From rough to ready
Irene Gallo, art director at Tor Books, reveals how she chose the final cover for Karen Memory, a book by Elizabeth Bear. The illustrator was Cynthia Sheppard. She had 10 days…
“Seeing Cynthia Sheppard’s work at Spectrum Live solidified my interest in working with her. This was, however, a trial by fire. I was late on the book for various reasons. One cover didn’t hit the mark and I spent some time rethinking it. So by the time I settled on Cynthia, we had only 10 days left.
My email to her included the word panic and this brief: ‘It’s a portrait of a woman. Steampunk. Bad-ass. Runs a brothel. Behind her could be a stylised mechanical kraken or a steampunk city. If it’s the kraken, it could read as a designed background – it would not need to look like a literal scene’. I promised more details, but before I got them, she handed in three amazing sketches…”
“I loved version one. It was clever, had attitude and would have made for a good cover. In this one, the title would become the star of the picture with the leg as a strong supporting cast member.”
“Sketch two didn’t quite have the strength of one or three. It felt a little lost. It’s hard to know where she is and what’s happening. The type and the figure seem to be fighting for equal time. It was the first one dropped from consideration.”
“This one is a beauty. It’s all about the character – the reader would want to know who it is. Once engaged in the picture, the background details are fun to look over. It has brilliant use of the kraken shapes. And they cleverly focus attention on Karen’s face.”
“I sent one and three to the editor and we settled on three. We made a few tweaks and let Cynthia finish it. Cynthia nailed this piece by creating a woman who’s fun and sexy without giving up Karen’s character. You believe she’s strong, smart and capable. Someone the reader wants to meet and spend time with.”