sound strange at first, but we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re getting much better results when designers are getting directions from our project manager who can, if needed, reshape some of the author’s initial ideas, all with the main goal of designing a best-seller cover.
We design strong genre covers that will sell the book. Even if it means sometimes talking the author out of their initial cover idea. 😉 We will never deliver a product that won’t “work.”
I see you use some stock photography in your designs. Do you use all stock or do you do any custom photography?
Most of our clients are self-published authors working on a budget, so we are trying to maintain affordable prices. Custom photography would mean raising our cover design package prices quite a lot, so for now we are going with stock photos only.
I know sometime stock images can get overused. At One Book Two, we are particularly amused by the character we call “The Hoodie Hottie.” Do you run into similar problems when using stock images? How do you combat the overuse of certain images?
This is the constant problem when using stock images. The best quality photos are always very popular, so many designers are using them. Furthermore, there is a constant demand for a particular photo/model type (bare-chested man, hooded man/woman, woman/couple in historical clothes, man holding a sword), and not enough different photos available, so the ones that are available get overused. But sometimes we have to compromise if we want to stay in the current price range. That’s why we never use the photo as-is (and just slap the title over it), but try to change it as much as possible using a lot of effects and filters. Also, we never use fewer than 2–3 photos for one cover. When needed, we even go with 10+ photos per cover.
It also looks like you have illustrated covers with no photography. Do you do digital illustration?
We are outsourcing digital illustration when custom illustrations are needed. The prices for those projects are higher than standard cover design prices and are calculated depending on each project’s requirements and scope of work (prices range between $400 and $900 USD). But most of the illustrated covers you can see in our portfolio are done in-house, combining several illustrations and vectors available on stock (standard cover design price).
We also offer fantasy map design where prices depend on the map size and number of details (prices range between $200 and $350 USD per map).
You don’t appear to be located in the US. Where are your offices?
We are located in Belgrade, Serbia—that’s in Southeast Europe. 🙂
Does being non-native English speakers pose any problems for you in interpreting what a client wants?
Even though we are not native English speakers, we don’t have any problems communicating with our clients, considering that everybody speaks fluent English (this is a must when we are hiring), and most of us have experience working in multinational companies. Most of our clients are really surprised when they realize we’re not from the US. That’s usually when they propose a phone consultation and we have to explain that the phone call would cost them more than the cover design itself. 😀 😀
Not only do you create book covers, but you also create social media headers, teaser graphics, swag like bookmarks and postcards, and even teaser videos for books. What is your process for creating those?
We use images from the cover design to created branded marketing material for the author. We try to be a one-stop-shop because authors find it easier to order everything from one place and get back to writing. Clients usually order promotional materials and swag together with cover design, and sometimes they also order formatting services.
What are formatting services?
Formatting a book means preparing a manuscript’s text so the final product looks professional when published. There are 2 types of formatting:
ebook formatting: reshaping a Word file following ebook formatting guidelines. We use the Smashwords Style Guide. When a Word file is uploaded to Amazon/Smashwords, their software transforms the file from Word to mobi/epub and publishes the book in that format. If the Word file uploaded during the publishing process isn’t formatted well, the end product will have a lot of issues (blank pages, overlapping lines, table of contents not working…). Bad ebook formatting is one of the reasons why authors may have high number of returned copies (refunds). Furthermore, if you plan to use Smashwords for publishing to other retailers (like B&N etc), the book will be rejected unless all guidelines are followed. For this service, a customer provides us their WORD file, then we format it and return a FORMATTED WORD file suitable for ebook publishing.
paperback formatting: also called interior book design. This is done in InDesign, a professional program for creating interior book layouts. When the text is formatted, we deliver a PDF file suitable for CreateSpace (Amazon) upload. You can always convert your Word file to PDF yourself ( “choose page size and save as PDF”) and publish it on CreateSpace. Most self-pub authors working on budget decide to go with this DIY option. But if you want your book to look professional, I would recommend hiring a professional. Especially if you have a book signing or some convention/author events planned.
