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The Art Behind the Mothman Mysteries: the Cover

In my last “Art Behind” post, we took an in-depth look at the BRAND and the development of Eric’s alien tattoo in the series. In this post, we’ll look at the icing on the cake, the book cover.

As I mentioned before, I’ve used stock photography in the past for my covers, but I wanted something special for this new series. Fortunately, Joshua Labello of Envy Ink was up for the task. I remember having the initial conversation with Josh. I didn’t have an exact idea for the cover, and even if I did, I’m not sure if I would have shared it with him. I hated the idea of limiting his artistic process.

So, instead, I told him about the book and its characters. We talked about genre and YA covers that I liked. He also asked me about marketing and what items from the book might stand out. I told him about Bridget’s red umbrella and how I thought that the red would be a nice splash of color for the cover.

From the initial discussion, Josh started sketching and came up with these two images.

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Loved the idea of setting it in the graveyard. The book is about the dead rising and much of it takes place in the cemetery so it only seemed fitting. Also, loved the idea of Eric and Bridget together and Bridget behind Eric. I thought that was important symbolically as she always backs him up.

I looked these two over for a long time before responding. Then, I decided that the first one looked a little too much like a Fabio cover to me. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I was looking for in a cover for a clean YA. The second image, however, seemed right on the money, except for one thing.

I had described Eric’s hair as long. Which I realized right away was way too vague. I see how a rocker with long hair would look like this; however, Eric Jansen in my mind looked more like Chace Crawford and less like Bret Michaels. I asked Josh to think more surfer and less 80s hair band.

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So, the next round of sketches looked like this.

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Eric was shaping up nicely, but Bridget seemed off. Eric often refers to her as a “tiny thing”. I had pictured her as the petite, flat-chested girl next door. I think I described her to Josh as average, but pretty. She’s a good foot shorter than Eric. In this version of the cover, Bridget seemed much younger than Eric. I knew they should appear to be around the same age.

So Josh went to work on Bridget. He needed some reference, so I sent him a pic of Bella Thorne in her Disney days.

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And then I didn’t hear back about Bridget for a while. Instead, he kept her under wraps and went to work finalizing the tattoo and “dressing” Eric.

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Then one day I got this, and I couldn’t believe how close Bridget looked to how I had pictured her.

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Painting time! What color are his eyes again?

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Finally, Josh called me into his studio where we had a two-hour session to finalize the cover. He had already sketched the wooded cemetery background.

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I watched as he blurred in fog around the tombstones and put in the finishing touches like adjusting the shade of Bridget’s shirt.

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Can you spot the differences? Josh couldn’t get it out of his head. So, a little while later, I received a new version that had a few more tweaks: white reflection in the eyes, a little more fog at Eric’s chest, rain bouncing off the umbrella and texture on the black clothing.

Finally, I set the text and we had a cover!

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Next time, we’ll look at the music behind the Mothman Mysteries. If you missed my post on the development of the artwork for Eric’s tattoo, you’ll find it here. There’s also a post on Mothman here. Stay up to the minute on Mothman Mysteries news. Now available for ebook preorder at all major online bookstores. Wrong Side of the Grave lands March 3, 2015.

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