Interview with Michael G. Manning

Interview with Michael G. Manning
15326549_1179426122094499_6318367043184922848_nI recently had the honor to correspond via social media and email with Michael G. Manning, author of the December Book Cover of the Month, Betrayer’s Bane. I’ve already posted the review for that, and you can check that out here. I’ve also interviewed Amalia Chitulescu, which you can read here. I’ve mentioned how much I enjoyed Bane, and I actually just finished the first book in the Embers of Illeniel trilogy before posting this blog.  I’ll post my review for The Mountains Rise (the Audible version), in time (there are other reviews scheduled to post first, and I try to respect the order in which I read books). I’m a huge fan of the series so far, and I can’t wait to finish it.  That makes me all the happier I had a chance to interview Mr. Manning.
Without further ado, here we go:

You have quite a few projects out there, and I understand some (if not all) of them are related. Can you explain how Embers of Illeniel fits in with other projects you have out and other projects you have coming? 


My first series, was Mageborn, starting with ‘The Blacksmith’s Son’ and finishing with ‘The Final Redemption.’  It was five books in all, and during the course of it I frequently referred back to hidden memories that were trapped in the main character’s mind.  So, once I had finished it, I felt a strong need to go back and write the story of what had been haunting Mordecai throughout those books.

So my original series was Mageborn, with Embers of Illeniel being a prequel set two thousand years before it.  I also have a sequel series, ‘Champions of the Dawning Dragons.’  It takes up where Mageborn left off, following the children that were born during that series.

At the moment I have finished Mageborn, and Embers of Illeniel, and the last book of the sequel series, Demonhome, is due out later this year.  I have a stand-alone book also, ‘Thomas,’ that is based on an old roleplaying game campaign I was in.

5215279What was the inspiration for the series?
I was bored. I went on a Kindle binge and read eighteen books in a single week and found myself without anything interesting to read.  So, I sat down and made a mental list of the things I was looking for in my hypothetical perfect book.  When I had finished the list, I realized that I had already read everything remotely similar, so I just said to hell with it and started writing.
Betrayer’s Bane was the best book I’ve read so far in 2017.  What do you think are the things that made that book so great? 
Pain and suffering.  One of my biggest complaints about books, movies, and TV shows, is that very often everything is sugar-coated.  There’s almost always a happy ending, and it’s rare for anyone of importance to the story to die.  Since I already knew this was going to be a dark story, I decided to go all out, though at times I wondered if I had gone too far.
Tyrion is such a compelling character. How did you come up with him? What made you decide to write a series focused on him with that series? I understand (at least I THINK) Ileniel happens generations before the Mageborn series. Is that true? If so, what made you decide to go so far back in the world you’ve built?

Again, there were numerous veiled references to this story in my first series, so it felt almost compulsory for me to come back and write it.

I think Tyrion himself is so interesting because he starts out as a perfectly ordinary young man, perhaps even kinder and gentler than most, but his experiences gradually warp and shape him into the monster he eventually becomes.  It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion, it’s horrible, but you just can’t look away.
How did you feel when you finished that series?
Relieved.  I don’t think readers always realize that all the same emotions they experience while reading a book affect the author as well.  The main difference is that it takes us weeks and months to get them all down, so we suffer the same trauma in an extended drawn out sort of way.  That’s fine when it’s a light-hearted novel, but when it is something like this—well it can be agonizing.  Day after day you’re forced to repeatedly live out the same pain.  I thought I might lose my mind before finishing it.
Bane was the first book I’ve read from you, and it has me going crazy trying to see what happens after the epilogue. For those like me, what book can I jump to to find out?
51eWo3W81OLYou should start with ‘The Blacksmith’s Son,’ and then follow it through the entire Mageborn series.  Once that’s done you can read ‘Thornbear,’ which is the first of the sequels.
As you know, I discovered Betrayer’s Bane when I selected it as my Book Cover of the Day. It went on to become the December Book Cover of the Month. First, congrats to both you and Amalia for winning.  I’ve spoken about what I think makes the cover stand out on my blog, but I’d like to know your thoughts about what made the cover work for you. Why do you think that cover stands out?

Well, the cover represents a particularly traumatic scene in the book, the death of one of the more lovable characters, although it’s done with a bit of artistic license.  I think that’s what makes it a great cover.  It perfectly captures the raw emotion that I tried to embody throughout the story.

What did you think about the cover when Amalia showed it to you?

I’ve never been disappointed with her work, so naturally I was pleased.  Not only does she have great artistic sense, but she always arranges the less obvious elements perfectly as well as picking fonts that fit the theme.

