"Boys in Our Books"…

…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!

“Bad Idea” Week – “Taking Cover: the Origins of the Bad Idea Artwork” by Damon Suede

No joke…day 4 of “Bad Idea Week” is a TREAT.  Damon Suede…1400+ words…giving us the entire story behind the amazing cover.  I’m buying a lottery ticket this week…that’s how freaking lucky I feel!

*************************

I doubt it will come as a shock to everyone to know that I’m a control freak about my covers. I research my books so obsessively, of course I’m going to do the same for the artwork that brands my work as it scampers out into the world (My cover spec sheet for Hot Head was 12 pages long!). I think fans are getting bored with the interchangeable covers anyways, and we’ve finally sloughed off the hideous Poser nonsense and crappy matting of not-so-long-ago. I always want to push those margins and boundaries if I can.  I have a background in design from my salad days, and though I’m not involved in that world anymore, I’m meticulous about design details and ruthless about assembling the research and components to facilitate the art department’s job. My rule is: if I’m gonna be a pain in the ass, it’s my job to lube the process as much as possible.

About a month into the writing of this book, I realized that its title was Bad Idea and. So much of the Trip and Silas love story was driven by notions and assumptions that got out of control with startling results. In keeping with my other titles Bad Idea was a septuple pun (my boyfriend counted the iterations for me!). Still it was very hard to encapsulate the romance in an easy image. Unlike a firefighter or cowboy romance… a story about hot nerds falling in love just doesn’t have the same kind of instant recognizable appeal. This book wasn’t particularly trope-y… and yet it was undeniably a romance with wide-market appeal. So I needed the cover to do a lot of heavy lifting for me.

Right off the bat, I knew that the cover would have a horned lightbulb as a major design element. Likewise, I knew it needed to feature an illustration juxtaposed against a photographic element. Last year, I had a phenomenal conversation with the lovely Connie Bailey at Dreamspinner about the power of eyes on covers. She pointed out that all those headless torsos, aside from being a little generic, also didn’t let the eyes connect to readers. Since so much of Silas and Trip’s relationship was bound up in art and appearances and fetish voyeurism, I wanted eyes to feature heavily.  From there it was a hop-skip-and-a-trip to the top of our hero’s noggin with that bulb floating above like a snarky “Eureka!”

SCRATCH chevron

From there I had two challenges. My boyfriend knows a bazillion comic book illustrators. Rey Arzeno had donethe spectacular painting for Horn Gate, and was all set to do the rest of the series. Though the books were related, I didn’t want people to confuse the two. We have another artist friend named Bill Walko who tends to be more mod/graphic in style which felt like a good fit for the sleek contemporary vibe of Bad Idea. I had mocked up a horned bulb as a tiny easter egg on the cover of Horn Gate, but that was rough and ungraceful.

Bulb references

After we worked out a plan of attack, I sat down with Bill and a couple hundred reference images to describe what I was looking for…

Walko design final

…I believe my exact words were, “I want it to look crooked, slick, and wicked… Imagine it as the mascot for a brand of kinky cereal.” After a bunch of back and forth and hundreds of more references. Bill came back with this final design.

fontFontwise, I’d already found a paired set of Roman fonts that Paul Richmond and I liked a lot as a branded visual component for both intertwined series, with one font cousin to be used for the paranormal Scratch books and a related, but more sleek mutation for the contemporary Itch books, of which Bad Idea was the first.

Now I just needed my Trip… or specifically a suitably twinkish, untraditional looker with an arched eyebrow who could stand in for Trip. Stock photography is the bane of romance novelists’ existence. We need it, our publishers use it, but mostly it’s repetitive and hideous. The only way to get beyond the same five Croatian models is to go out and scout models and photographers to track down the one shot that convey the proper vibe. Because I knew exactly the wicked/snarky/evil expression I was looking for, I assembled a swatch of expression references so that Trip’s eyes would mimic the bad idea bulb over his head, emphasizing their connection and the themes of the book…

Model  expression research

…and spent two days digging through every photographers backlog and stock sites I could access. Almost by accident I found the exactly right model with the perfect expression. My response to him was so visceral I shouted out loud and my boyfriend thought I’d stabbed myself with a pen. We tweaked the lightbulb so that its arched eyebrow was opposite the model’s, echoing it while providing visual tension.

Next stop was kicking my bulb design and my model over to the inestimable Paul Richmond at Dreamspinner.I knew from working together on the Horn Gate that Paul (somehow) didn’t find all my input annoying and had a freaky talent for taking lilies and gilding the hell out of them to the betterment of all. I was super worried about people thinking that Bad Idea was paranormal because of all the red and those horns on the bulb, so it was critical that we convey a pop culture stylishness. He took all of my notes, all of my references, all of my fussy, design-queen insanity and just whipped those egg whites into homoerotic meringue, baby!