As a note, we don’t accept separate formatting projects. We only offer formatting when it’s ordered together with cover design 😉
Cool. I’ve talked with authors who struggle with formatting. Can you tell me more about the trailer videos for books? Those have become really popular.
We don’t make standard trailers—a lot of different-style pictures/small video caps and text where everything seems like it’s coming from different sources. We offer “branded teaser style” with strong branding completely adapted to follow book branding and make a client’s book/name/brand even more recognizable. We use photo-slide types only, where each slide is done in Photoshop.
DDD has some fantastic cover designs, you work in all genres, and your prices seem really reasonable. What do you think is the most important part of your business for customers? What makes authors choose DDD and come back for more?
I’m proud to say that we have more than 95% return customers. And more than 80% of new customers are coming as referrals from our clients. Google and social media do the other 20%.)
Aside from high-quality cover design and good prices, we give our customers the best possible customer service—short email response time; agreed-upon deadlines followed 100 percent of the time, no exceptions (sometimes we even deliver earlier); accepting urgent projects without additional charges (even if it means we’ll be working weekends); even giving advice to debut authors if they get stuck at some point during their publishing process. Each and every client is important to us. And even if they’re publishing for the first time, everybody is treated as a NYT #1 best-selling author. 🙂
That’s awesome! So, how can authors contact you for a cover design?
They should definitely visit our website first (www.derangeddoctordesign.com), to get ideas on our design styles and see if these would fit their requirements, as well as to get some information on our packages and prices. There is also a “How We Work” page where authors can read more about the whole process.
For short questions, authors can contact us via Twitter and Facebook if they prefer, but orders are accepted via email only at email@example.com
We are currently booking projects for May. 🙂
Thank you so much to Darja and Deranged Doctor Designs for taking the time to talk to us. As a special bonus, DDD is giving away one PRINT + SOCIAL MEDIA design package for FREE during our Birthday Blast Giveaway! That’s a FREE book cover design for any self-published authors who read our blog. Stay tuned on March 9th to hear all about our Birthday Blast Givaway. It’s gonna be EPIC!
As part of our monthly series on book cover art, I had the honor of interviewing Gene Mollica of Gene Mollica Studio. Gene talks about his history with the publishing industry, the process of creating book covers, costuming, and why working with independent authors is such a joy.
This time, we recorded the interview so you could hear it all for yourself! Sadly, I should have known that someone who works with a VISUAL MEDIUM should probably be videoed — Gene kept trying to show things to the audience when we were just recording audio. Ah, well; I learned for next time. And I’ve put lots of pictures below so you can follow along with the interview. 😉
From his website: I’m a photo-illustrator specializing in fantastical and otherworldly images for the entertainment industry, most frequently for book covers. Originally a painter (RISD grad ‘90), I made the switch to digital media in graduate school (School of Visual Arts ‘01). It was a daunting transition at first but now it’s an equally obsessive process. Creating images that the authors feel translates their original vision and offering a window into that world for the reader is as much fun as I’ve ever had.
My work has appeared on the covers of books by authors like L.A. Banks, Patricia Briggs, Jennifer Lee Carrell, C.S. Harris, Barb Hendee, Conn Iggulden, Caitlin Kiernan, J.F. Lewis, Richelle Mead, C.E. Murphy, Brian Ruckley, and Thomas Sniegoski among many amazing others.
I live and work in Maplewood NJ with my wife, daughter.