Can you walk me through the process of creating the cover from your point of view? What did you ask Amalia for? What was she like to work with? What was your goal for the cover?

904677_568318963202210_169616517_oI’ve been working with her for a couple of years now, but in each case I merely describe the scene I think would fit best on the cover.  She takes it from there, and usually within a few weeks she has something to show me.  Thus far I’ve never had to request a major change after that point, just minor refinements.  She has excellent taste.  As always, my only goal for the cover is to evoke a feeling in the viewer, something that will entice them to examine the contents.

Bane was, as I said, a great book. It was so good I went back and bought book 1 of Elleniel (audio version). If there are any new readers out there, where would you recommend they start reading your work?

My preferred reading order would be the order I wrote them in, starting with the Mageborn series.  After that I’d alternate the prequels and sequels, starting with the first of the prequels, ‘The Mountains Rise.’  I switched back and forth between the prequel and sequel series, so there are hints about each in the other.  I know that sounds confusing, but if you look at the publishing dates just follow them chronologically.

Even if you don’t, you can’t go wrong just reading each series on its own.

What’s your newest released project? Please tell us about it.
51setgNvqYL._SY346The latest thing I did was release a short novel called, ‘Thomas.’  It’s actually something I wrote before I started publishing, but I never took the time to finish it.  After Betrayer’s Bane I needed something light to cleanse my palate and wash away the evil that had sunk into my bones.  It’s a great book that has nothing to do with any of my other work, being based on a roleplaying game I was in with some friends.

The main character is a boy named Thomas (funny how that works).  He starts as an orphan and the mystery of the tale revolves around his origin, although most of the story itself doesn’t directly relate to that.  I think anyone that enjoys fantasy would like it, even though the main character is a cleric, which is uncommon in the genre.

What are you working on next? 
Currently I’m working on ‘Demonhome,’ the last book in my sequel series.  It follows Matthew, the son of the protagonist in Mageborn, as he travels to another dimension to try and find his missing father.  I’ve hinted at it before, but there will be some science fiction elements introduced there that I think will be fascinating.
I thank you again for all of your time. You’ve created a fascinating series that I highly recommend to any fans of action fantasy. (Disclaimer, this is a dark story.)
I’ve purchased the Audible version of The Silent Tempest, which will allow me to complete this trilogy, and I can promise I’m moving straight on to Mageborn. I’m very high on this series and this author at the moment. I hope a few of you try him out.
Thanks for reading,

Interview with the winner of February’s Book Cover of the Month Award Winner Lisa Pompilio

Interview with the winner of February’s Book Cover of the Month Award Winner Lisa Pompilio

As the new BCOTM bracket is running, I had the chance to correspond with Lisa Pompilio, the winner of February’s bracket. You can see other interviews from December’s winner and January’s Winner if you like.

Hello Lisa! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

First off congratulations on your cover wining my blog’s February Book Cover of the Month.
Thank you so much. There were so many great covers by talented artists. I’m very honored.


When did you get into art? 
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. In my teens I got into photography, collage and punk rock, which ultimately led to an interest in graphic design and photo illustration. I would make zines of my favorite bands and take photos at shows. A lot of cut and paste art, I just never connected it to being a desinger. But for 17 years, I was also heavily involved in training horses. Then in my 20s, I had a bad fall and realized it might be time to consider a career that didn’t involve broken bones (or at least pay for the broken bones since I am still riding). So I turned to art, and now paper cuts are the biggest job hazard I have to risk.


How long have you been creating covers?
It’s been almost 10 years now. I started at St. Martin’s Press and now I’m with Orbit Books.

Von Brooklyn logoWhat got you started in creating covers?
I’ve always been a book lover. I used to spend hours in the library as a kid – reading was a way to escape into another world, and everything I took in – the book covers, the stories, the characters – inspired my art.

Do you prefer one medium over another?
Above all, I’m a photo illustrator. But I let the book dictate the medium – some call for photo illustration, sometimes I hire an illustrator, sometimes there’s a need for type design.

Palisades ParkDo you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I draw from multiple influences when I’m working on a cover. I think a cover designer should be open and well-rounded, and know their art history. I’m deeply shaped by circus sideshow culture – growing up near Coney Island will do that to you. Tim Burton always sparks something in me, but so do Frida Kahlo and Carlo Crivilli – it’s really a mash-up of artists and styles and history.

What makes you choose to work with an author or not? 
I’ve worked with all different kinds of authors. I base my decision on the project – if it sounds fun, I’m game to take it on.

What do you look for in a great client? 
Trust. A client who trusts I will create an amazing cover for them and lets me just work my magic.