FONTING BULB

Paul took Bill’s kickass bulb design and brought it to life, painting it (and the fonting) with obsessive care that made it sizzle on the page. He ran with my idea of pop art for the background and devised that übercool mutating red-dot pattern which managed to look modern and comic-bookish without adding literal panels and thought bubbles. He then started doing all the beautiful detail work that makes his designs stand out. He assembled several drafts that emphasized the wit and the heat of the book…and put up with all my fussing and putzing with gamma and saturation levels until we zeroed in on the final cover for Bad Idea. At my behest, he retilted those dots and retweaked the filters at the micron level. I actually sent him notes that asked him to shift things by pixels and degrees and angles for maximum impact. Yes, really. In repainting my model’s eyes to Trip’s whiskey brown, Paul did five different version of the irises AND the reflection on the eyeball to make sure the gaze popped but didn’t look supernatural (again, due to my anxiety that it would telegraph urban fantasy to casual browsers).

Paul was a fucking saint. And holy bajoley did he make something exceptional for me

.

18484854

My boyfriend and I are so obsessed with this artwork that it’s the background wallpaper for all our computers. Not even out of egomaniacal self-involvement, but just because looking at it makes us so happy. The next thing we’ve done with this artwork is taken the horned bulb design and re-rendered it for brass pins, that are bring molded and cast even as I type this. When I suggested the horned bulb pins to Elizabeth North, her immediate response was, “Do it! Everyone needs to have bad ideas!” Those little lovelies should be done in time for Bent-Con and then I’ll have them for cons going forward.

The best part of the entire process came when we did the cover reveal and people went thermonuclear over the artwork. I knew that I loved it, that my boyfriend loved it, but I wasn’t prepared for the reaction from readers and marketing folks. Mass-market media outlets, reviewers who’d never even picked up a gay romance got totally sucked in by that cover which Paul made provocative without being smutty or formulaic. I’ve already had two readers tell me they’re getting the horned bulb tattooed because they love it so much. And THAT makes me feel like we got it right.

We have a long way to go as a niche within romance and like it or not, everyone judges books by the covers. I’m most excited about the possibility of our cover art being allowed to break new ground on behalf of LGBT romance. My gratitude to Bill Walko, Paul Richmond, Elizabeth North and the entire Dreamspinner team cannot be overstated. They took my demented, raw materials and crafted something exceptional. And the journey from my original crazy idea to the final Bad Idea is one for which I’m deeply grateful.

*************************

4656955Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Having lived all over, he’s earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter.

Though new to gay romance, Damon has been a full-time writer for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a paperback copy of “Bad Idea” signed by DAMON SUEDE himself AND the e-book version (your format of choice) as well!  LEAVE A COMMENT in each day’s post during “Bad Idea Week”.   Every day you comment is another chance to win!  GOOD LUCK! (winner will be selected at random and announced Monday, October 28th)

22 comments on ““Bad Idea” Week – “Taking Cover: the Origins of the Bad Idea Artwork” by Damon Suede

  1. Allison
    October 24, 2013

    The cover is gorgeous and I totally need the pin! Reading about how much work went into making the cover was really interesting. Thank you for the post and the giveaway.

    Like

  2. Debra E
    October 24, 2013

    Thanks for the look at the process and the cover is great. I think you’re right “fans are getting bored with the interchangeable covers anyways” and sometimes it’s hard not to judge by the cover (I put off a lot of books that later became faves because of what I found to be really bad covers). There are lists on Goodreads devoted to repeat cover models. I know there are often budgetary constraints but I love it when a cover pulls me in and and an author really connects it to the story.

    Like

  3. Andrea
    October 24, 2013

    Fantabulous is all I’ve got to say! And totally agree re: covers. It always takes more time and money and sweat and tears, but when you can do it, it’s SO worth it. Thanks so much for sharing the journey with us!

    Like

  4. Kim W
    October 24, 2013

    I love the cover. The process was very interesting.

    Like

  5. Mandy
    October 24, 2013

    I always love hearing how stories come to be or in this case, covers come to be. Thanks for the insight.

    Like

  6. Shae Connor
    October 24, 2013

    I am also obsessive about cover art (albeit to a lesser degree, but that’s mainly because I’m impatient and don’t have the skills to actually make the dang things myself). There are no words for how much I adore this cover art. <3

    I don't need the book, since I bought it at GRL so Damon could sign it, but I must have one of the pins! :D

    Like

  7. swinterswriter
    October 24, 2013

    Oh hell. I need a pin too. That about sounds like my process designing book covers – without the awesome team of people to chip in. It’s great when your vision is finally realized, isn’t it?