02:18 – Cover Art By Gene
03:21 – C.S. Harris and the beginning of photo composite
05:04 – Shooting photography for covers
courtesy Gene’s Instagram account
06:22 – Very little hand painting in the covers
Tattoo detail from Staked cover
necklace and spider detail from Libriomancer cover
08:26 Building Models
detail from Unbound, and model
10:07 — Photographer, Illustrator, Designer
13:23 – Chapter Openers
detail of chapter opener from Libriomancer
13:46 – Cover Package
from this…………………..to this
17:33 – Costuming
Deborah Gerard, Time Traveler Outfitters
Courtesy Time Traveler Outfitters FB page
cover art for Frey by Melissa Wright
custom leather coats made for Unbound and The Barrow
“…if you’re going to photograph something, you wanna photograph something beautiful.” -Gene Mollica
22:52 – Reusing Costumes
Dress photo courtesy of Time Traveler Outfitters FB page
29:31 – Working with independent authors
(and a couple of Ivana’s favorites not mentioned in the interview)
33:35 – Using Stock Photography
“If you’re going to take the time to write a whole novel, you might as well have your characters on the cover.” — Gene Mollica
The “Hoodie Hottie” – the most desirable man in Romance 😉
38:33 — Thomas Sniegoski and the bone gun
bone gun detail and model from Walking In The Midst of Fire
image of bone gun model courtesy of Whisper Studio
Gene is incredibly generous to share his time with us, and I learned a TON. Gene, so sorry for introducing you as a Designer; now I know better. Thank you so much for the great education and the beautiful art!
Here’s a decent Paranormal Romance that makes the beasts less beastly.
Publisher’s Description: Unspeakable evil rises with the moon…
Graduate student Natalie Beres can’t remember who attacked her that autumn night under the full moon. She can’t remember anything between leaving her lab in a secluded building at the south end of campus and arriving at her apartment in the wee hours of the morning. Covered in blood. Not her own. Other than the loss of memory, she’s completely unharmed.
She can’t say the same for the men who attacked her. The grisly campus murders force Natalie to dig deeper into what happened that night, to force herself to remember. But what she learns about herself is horrifying. When the police officer investigating the murders tries to get close, Natalie is caught between her attraction to him and her fear of discovery. But worse, can she avoid being found by the young man with a similar problem who’s on his way from the West coast to find her…leaving a trail of shredded corpses along the way…?
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
In this unique take on werewolves, I love the creativity. They’re not your average beasts of burden – though beasties they are. They’re more bear-like creatures who retain their minds even after shifting. They even wear clothes and can somewhat talk! The sensory overload and a hunger for steak is a nice touch too.
Natalie’s killed someone in self-defense and she’s gotta live with that fact. As she struggles to figure out who she is, the self-transformation is nice. She comes out of her shell and starts changing in the woods, tells her best friend what she is, and dares to lie to the romantic interest to keep him from running.
The romance itself started out well for me. The shy girl without a clue versus the average man with good looks, charm, and a sense of humor. He’s persistent and Natalie finally gives in and goes with him on several dates. However, although they spend a lot of time with each other, for me it feels like they go from one level to the next four, from holding hands in one scene to making out on the bed. It jumps around a lot as they figure out their feelings and it seems forced in places.
Despite all the creative tidbits that follow the story, its downfall for me was the little clichés thrown in. I’ve seen too many stories where girl meets boy, she’s supernaturally gifted in some way but falls in love regardless, and then has to go through a big trial where he finds out what she is and she has to end up saving him from something. Although this book has its differences, it still had that vibe with me.
Overall, I still enjoyed the story so it gets a three from me!
Invested Ivana says…
I have to admit to a little disappointment about this book. Based on the cover and the description, I expected this book to be an urban fantasy. However, it is a paranormal romance. Though I don’t particularly favor the romance genre, for a romance book, this one wasn’t bad.
I like all the characters and care about what happens to them. Michael, the love interest, is quite a fantastical depiction of the ideal everyman. Natalie, the protagonist, seems very believable and levelheaded. I’m sad that Derek wasn’t developed more as a character or actually used more in the plot of the story. He traveled all the way across the country just to die. But I really enjoyed Natalie’s cousins from Michigan.
This book only scratches the surface of werebeasts in this universe, so it would be a lot of fun to learn more about that culture and society. I know many romances are one-shots, where there’s no more story after the love interests get together; so I’m curious where Book 2 is going to go.
While there is definitely physical interest between the two main characters, the author thankfully left the details to the reader’s imagination.
Overall this is a pretty entertaining read. If you like paranormal romances, I would definitely suggest giving this one a try.
