Jul 162014

Guest post: RJ Sullivan

The Wass-onme Art of Bonnie!

I’ve told the story a few times before. In 2011, I had published my first novel, Haunting Blue, for the first time, and was doing my first convention touring with a local group of authors, including Michael West. I had a chance to see Michael and Seventh Star Press publisher Stephen Zimmer interact, saw a few of their books, and knew then that SSP would end up on the short list of where I wanted to send my next completed manuscript.

During this time, I had a chance to check out several titles, including Michael’s then-just-released Cinema of Shadows, Stephen’s Exodus Gate, and the third volume of the fantasy series by D.A, Adams, The Fall of Dorkhun. The art in this last one caught my attention, as it was one of the few (at the time) books promoting the art of Bonnie Wasson. I remember a particular image that SSP promoted as a poster, an elf maiden. She looked elegant, heroic, and alluring, all at the same time. I was really taken with this art.


Now, don’t get me wrong, Matthew Perry’s art is stellar, but it’s also of a decidedly dark and often horrific nature. And while I write what many would consider dark fiction, there’s always a strong, heroic woman character at the center of things.

So as it happened, the next major project I completed was a ghost story novella that centered around an alluring ghost, the ethereal remains of a Hollywood sex icon from the 1950s, a figure in my mind who had to channel sexy, ghostly, and more than a bit dangerous, both familiar and eerily different.

I sent it to Seventh Star, and long story short, they accepted it a couple months later. Thinking of the elf maiden, and knowing how important the cover could be in selling the book, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I want D.A. Adams’ artist assigned to my books.” As it happened, Stephen already had this in mind.

With a manuscript already turned in, Bonnie had been pitched, and so I was told, she was quite excited to hear about the character I had in mind. I came to our first collaboration with high expectations. I knew without a doubt she could nail it, but I also worried that (because artists can’t possibly make the time to read every assignment) she might not quite get what I was doing.

I saw the first draft, and she didn’t come anywhere near my expectations. She blew those expectations away. In fact, while Bonnie’s rough art didn’t have a clear setting yet, the pose she put Maxine in said to me “this could be the lake behind the apartment from the scene in the middle of the book. I explained this to her, and added, “can you add a framed autographed picture sitting on the shore?” A couple of drafts later, she produced the cover as it exists now.

Now, since then, Bonnie has continued to produce amazing art. I love her rendition of my main character Blue from Haunting Blue and Virtual Blue. I love her version of Rebecca Burton. Her new pieces for the re-release of Haunting Blue, that of Sylvia on the porch and poor Blue just out of the chicken costume are both spot-on and priceless. But I suspect that first cover may always be my favorite.

Last year, Bonnie bought herself a new printer and did something super-cool for me. She made a one-off poster of the cover of Haunting Obsession, and snailmailed it to me. She even signed it with (my facetious suggestion) “To my favorite author.” The poster is framed and hangs over my desk and laptop. Thank you, Bonnie.

So a word on our collaboration process. Bonnie and I communicate primarily through email.

After I have turned in a manuscript and have had a chance to think about some visuals, I send five or six favorite scenes. I suggest one or two of those as a cover idea. I figure since she needs to create three (four for the hardback editions, when applicable). I don’t like to micro-manage the art. I think an artist should have the freedom to interpret. If Blue’s punk hair doesn’t spike at the angle I have in my head, I don’t sweat it. (Her hair is fine–that’s just a made-up example//.) So I
try to give her some choices so she can pick what she is most excited about.

I write out a detailed paragraph, describing the context as well as the scene itself. It’s a challenge trying to explain something in your head you’ve had there for several months, and sometimes it’s embarrassing to find an obvious thing you failed to mention. For example, in an early version of Haunting Blue, I had described “a pirate boat going through double doors and entering the amusement park ride.” In my head, I knew I meant a two-man lifeboat similar to a log ride, but what I received for a first draft was a full sized pirate ship sailing through these huge King Kong double gates.

Whoops! And it was a great cover, but it wouldn’t work for Haunting Blue. On her next draft, she produced a scene from the inside of the pirate ride, pretty much how the cover looks now. I love that cover, it’s terrific, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

I’m priviledged to be working with such a talented artist. Bonnie is steeped in the genre, so it’s easy to explain what I have I my head. The wait afterwards can get almost unbearable, because I know what she’s going to create is going to bowl me over. At the same time, great art takes time.

But the suspense can drive me crazy.

As I say loud, proud, and often: My artist. She rocks.

About RJ Sullivan

Haunting Blue is the first book of the adventures of punk girl Fiona “Blue” Shaefer. This is the 2014 revised edition by Seventh Star Press. Seventh Star also released Haunting Obsession, a Rebecca Burton Novella, and Virtual Blue, the second book in Fiona’s tale. R.J.’s short stories have been featured in such acclaimed collections as Dark Faith: Invocations by Apex Books and Vampires Don’t Sparkle. His newest project is the Red Lotus series of science fiction novelettes.

R.J. resides in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. He drinks coffee from a Little Mermaid mug and is man enough to admit it.

Guest post: RJ SullivanHaunting Blue by RJ Sullivan
Published by Seventh Star Press on Jun 2, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, YA
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads

Punk, blue-haired "Blue" Shaefer, is at odds with her workaholic single mother. Raised as a city girl in a suburb of Indianapolis, Blue must abandon the life she knows when her unfeeling mother moves them to a dreadful small town. Blue befriends the only student willing to talk to her: computer nerd "Chip" Farren.

Chip knows the connection between the rickety pirate boat ride at the local amusement park and the missing money from an infamous bank heist the townspeople still talk about. When Blue helps him recover the treasure, they awaken a vengeful ghost who'll stop at nothing--not even murder--to prevent them from exposing the truth behind his evil deeds.

  One Response to “Guest post: RJ Sullivan”

  1. Bonnie Wasson is truly Wass-ome!!! 🙂

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