What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
I’m sure I have an official list somewhere…. One of the biggest pet peeves of any designer I know is when you send a comp, and someone takes it, just photoshops over it, and sends it back. That’s just a big no. But as a designer, or any kind of artist, you have to patient and expect criticism, even if the criticism is completely unjustified and drives you a little crazy. You have to remember it’s not just your baby, and that everyone wants what’s best for the book.

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?
All they have to do is contact me. I’m always open to freelance work alongside my in-house creations. I do have a standard rate, but I’ll negotiate with self-published authors and do what I can to work within their budget.

61sr30ku-7lHow did you come to be chosen to create the cover for The Unleashed?
Bentz and Jennifer had seen my work for Amada Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy and contacted me for the first book in the series, The UnDelightened. I was thrilled when they contacted me again to continue working on the series.

Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I really wanted the reader to feel like they were stepping into a world that was both magical and a little dark at the same time.

Can you walk me through how you approached the cover? I mean, can you take me from you were commissioned to the final product? What were some of the challenges? What techniques did you use? How much did you collaborate with Bents? How happy were you with the final product? Anything you can think of in that regard.

The first book gave me some direction, but I wanted this one to feel a little darker – I wanted the magic to kind of bleed out of the frame – I wanted it more twisted and confused than on the first book. Bentz gave me some details to play with, like the creepy fog, and he had some ideas about how it should look and which character we’d use, and we basically just hit the nail on the head together.

It’s always a little challenging to do a series. You want the covers to be cohesive, but also stand out on their own. Color was a big factor, but it was important for me that readers got the feeling they were moving through the series and growing with it. As for technique, Photoshop played a big role.

I’m very happy with the final product. It does everything I wanted it to do, and now I have to step up my game for the next installment!

How was Bentz to work with?
He was terrible! I’m just kidding of course – it was great. Bentz really gave me a lot of freedom and put his trust in me. When we did The Undelightened, he gave me the manuscript and some samples of covers and images he felt drawn to, then let me loose. It means a lot to me that he trusts me, and it’s really been a delight to work with him.

TornThe Unleashed was an awesome image. Is it your favorite? If so, why?
That’s like asking a parent which kid is their favorite! I can’t go down that rabbit hole and have angry authors writing to say, “I thought I was your favorite!” For my own safety, I am going to plead the 5th.

What can we expect to see from you next?
I’m currently working on a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, YA, and even some military covers. I’m also working on Book 2 for Melissa Caruso, and I’ve just revealed the first in the series The Tethered Mage. I’ve got a few other surprises that I can’t share yet – but stay tuned.

Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
I’d just like to say thank you, on behalf of all of us cover designers, for appreciating this art form. Your love really motivates us and inspires the awesome imagery we all enjoy.


I don’t think the bracket is perfect, and I don’t think it can be. But when I started this, it was with the intention of brining attention to great covers and giving the designers some credit. I think we’re accomplishing that. I’m thrilled to talk to every artist, and I plan on pestering the authors next! Thank you all for making this a success. Here’s to keeping it growing!

Thanks for reading,


Interview with December Book Cover of the Month Winner Amalia Chitulescu

Interview with December Book Cover of the Month Winner Amalia Chitulescu

Greetings all! I’m happy to say I’m catching up on my interviews for the Book Cover of the Month bracket. Today, I’m sharing my interview with Amalia Chitulescu, the cover artist who designed the December BCOTM winning cover, Betrayer’s Bane.

Hello Amalia! I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’m a huge fan of the BCOTM brackets, and yours will always be special because it was the first. Let’s get started.

904677_568318963202210_169616517_oWhen did you get into art?

Since 2008.

How long have you been creating covers?

For almost seven years. The first cover that I realized was in 2010. By 2014, I had a break, working for a personal portfolio.

What got you started in creating covers?

Honestly, at first I started with each photo-manipulations. When I was at the beginning of my career, I never thought I would become a cover artist in the future, I was just doing what I loved. After the first client contacted me, in 2010, I started to be a lot more interested in working in this field.

Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, Why? Why? 

Yes. I have always loved Sandara’s artworks.

What makes you choose to work with an author or not?

I’m excited to work with anyone as long as there is a mutulal respect.

What do you look for in a great client?

There are some clients with whom I worked who showed me more than respect. They are wonderful clients who have kept their word, but in the meantime, they are also very good writers. I can also see that through the way they are lovingly describing every scene, every detail, so that the cover can be perfect. In general, I want to consider that all my clients are great.

16939298_1449172218450209_2269127847798440152_nWhat are some of your pet peeves about clients?

One of my biggest pet peeves is lack of respect. I had to deal at the beginning with some disrespectful clients, but this certainly was adjusted over time. It is true that some customers want to pay the lowest possible price for what they get, but overall, I did not have this problem.