Interview with the author…
What made you want to put a unique spin on the werewolf legend?
I never liked the idea that a person could become a werewolf simply by being bitten—in other words, made evil without making a conscious decision to be evil. So there had to be another way to become a werewolf. And I never liked the idea that a human being could change physically enough to look like a wolf. At the very least, the total mass of a person should remain the same. Other than that, my characters simply said, “No, don’t be silly. That’s not how it works at all.” ☺
What’s your favorite personality trait of Natalie’s?
I like that she’s intelligent, not impulsive, that she always tries to think things out and make sense of them. Even in a situation that would have most people a heap of quivering jelly on the floor, she ultimately manages to control her fear and figure out what’s happening. And when she finds she can no longer deny the truth of the completely illogical, she manages to accept it.
At times, the relationship between Michael and Natalie is like molasses, and sometimes it’s like gasoline. How would you describe their kind of love?
Normal? ☺ In my experience, neither life nor love moves at a steady pace. Sometimes it seems like you’re standing still, then you take a sudden leap forward—or back. Also, Natalie is fighting her feelings for Michael because how can she ask any man to love her when she grows hair and fangs every full moon?
Michael’s family is huge – did you grow up with a lot of family members?
No, I didn’t. I have only one sister. But both my parents and my husband did. My mother’s family was the opposite of Michael’s. She had four brothers.
What was your favorite scene?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Since I wrote them all, it’s hard not to like them all equally. I enjoyed the scene where Natalie spends the night in Allerton Park and misplaces her clothes; I like the scene where Michael is trying to forget Natalie and finally follows Max’s advice to solve his problem by considering it from the opposite direction.
What kind of scenes are your favorites to write? Action? Romantic? Etc.?
Probably action, because it’s also what I like most to read. I’m not really into romance books. I loved writing the scene where Michael and Lisa stalk the rogue werewolf through the South Farms at the U of I.
The story is told in third-person narrative. What are the benefits of that point of view?
The author can get deeply into the heads of the POV characters almost as well as with first person, but can speak from more than one POV. Of course, it’s possible to speak from more than one POV even in first person, but it sounds very awkward to me. But mostly, it’s the POV that comes naturally to me.
Where did you come up with the idea for When The Moon Is Gibbous And Waxing?
I had nightmare one night and woke myself up growling as I attacked the men who were about to attack me. My husband, who slept through crying babies and thunderstorms back then, sat straight up in bed and said, “What was THAT? It sounded like an ANIMAL!” I started laughing. I had a heck of a time explaining it to him. I spent years thinking about what it would be like to suddenly find out you’re something others think is the personification of evil. How would you accept that? Finally Natalie came to me and said, “Hi, I’m Natalie. Write my story.” And she wouldn’t leave me alone. Anyway, that nightmare is now the first scene in the novel.
Are any sequels planned?
At the time, I wrote the book as a stand-alone. Then another character came to me and said, “Hey, we know now about the nature of evil and being the person you decide to be instead of the person others think you are. I have something to say about how we should respond to true evil when we encounter it. When are you going to let me say it?” The problem is, that character doesn’t come into the picture for several years. But he started me thinking, and now I’m about a third done with the second book in the series, which I now see as including four books that take place over a period of more than 20 years.
What’s your writing style – outline or pants?
Mostly pants. I have an idea where I want to go and a few side trips on the way, but I have to wait for my characters to tell me how to get there. I’ll see scenes from random times in the book and write them down for when I get there. Sometimes I never do, but they still serve as guideposts for the plot. But I’m certainly not one of those people who writes a detailed outline. That would ruin the fun.
When did you first get into writing?
If you mean when did I first start, I started writing poetry when I was in third or fourth grade, and a little newspaper in sixth, but I didn’t try fiction until I was in junior high. Inspired by my dreams even then, I made short stories out of them and passed them out to my friends during chorus class. Later, I wrote a high school news column for the local newspaper. They paid me for it, so I actually became a professional writer at the age of 17. ☺ I earned an AAS in mass communications and became a feature writer for a regional newspaper when my kids were in grade school, and later I worked as a writer/editor for an international corporation for about 15 years. When I retired, I did a drastic edit on the manuscript I’d finished the first year I worked for the corporation, cutting about 40,000 words to bring it down to the length most publishers said they wanted, then I submitted it.
