Hello everyone! As most of you know, I’ve been interview most Book Cover of the Month winners. Click on each month to see those interviews. December. January. February. April. I wasn’t able to reach the artist for March, but here’s the announcement for it. I never could find anyone to talk to for May, but here’s the announcement for that. Here we are with June’s winner though, the man who designed For Steam and Country!
Without further delay, let’s get right to it!
First off congratulations on your cover winning my blog’s Book Cover of the Month of June.
Thanks, Matt! So, uh, I never received my winnings…I was told there’d be money involved. I’ve got bills, man, and a cat to feed. Just kidding, just kidding.
It was quite the surprise to see it was in the running and the support it received. Made me a very happy artist/designer. And happy to see someone who so thoroughly enjoys cover art/design — that, obviously, means a lot to me.
When did you get in to art?
Oh you know, the usual story of being snatched by the creatures under my bed as a child and thrown into a tiny, dank cell and forced to draw every day… Huh? Only me?
Honestly though, like most children, I was always drawing growing up…but when other kids moved onto other interests I continued on drawing. I can remember making up my own Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles characters (my mom actually painted the Turtles on my bedroom walls — she’s the one I have to thank for passing down the art gene), and then I discovered Spawn later on and began copying the art from those comics and others I’d sneak out of my brother’s room — he’d eventually give me his whole box so I’d leave him alone.
So yeah, basically I’ve always been into art.
How long have you been creating covers?
I’ve actually only been creating covers since maybe the end of 2014. I worked on my first cover in 2013, but it wouldn’t be until the later part of 2014 that I secured a position with a publishing company (Ragnarok Publications) and began doing the design/typography for their covers…and the rest, as they say, is history.
So I’ve really got a special place in my heart for Ragnarok — without Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz (great author by the way, if anyone reading this hasn’t checked out his work, do that now) taking a chance on me I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t know all of the kickass authors and industry professionals I do now, and who knows where my career would be…
What got you started in creating covers?
Since becoming a bibliophile around the age of 15 I’ve wanted to work in the book industry. I used to say I didn’t care if I were the mail-boy, as long as I got to work for a publisher. There’s no graphic design jobs around here so I kept reaching out to publishers and finally one brought me in, Ragnarok Publications. I gained a lot of experience with them, and they eventually introduced me into experimenting with photo-based art, which I’m really enjoying at the moment.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
As far as physical art I’m mainly a graphite and pen type.
As far as covers go as a medium I do enjoy the character-focused pieces (urban fantasy mostly), but I’m real partial to fully designed covers as there’s just something intriguing about them, an extra sense of wonder at where this idea came from, what was the designer thinking, what are they trying to convey to potential readers, and sometimes the “Whoa, how’d they do that.”
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I can’t really say that I do. I gather inspiration from all over and try not to focus on any one thing too much. I will say, though, that I really like the design work on oldschool fantasy covers — even the over-the-top ones manage to hit the right fantastical mood and leave me wondering how I could work some of its elements into my own designs.
What makes you choose to work with an author or not?
Well, I’ve had a couple horrendous clients in the past, so I know a couple signs to watch out for. One thing I’ve noticed though is everyone I’ve work with in the book industry have been fairly easy to get along with, and they’re usually very appreciative and supportive.
What do you look for in a great client?
I’m looking for a sugar-client (kinda like a sugar daddy, or sugar momma, but not gender-specific) who can sweep me up in their arms and deliver me from the dreadful day-job…huh…oh, sorry, wrong type of client.
For art/design clients, most times I don’t really know until I’ve gotten a little ways in, but if they’re appreciative and respect my work and opinions then I’ll do whatever I can to help them. And once I get one of those clients I try my best to keep them! heh
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
Haha, hmm let’s see if I can think of some without pissing anyone off…
I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it when someone tells me how easy a task will be…like they think I can just make a couple clicks and *poof*.
And, should go without saying, but any type of unwarranted hostility is a surefire way to end our working relationship. I put up with that for years from one client, and I’ll never do it again.
Other than that, since entering the book world, I’ve been lucky to have very good and respectable clients. Authors can be crazy…ehh, let’s face it, they ARE crazy, but I’ve had the best time working with them.
What would an author need to do to work with you? Do you have a link to your standard rates, or do you negotiate fees by author?
Easiest way is to just inquire via my website, stkkreations.com. I don’t have rates posted anywhere as it could cause some issues if they change and I forget to update them wherever they’re posted, and depending on the style of cover it can also alter the rate, but I’m always willing to discuss that and I’m fairly easy to talk to…I think…
How did you come to be chosen to create the cover of For Steam and Country?
I believe Jon heard (or saw) of me through some mutual author friends and contacted me inquiring of my interest in his new fantasy steampunk novel. I love the ideas and imagery of the genre so I was immediately interested.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I wanted to be sure I expressed the genre clearly but without overdoing it, and that I could create this character without it looking recycled (whether that be just your generic steampunk character, or overuse of stock — that last part should really be paid attention to as there’s a lot of covers out there that use straight stock photos so the end result is a slew of books with basically the same character on their covers…yikes).
How was Jon to work with?
He was a total jerk and constantly talked about my momma. Nah, seriously he was quite easy to work with. He didn’t have any excessive changes and he listened to my reasoning behind certain things I did with an appreciative and understanding ear.
What inspired the idea for this cover?
The general idea was Jon’s. He wanted to show the protagonist, a young female who knows nothing of adventure and the bravery it requires, but will quickly find out.
He gave me a few necessities, like the cape, sword, ship, obviously it has to look like a steampunk character, and other than that pretty much let me run free.
Can you walk me through the whole process of that cover? From commissioning to final product? How did you feel about it once it was finished?
Let’s see, the commissioning part is kinda boring: Jon approached me, rates were discussed and agreed upon, and that’s about it…pretty standard I guess.
Once all the financial business was taken care of, Jon gave me a description of what he was looking for, and I started gathering resources and pinning down some rough ideas of what I wanted to do. From there there’s a lot of extracting elements from other elements or backgrounds and piecing them all together into something new that you won’t have to worry about finding on anyone else’s cover.
In the end, I’d say I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I had a lot of anguishing fun making it and I think it was pretty well received.
Is it your favorite cover? If so, why?
It’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s one of the ones where I started getting comfortable with my style of character-driven covers, and the most complex one (roughly twenty photo resources were used on this one) I’ve done so far.
What can we expect to see from you next?
I actually just finished another cover for Jon, for his novella Gravity of the Game that will release in October.
I’m currently working on cover art for the sequel to Kirk Dougal’s Reset (very fun series for those who haven’t read it — detective story within a video game story). Those are a fun silhouette style.
I’m also working on design work (typography mostly) for a few different authors.
I’ve got a few projects I’m working on for Vault Books (a specialty press, look ’em up if you haven’t) for authors Dan Wells, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Larry Correia.
Basically, I’m all over the place haha.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this little interview, I hope it wasn’t too boring and maybe even inspired a few of you to explore your creative side — the world can never have enough art.
Once more Shawn, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. Your cover was great. I look forward to seeing more from you.
Thanks so much, Matt! This was an excruciatingly painf…I mean, uh, very enjoyable interview! One of these days I’ll get better at talking about myself haha.
And there you have it folks. Shawn was fun to talk to. And he’s the only designer so far with two covers in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket (He was involved in the design of The Heresy Within). We’re so close to that bracket. I’m really getting excited about it. Until then…