Today our special guest is the witty and charmingly wicked, cover artist extraordinaire Shane Willis from Rad Act Photo. Shane is the last in our series of month long interviews with cover artists and for Naughty Nights Press, he holds a very special place amongst our family as he is also the same person who has made the covers of our authors books, bringing their stories to life.
Thank you so much for being here today Shane, we do appreciate it and truly understand how busy you are at the moment. I can honestly say I can hear echoes of some authors asking where their covers are and are they finished yet. My response to them at the moment is “Back off, Shane is taking some well deserved time out to spend it on NNP’s blog with me.”
So that said, lets waste no time and get started on learning about Shane Willis.
Shane: I have all ways been a graphic artist, but I was first published as a book cover artist in 2002 when I did a book cover for Pathfinding by Patricia Raskin , it was a illustration, and it was about 2 years before I started my photography. There was bit of gap due to other projects I was involved in, so my next cover came in 2008. I began doing many more over the subsequent years, and have done the bulk of them in 2010 and 2011.
NNP: What got you into creating book covers?
Shane: In my world, graphic design and photography went together like milk and cookies. My other projects lead me to poster design, CD cover design, and billboard design. All of that took me away from book covers for a while, but the book covers still slowly trickled in. Over the past 2 years I have done several for local authors and publishers. But with the help of this little thing called the World Wide Web, well… it was only a matter of time before my work would spread. My photography has been used for, or I have designed book covers for publishers in Korea, Italy, Argentina, Canada and Great Britain, not to mention all over the US. Today I think I have about 25 or so covers that bare my name.
NNP: Is there a certain medium you prefer to work with?
Shane: Now, I prefer photography. I have illustrated a few covers, but as I have fallen in love with photography and photo editing. I have come to realize that it can portray a very intimate story. They say a photo is worth a thousand words, and since you can’t put a thousand words on a cover… one photo (the right photo) can do the trick and do it exceptionally well.
NNP: How closely do you work with the Author and Publisher when it comes to creating a book cover?
Shane: How closely I work with the Author and Publisher on a cover is a variable. Some have just been a few emails, and a brief description. Some can be extensive phone calls and conversations getting all the aspects of the story or the desired look of the cover. Sometimes it’s just a request to license my photography for a cover. They design the cover in house, but just want to use my photography. That is the interesting part. Let’s say I created a photo a year ago… then someone see’s that photo, and wants to use it for their cover because it captured the essence or the spirit of the story they wrote. I believe that is part of a mass consciousness. I imagine that the moment they where writing their story and I was thinking of a shot to take, or a message I wanted to convey with my photograph. Perhaps that was the moment we where synchronized. Now, they see my work, and it all fits together. But maybe that’s just me.
NNP: Do you find that it can be frustrating at times trying to get the cover exactly right?
Shane: I haven’t had too much frustration in getting a cover the way it needed to be. In a word… I have an uncanny “gift” to image an image from the minutest of detailed descriptions. Sort of like a police sketch artist I guess. The other part is the ability to create or recreate that image, either in illustration or photography. Yes the more info the better, but like I said my communications with Author and Publisher can be slight to in depth. It all depends on the project. My biggest frustration is FONTS. Getting the right font to convey the feel or that fits the genre can be difficult. I have nearly 3000 fonts in my repertoire and there are Millions more on the web. It’s a matter of keeping it simple, while being noticeable and a little different than everyone else.
NNP: If you are a photographer, do you use only certain models or do you try and match the models to the characters in the book?
Shane: I do have a group of select models that I work best with and yes if the character has long dark hair, or short blond hair or green eyes or blue eyes, I try to make it match. Sometimes character description is left up to the reader, so I feel a little freer to take my artistic license. With photo editing tools however, changing things, such as eye color, to match a character is easy. So if my long hair brunette has brown eyes in reality and the character has blue…it’s a quick and easy touch up. I try doing most of my cover as impressions, so the reader can make up their own visualizations. Only showing the face from the nose down for example, or not showing a face at all, or showing only a silhouetted profile, or something along those lines. This gives the impression to the reader, but leaves the details up to the author.
Sometimes a face is needed. That’s when I have to start looking for a descriptive match… or something pretty darn close.
In setting up a cover, if I have a good synopsis of a book, or a good idea of certain object that are crucial to the story, then I try to incorporate them into the image.
Let’s say I was doing cover for a story about a strip poker game between two or three couples that gets carried away and turns into a steamy “full house” of “Kings over Queens” and “Aces High”.
Then I would defiantly incorporate a deck of playing cards in the image. Maybe show a seminude woman lying on a poker table, from say her neck or chin, down to her lower waist, with playing cards and poker chips spread all over her body (hiding certain parts) and several other hands reaching from off scene, caressing her from either side of the table. I think the message is impressed to the reader as to what the story is about.
Posted by Penny Peterssen
Personal Executive Assistant
Director of Marketing and Research
Naughty Nights Press (NNP) Team