Who are some of your favorite authors or idols?
If I had my fondest wish, my writing would be a combination of Jim Butcher and Kay Hooper. I’m a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I love Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Rider series, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy… I could go on and on. ☺
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Badly. Some of my comments above might hint that I have to listen to my characters like they were real people. And you know the saying, “Sometimes my invisible friends refuse to talk to me.” Usually though, I can get on track again by reading the previous chapter. If that doesn’t work, I do research on something I’m not entirely sure about, like autopsies, long swords, even salivary glands—all things I’ve checked for my WIP.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Rewrites. I know that sounds strange to many people, because writers are supposed to hate rewrites. But once I have the plot in hand and can go back and add and subtract and touch up, I really get acquainted with my characters. For example, a character in my WIP is a Scot, but he’s spent a lot of time in America. I didn’t realize until I went back over one of his chapters that when he talks to Michael, he has very little accent, but when he talks to another Scot, his accent returns. That’s just a little touch, but it tells you something important about that character.
And last but not least, a weird one! If the characters still retained their personalities, but Michael was the werewolf and not Natalie, how would the story go?
That’s a difficult one for me because I didn’t create Michael. He came into the story unplanned and insisted on courting Natalie. He is certainly more outgoing than she is and pays more attention to feelings. He’s even a bit of a romantic. He would have changed for the first time at a much earlier age than she did because he acted more impulsively as a teen, so he’d have known what he was for many years by the time they met. As a police officer, he could use it to his benefit. So the main question, I think, is whether Natalie could accept him as a werewolf. She’d have to see it to believe it, but once she did, she’d probably want to study him. ☺ Their romance would take just as long to develop, though, because Natalie would be even more cautious.
Angela Parson Myers is the author of the novelette, The Will to Love, and novel, When the Moon Is Gibbous and Waxing, both available for Kindle and Nook and in paperback from Amazon.com. As AH Myers, author of several short story collections for Kindle and Nook.
If you like this book…
Whether it’s the right thing to do or not, we always judge a book by its cover. A book’s cover is an invitation, a mini-preview, the way we decide whether or not we even want to read the book’s cover blurb. Authors are very aware that the appeal of a book’s cover, even for ebooks, makes a big difference in sales.
We here at One Book Two love book cover art. Not only is it gorgeous art, but it elicits memories of the story it illustrates, so it carries a lot of meaning. There is some amazing art going into book covers. So in 2016, we’re doing a series of interviews with book cover artists and designers to highlight these talented individuals and the industry of book cover art in general.
To kick things off, Kat was able to interview Chris McGrath, one of the top artists in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. Chris creates cover art for such series as the Dresden Files, October Daye, MythOS, Vampire Empire, Thieftaker Chronicles, Craft Sequence, Cal Leandros, Fated Blades, Rogue Clone and many others. His covers feature realistic characters and beautifully atmospheric scenes that use shadow and light to amazing effect.
How did you get started creating book cover art, and what would you consider your “big break?”
My first job that got me in was a job for ACE books which is a publisher within Penguin Books. The art director there was recommended to me by Dorian Vallejo (son of Boris). I had shown her my portfolio but didn’t actually get a job from her until several months later… maybe even a year. The first job was an oil painting for a book called The King.
How long have you been creating book covers? How has your art changed over that time?
Going on 15 years now. I think my work has become more precise and streamlined. Also more refined. Basically a better version of when I started… at least that’s what I hope.
What kind of art did you create before book covers?
I always did fantasy and sci-fi, even had an interest in comics on and off, but realized illustration was what I preferred. When I was in college I became more interested in the old masters and Victorian era painters. Mainly when I was in school studying, I was pretty much doing life drawing and painting most of the time. I felt getting that skill set down was crucial in what I wanted to do.