    Like

  8. jenf27
    October 24, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your story about the cover art for Bad Idea. It really is the most awesome cover. And, thanks for working to break the mold for m/m romance covers. The headless torsos are really irritating to me and, I think, somewhat demeaning to the genre. I could not agree more with the comment about the power of eyes on a cover.

    Like

  9. Lex Chase
    October 24, 2013

    Thanks for the story about how the cover came to be! I’m also just as obsessive about my covers not looking like a typical romance novel cover. A friend said at GRL that if she were reading a novel on the subway, she would not want it to be a naked headless torso. I recall a news story saying the advent of the eReader have given the readers the power to read whatever they wanted in privacy.

    My only problem if people look over my shoulder and see how large my font size is. LOL!

    Meeting you was the highlight of my trip to GRL. And your encouraging words really helped me realize writing and letting my geek flag fly was what I was meant to do. :D

    I don’t need a copy of the book but one day I’d love to have a super awesome pin!

    -Lex

    Like

    • Damon Suede
      October 24, 2013

      I’m so glad, Lex. We need to sit down and gab next time we’re at an event together! :) I’ll be thinking of you at Bent-Con…

      Like

      • Lex Chase
        October 24, 2013

        Aw thanks! I’d love to chat with you anytime! :D I hope you knock ’em dead at Bent-Con. I was looking at the airfare and it’s just waaaaay outside of my limited budget. Though it’s been on my bucket list for over a decade to go to Nerd Prom (aka San Diego Comic Con. ;D) I hope the con goes well! I expect a full report of the good, the bad, and the holy-crap-amazeballs!

        -Lex

        Like

  10. Trix
    October 24, 2013

    “Hot nerds in love” works *instantly* for me, ’cause that’s how I roll! (And yes, I agree that headless torso covers are an abomination in m/m or m/f!)

    Like

  11. Christina
    October 24, 2013

    I love this cover. Thank you for sharing everything that went into it!

    Like

  12. Tiny Tina
    October 24, 2013

    The cover is gorgeous!! And I would love to have one of those pins… or three C: I don’t know about other people but I love stories about nerds falling in love! And I’m so so so glad you took a different approach to the cover to fit with the story as opposed to the same old boring torso shots because it just gets too repetitive and in my opinion this works wayyyy better for the story anyway. You put a lot of effort into this over and it really paid off!

    Like

  13. Christine J.
    October 24, 2013

    Thank you for such an informative inside view of the process for creating this cover. I loved it!!

    Like

  14. Carolyn
    October 24, 2013

    I remember when the cover reveal happened. Honestly, my first reaction was just to be so friggin’ happy a new novel was coming out that I would have praised it even if had the ridiculous headless torsos on it, just for the words that I knew I’d love behind it. Of course, that’s not what we got, and how amazing was the reality. I still can’t get over those eyes and that arched brow. They draw me in every time. I know I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful this cover was until now, and it was so great to hear all the work that went into it. Serious kudos to everyone who had a part in making it. I can’t wait to hold the book in hand and look at it on something other than a screen. Also, horned bulb brass pins? Agh, now even more sad I can’t make it to Bent-Con. What a fabulous idea!

    Like

  15. Otila
    October 24, 2013

    I just finished the book last night (2am cuz I couldn’t put it down) and it was awesome. And I really love this cover. So many of my favorite romance books (mm and mf) have such cringe worthy covers that they make me so glad I have an eReader. It’s great to read about all the effort put into this cover, which was definitely worth it.

    Like

  16. Jenn
    October 24, 2013

    This was fun!!! It’s funny how much work goes into these things and pain-staking the process. I love the cover and the story behind it. I spent a while looking at those pixelated red dots in the background after I read about them here HA!

    Like

  17. You did an amazing job with the cover! I can really appreciate the planning and effort that went into it. Thank you!

    Like

  18. Ashley E
    October 25, 2013

    I’ve loved that little light bulb from the moment I first saw it. It’s got the vibe of “the devil on the shoulder just won this round”. Seeing how it all came together is just awesome!

    Like

  19. loederkoninginkatinka
    October 25, 2013

    I love these posts, so entertaining! I’m glad someone takes covers seriously (it shows, Bad Idea has a great cover). Because they should be taken seriously…man oh man, the rubbish that’s out there.

    Like

  20. Noelia
    August 13, 2014

    I got this site from my buddy who informed me
    concerning this website and now this time I am visiting this web page and reading very informative
    posts at this place.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on October 24, 2013 by in Blog Tour, Interviews and tagged , , .

Follow Us On Twitter

Add Us On Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Archives

%d bloggers like this: