Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Covers! From a cover artist's pov.

As y'all already know, I've been dubbed Lucky Cover Bitch by the fabulous Sarah at Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I have excellent cover chi, and I say over and over, loud and clear, that I LOVE MY COVER ARTISTS! I'm so grateful for their talent and insight. No matter what we like to say, don't judge a book by its cover, etc., covers matter (just like size matters, but that's a whole other blog...). I admit to picking up books soley because of a cover - The Red Tent, Twilight, Hawksong, just to name three quick examples. A good cover can make the difference between a book bombing or not. I definitely believe that.

So I was thrilled when James Griffin, the fabulous cover artist for my next two Luna books, DIVINE BY MISTAKE and DIVINE BY CHOICE, contacted me to point me to his blog, wherein he blogged about the process he used to create the cover for DIVINE BY MISTAKE. Check it out at paintlayers.blogspot.com. Authors rarely have any contact with cover artists, so it was fantastic to be able to tell James how much I appreciate him. He also graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my blog. So here we go...

PC: James, what is the normal process when you’re contracted for a cover?
Do you always only read the single sheet the publisher (at least
in the case of the HQ Empire) sends you? Do you ever need more
info? Do you ever read the novels?

JG: I am usually given a one page info sheet with the main character
descriptions and basics of the story. Hardly ever do I see a
manuscript any more, though publishers used to send me whole
manuscripts, typos and all to read. I do think more information would
sometimes help me to get the feel of the story and people,
particularly to mine those details that can add to a cover's interest
and uniqueness. I do a lot amount of research for each book, and
accumulate images by the thousands. It's part of an illustrator's job
to know what costumes, architecture, transportation was like in 1805,
or the Roman times, etc. My research helps get me to the point where I
think I can see what it was like on a street in London in 1560. Of
course, with Fantasy, I just visualize what she was writing about,
then try to make it real.

PC: 2. What is the most difficult aspect of creating a cover?

JG: When I read, I see images. That's just the way I was born. But sometimes
the image I see when I read one of these description pages doesn't agree
with what is desired by the editorial department. Sometimes we get
several sketches into the project before it dawns on me that we're on
completely different wavelengths! That's hard for me to recover from,
because I've gotten really fond of /my/ idea!

PC: 3. What can authors do to help you with the creation of the best
cover possible?

JG: If an author can distill an element or scene from their book that would
be fantastic. I have gotten info sheets where I'm told the involved
lineage of the main character, but not enough of what he or she looks
like, where they are, what they're wearing, etc, or more importantly,
what's interesting about their book. The number one thing a cover has to
do is to get the potential reader to pick the book up! After that it's
the blurb-writer's job to keep them holding it. As a book customer, I
also check out the first page to see if I like the writing. None of that
happens if the book doesn't get picked up. So details about the exact
color of the hero's pants just don't matter. If the author can help give
us clues into what is exciting about this book, what made them
interested enough to write the thing, I think we illustrators would
catch the spirit.

PC: 4. Do you have a favorite piece you’d like to share?

JG: I am very fond of the two Divine covers I did for your books. They
happen to fit right in with a project I've been working on for myself
called, _Forces Of Nature._ I seem to enjoy working with Goddess
subjects and your books gave me a cahnce to explore that . My project
deals with women symbolizing concepts like the Tides, Night, Day, etc. I
love getting into the otherworldly, but also there is something about
projecting these powers onto a woman that I find fascinating. Though not
a Goddess, the adolescent girl in the Prairie River series, set in the
1860s, has some of their strength. PC's _Divine_ book covers and
examples of all the pieces mentioned above can be seen on my Blog at:
http://paintlayers.blogspot.com/. Be sure to look at the archives.

PC: 5. What is your favorite medium?

JG: That is hard to answer simply, because painting for me has become a
strange hybris of computer technology and the ancient art of oil
painting. The two actually compliment each other quite well. The
computer is a giant paintbox of tools I used to only dream of, but oil
painting has a kind of"soul" to it that I always return to. What I often
do now is design the image on the computer and then translate it to
canvas where I paint it in oils. Very often there is no actual painting,
but only a computer image. This is the case for _Divine By Mistake_ and
_Divine By Choice_. It's hard to tell, looking at them that they are

PC: 6. Do you have a gallery I can point people to? Are any of the
covers (either originals or prints) for sale to the general
public, and if so how would one go about purchasing them?

JG: I don't have a gallery. You'd think I would, after illustrating for 30
years. But I never got around to looking for one. That is changing now
and I will be getting it together sometime in the coming year. In the
meantime, I do sell large prints of the art and accept commissions. You
can contact me at my Blog: http://paintlayers.blogspot.com/

Thank you, James, for your wonderful answers! And now, shouldn't you be working on the cover for Divine by Blood...