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?

I always give them a list of requirements, with everything I need to know, in order to realize the cover they dream for. I have always tried to make every author 100% happy with the final product. We must also understand each other about the deadline. I do have a price list, the price starts from a standard one, and can increase depending on the level of detail involved, the level of hand-painted elements, the author’s requests, ect.

15326549_1179426122094499_6318367043184922848_nHow did you come to be chosen to create the cover for Betrayer’s Bane?

Michael and I have worked together before. I am honored to be his cover artist.

Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?

My biggest goal for this cover was to manage to express, though an illustration, the painful feeling of the protagonist.

How was Michael to work with?

He’s always amazing. He’s a nice person. We are on the same wavelength. We understand each other very well.

Betrayer’s Bane was an awesome image. Is it your favorite? If so, why?

It is, yes. The image radiates a very strong emotion. I do not know why, but I find it easier to work in a more darker theme in the illustrations.

What can we expect to see from you next?

Hopefully many other illustrations, which I hope to enjoy and inspire you. Soon, I’ll open the website, and wills tart working on a new portfolio.

Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?

Never give up, and stay true to your dreams.

Thank you again for taking this time with us, Amalia! Best of luck in the Book Cover of the Year bracket.


I’m honestly having a blast with this whole idea. Just having the chance to look at work and see what others think is amazing. I hope you’re all having fun voting and seeing what the artists think.

Thanks for reading,




Interview with January Book Cover of the Month Winner Joshua Rafols

Interview with January Book Cover of the Month Winner Joshua Rafols
my-photoWe’re a few days into February’s BCOTM bracket, but I have something special for you all today. January’s winner, Joshua Rafols, was kind enough to share his time with us in the form of an interview. It was a pleasure to get to know him, and I’m happy to share that conversation with you now.
First, Joshua, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s go ahead and get right to it.
When did you get in to art?
 – I started going into art when I was in high school. I started to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and started exploring different techniques and designs.
How long have you been creating covers?
-I started just two years ago when I was working at Tate Publishing. But previous to that, I used to make notebook covers for conferences and camps at our church.
What got you started in creating covers?
-It was when I started working at Tate. I found a different joy when authors received their books along with the cover.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
-I don’t have any other medium except Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
-There are a lot of people who inspire my work but my primary inspiration as I work on each cover is my Lord Jesus Christ. Because I believe that as I work for each client, I am also working for the Lord.
What do you look for in a great client? 
– A great client is simply someone who gives clear instructions and knows what he or she wants.
All cover artwork you see was created by Mr. Rafols and with his permission. Any further use without his written consent is done so against copyright law.

What are some of your pet peeves about clients?

– When clients demand for a design that goes beyond the limits of Photoshop, or when they keep changing their design concepts.
What were your initial thoughts where you were asked to do the cover for Loveless?
– My thoughts at first was, this is an interesting book. It wasn’t difficult to visualize and it was easy to do.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
-I went for a minimalist and a bit of mystery design.
How was Marissa to work with?
-Marissa was really easy to work with. She asked for suggestions and gave very clear instructions as to what she wanted – which made it easier for me to do my job.
Can you walk me through the process of creating the cover? How did it go? What were the challenges? How pleased were the two of you with the results?
-I started searching Shutterstock for two open eyes and one closed eye. Then I placed them respectively at the top as the left eye, center the closed eye, and bottom the right eye. So i started with the top eye. To give an effect as if the eye were colored, I brushed random colors on the eyes and placed -if i remember correctly- a screen effect on the color brushes. The center was tricky because it looked like a closed left eye so what i did was i duplicated it and then erased a side for each then arranged it to look as if the eye was centered. The bottom was simply a right eye, which I colored using a gray scale. The challenge that I always face when creating a cover is looking for a font that would match the book. I had the same struggle with this book cover. After sending it to the author, we were both pleased with the results of the book cover.
411sff159rl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Loveless was a very well received cover. Is it your favorite? If so, why/why not?
– After I designed it, I honestly thought it was just another ordinary cover. I never really expected it to go this far. Perhaps it is because of its simplicity and minimalistic feel that I myself did not really notice its beauty at first.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
– I just want to say thank you for supporting the cover of Marissa’s book. I greatly appreciate it.
Once more Josh, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. You’re an amazing artist, and I, for one, am glad I’ve gotten to know you.
Thank you and a blessed day
It’s my hope to do interviews like this with all the artists, but they’re busy people, and sometimes it’s flat out hard to find them. I promise you that I’ll do my best to reach out to them and provide more interviews like this.
Thanks for reading,