Hi and welcome to the Library of Erana, please tell us a little about yourself.
My Name is Roy Mauritsen and I’m a professional graphic artist with a career that spans over 20 years working for print houses and advertising companies. I have a background in fine art from my days of crayons to college. These days I do digital fantasy artwork and I work a lot in television commercial graphics. I also serve as an art director for some small press publishers. I’ve won several awards for my fantasy artwork, my television commercials and even for my book covers. I have worked for two years with a fan based science fiction convention as their Art/Marketing director. I also do photography. As the Art Director for Perseid Press, it fell to me to create not only the book cover for Heroika, but also the supplementary promotional materials including the book trailer.
You are a cover designer, what made you decide to get into this line of work?
My own novel, actually. It was important for me when my novel “Shards of the Glass Slipper” was published that I maintain creative control including cover design. Padwolf Publishing was happy to work me and afterwards they offered to work with me if I continued own as an art director… and things snowballed from there.
Can you tell us about some of the covers you’ve designed and authors you’ve worked with? (Name of books, authors you’ve worked with etc.)
I’ve done over 50 or so covers. ’ve worked with Padwolf Publishing, Perseid Press, Crazy 8 press, and Dark Quest Books. And many authors, Patrick Thomas, Ed Mcfadden III, Janet Morris, John L. French, Darin Kennedy, Russ Colchamiro, Andrew P. Weston, Brad Aiken and Matt Schiariti, to name a few and myself of course. Some titles include “Heroika”, “With Great Power”, “The IX”, “Ghosts of Demons Past”, “Our Dying Land”, “Genius DeMilo”, “Apocalypse 13” and “Bartender of the Gods” (Which features my own hand modelling), and obviously “Shards of the Glass Slipper”. I’ve been working with Janet Morris for her upcoming re-release of her original Silistra Quartet series, and that has been very exciting!
Can you tell us what is involved? (I have no clue so you can be as elaborate as you like!)
There are so many different flavours of books that it requires a little time to figure out the best path to proceed down. I’ve worked in graphic design long enough that I can get something together that looks professional in a quick amount of time. Very few authors are like… do whatever, most have an idea and others already have some elements they want to incorporate. There are times when I’ll have to convince an author to let go of their idea in favour of something that would be better and not even something they would think of. After that I might utilize some stock imagery or some Photoshop and Illustrator work. More involved covers I’ve used 3D programs like Vue, which is a 3D landscape environment generator, Poser and render engines like Reality (which can create high-end photorealistic imagery) and I have even used After Effects (which is a graphic program used primarily for video) for other titles. Though I’ve a strong background in fine art I don’t draw or paint much anymore, but that training in design theory, colour and composition for example, still apply. I have done a book cover over a lunch hour and some I can take weeks or even months of trial and error. The important thing is the end result; does it help sell the book?
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read the book first, then come up with a design, or can you produce something from an author’s description?
The majority of the time it’s from an author description or perhaps something they’ve tried to do themselves. For a cover like Heroika, Janet Morris had a piece of art she wanted use which was the medallion of the man on the horse killing a dragon. I was able to work the art into more of a medallion feel and the rest of the design fell quickly into place. The cover was done months before the book interior was completed.
What are your thoughts on ‘generic’ covers – such as a sword or throne and skulls for fantasy, or interchangeable torsos for romance?
They are instantly recognizable and easily convey a feel for the story… almost to the point of cliché. But if you were to do something different with it, they still could be interesting.
When you buy a book do you look at the cover first? What else attracts you? What turns you off?
A good book cover is extremely important! You will judge a book by its cover. It’s a visual attractor and really the first impression… and you always want to make a good first impression. Of course I will look at covers first… for professional reasons, design ideas (or what not to do) how the typeface is handled, what styles and trends are out there, things like that. Probably the big turn off is a cover that was not done professionally… I’ve seen far too many books with covers obviously done by the author to save a couple of bucks; low-resolution images, choppy images, poor type handling, and no sense of design.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in this line of work or who might want to design a cover?
For an artist starting out… it’s not easy- pay attention to designs everywhere. Inspiration can come from unlikely ideas… It will take a long time. Keep trying different things, as they are many different ways to approach a cover concept. Keep thinking out of the box. Learn the under-the-hood technical aspects of design, layout, printing, how to make pdfs correctly and pre-flighting, and the differences between creating for print or web. Not everything has to be a masterpiece effort to achieve what is needed. Your work ultimately has to best serve the book, not your ego.
What are your thoughts on sites like Fiverr where people can buy covers cheaply? Do you think they encourage substandard or very generic images?
I can buy a lot of things for $5 dollars… Coffee and a bagel, a ham sandwich with some chips and soda and a bunch of things things at the dollar store! My artistic knowledge my creative tools, my experience and skillset, my time are worth considerably more than a ham sandwich…especially if I am making your book look professional and marketable to your readers. You get what your pay for. And if a generic design adequately describes your book, then that says something. Or think of it this way… as an author you probably laboured for years to hone your craft and write your masterpiece; attending conferences, writing groups, blogging and query letters, tracking agencies you submitted to, and getting rejection letters. Blood sweat and tears, bad days and good days… edits and re-writes and now you are finally done-ready to publish. All of that you go through, but then for your cover art you’ll spend five bucks on a generic “your title here” type cover? You do yourself such a disservice. You deserve an awesome cover for all of that work and time you invested.
Do you have a genre you prefer?
That’s a great thing about working with so many types of authors. You get to explore a variety of genres. Probably my preferred one is Fantasy… I grew up studying a lot of fantasy artists Like Roger Dean, Boris Vallerjo, Larry Elmore etc. I like the challenge of trying different genres though… up to a point. I ‘ll draw the line at doing erotica covers; it’s really not my thing, though it is a widely popular genre. It’s not something I would want to have myself, as a professional brand, associated with.
Please tell us about your favourite image and the favourite cover you have worked on?
One of my personal favourites is the cover art for “With Great Power” a super hero anthology. The concept came together very quickly and early on. It was a year later before the book was finally published. It was created almost entirely in After Effects (a rather uncommon use of this software that I hope to have opportunity to do more with.) But it was an image that for me really embraced the spirit of the book. It was nice to hear from anthology contributors like Gail Z. Martin and Jonathan Maberry, who called it “a pretty damn cool cover!”
I’m also enjoying the challenge of reinventing all four covers for Janet Morris’ Silistra Quartet series. It incorporates and image across the cover of all four books in a rather striking way. It’s probably my most ambitious cover project to date. For Apocalypse 13, I had to render over a dozen individual character elements and composite them in photoshop- quite a complicated endeavour!
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?
I’m feeling generous! Here’s three:
My favourite book of all time is Alice in Wonderland.
As a child, I was inspired to draw after watching the original Land of the Lost on Saturday mornings.
My favourite animal is the Platypus.
Blog/website links etc.
www.roymauritsen.com Both my digital fantasy artwork series Chess Pieces and information and artwork from my novel Shards of The Glass Slipper are here.
www.padwolf.com the majority of covers you’ll find here I’ve worked on…
Here’s an overview of book covers I’ve done ( via facebook) https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10205677896134136.1073741847.1456655061&type=1&l=d0cd2ba92c