Do you only create art for sci-fi and fantasy books, or do you work on other genres as well?
For now just sci fi and fantasy based stuff.
What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book? What kinds of discussions do you have with cover designers or authors about the art you create?
Haha… am I going to pull it off or is it going to be a mess? That’s usually what I’m thinking. Lots can go wrong and the cover is never clear to me until about 75% of the way through. As far as art direction, it’s just the art director and me. Very rarely is the author included. Most of the time I’m left with a lot of freedom based on the publisher’s notes. For example, the first Dresden cover I did, Dead Beat, was very open. The publisher gave me a brief character description and asked to have him standing somewhere with his staff with a city backdrop.
I read an article once (and I can’t find it now, sadly) about the “language” of cover art – that certain images communicate essential things about the story. Is this true in the art you create?
I usually try to just set a mood and atmosphere for the story, and try to keep things within the vibe and spirit of the book. Sometimes a scene from the story is used but not always.
What is your process for creating cover art? Is it all digital or do you create something physical, such as a painting?
I usually draw out a sketch in Photoshop, occasionally in my sketchbook but not so much these days. After the art director approves one, I do a photoshoot with a model, and once I have all of my reference, I start the final piece. Everything is done digitally with my Wacom tablet and Photoshop.
How long does it take you to create a cover, and how many can you do in a year?
A cover can take up to 10 days depending on what it is. There’s a few days in the sketch phase, then the photo shoot, then once I start it could be a week or more. Sci-fi stuff with cities and armor take longer than urban fantasy.
Do you read the books for which you create the cover?
Sometimes I get a chance to read them. Usually I’m trying to listen to them on audio book.
Which covers have been your favorites? Which were easy to create? Hardest to create?
I’d say this last year (2015) I’ve been having a lot of fun and have done some of the best work in my career. I love doing the Max Gladstone covers for the Craft Sequence. Heirs of Empire is one of my better covers as well…I think. Basically I feel most of my strongest work has been done for TOR Books. One of the hardest covers I ever did was Kenobi. As simple as that cover looks, it was a lot of work.
Do you have time to do art projects other than book covers? If so, what other projects do you like to work on?
Not so much, and when I’m not working I prefer to play guitar or create music. I’m planning to do more hopefully soon.
Some of your prints are available for purchase through your website; but not all of them. Is there a way to get some of the ones that aren’t listed? Say, if one wanted all the Dresden Files covers, for example? Or an older book, like the ones in the Webmage series?
Selling prints from right out of my studio became too much of a hassle so I started using a service. At the moment it’s limited but over time I will add more.
Do you own the rights to your art, or are the rights bought by the publishers?
Most of the time they are owned by me. Sometimes it’s a buyout but that’s pretty rare.
Who is your favorite artist?
Way too many to name, and they change through certain times in my life. Rembrandt, Sargent, Steve Assael, Dean Cornwell to name a few.
How does the area in which you live (NYC) inspire your covers?
I guess it gives me an dark urban vibe. There’s a lot of energy in the city so I try to feed off that… or be distracted by it.
Gargoyles and wolves (like on the Heart of Stone and Crimson covers) are featured on some projects. What are your favorite fantasy/sci-fi creatures to work with on covers?
One day a dragon would be cool. Haven’t done that yet. But most of the time creatures are not requested. My career has been pretty light on creatures.
If you could put yourself in one of your covers, what would it look like and what would be its epic title?
I never do! Although… there is actually a cover with me on it… somewhere. I prefer to be behind the scenes. But if I were on a cover I’d like to look cooler than I actually do… like a witcher or something.
Thank you, Chris and Kat, for a wonderful interview! Personally, Chris’s art is a favorite of mine. I’ve bought several books just because his art was on the cover!
What are your thoughts on cover art, dear reader? Do you have a favorite Chris McGrath cover? A least favorite? Who is your favorite cover artist? Who should we contact for the next interview? Chime in and talk to us about your favorite cover art.