This is an announcement that has been a few months coming, and a few years in the finding, but the time is right and I am incredibly excited to announce that my wife and I have found the artist for our books, Cj Franks!
Longtime readers here at MattBooker.info will know I’ve mentioned these books every now and then, usually saying they’re coming soon. I’m not one of those people who plasters social media with lamenting the choice of whether to write another paragraph or take another selfie at starbucks for support (and if that doesn’t make much sense to you, find a friend who’s a writer and ask them if they know people like that), but… there’s a lot that goes into books. Writing, editing, talking to test readers, figuring out how ebooks work, figuring out how publication works, and finding the right artist and working with that artist.
That whole artist part isn’t something most authors are familiar with, at least beyond getting a cover made.
But Cj is making more than just the covers to these books– each chapter will have illustrations.
I’ve had people ask me why I was even bothering with that, especially over the few years I spent finding him. It cost delays, and it cost money. At one point I hired someone who produced one illustration over the course of a few months before telling me she couldn’t do it because of her new baby and her day job. Can’t fault her for that, of course, and she was sad to quit. I tried working with a good friend of mine, and while that didn’t work out I’m glad we’re still good friends. I talked to a bunch of different artists, and in the preview material I left easter eggs to see if they were paying attention. (Cj was the only one who noticed, by the way.)
It honestly did take years, and at times I almost considered publishing first and doing special editions later. Almost.
But was it worth the bother? Was it worth the delay, and the cost, and frustration in the search?
When I was a kid, I didn’t live near a bookstore. At the market where my mom bought groceries, they had a display of magazines and next to that was a rotating rack of paperbacks. A good chunk of those were romance novels or courtroom dramas, and while every now and then I’d find a gem to buy and read, it was still at the mercy of whatever their distributor wanted to put out that week.
Very rarely, we’d drive into the city and I’d get to go to the bookstore at the mall. My dad did a lot of driving at this job, so when he got home he preferred to stay at home, but on those times at the mall when I’d rush through the store, it was great. I’d scan through the shelves, only a vague idea of what I was aiming at, hoping to find something cool. If there was a series that I liked I’d squint and search for the little line of text that said Rogue Squadron Book ____ or Book ____ of The Dark Tower Series. Each shelf was a rough and I was hunting diamonds, all too aware that another visit might not happen for months. My parents waiting on me lent a tension, like a ticking clock with the countdown toward, “Let’s go.” It was nerve wracking, and it was exhilarating, and I felt like I couldn’t take it all in but I still tried.
Toy stores were the same way, if you’re wondering. :)
But when I was scrambling to find the right books, if I came across one with with illustrations it was those books that demanded more attention. The story is the most important part of a book, but illustrations made me want to like the book before I’d even read it.
They enticed, they tantalized. They were usually depictions of the most badass parts of the story, and they promised even more if I would read.
And even today, illustrations are still a rare thing with books.
But that’s exactly what a book should feel like, a rare thing!
Illustrations cost money. They take time.
Finding an artist is difficult. Finding the right artist is even more difficult.
Figuring out how to talk to that artist and convey what should be done, now that’s entirely dependent on if you found the right artist.
And we have. Cj Franks is a class act, and he’s somebody I’d be happy to know even if I hadn’t hired him. He’s easy to work with and continues to surprise me with little details that I didn’t specify but that fit in so perfectly. I’ve seen his work in a wide range of projects and styles, and for these books I think he’s done his best work yet.
I could be a bit biased about that. :)
Today, I’d like to give everyone a preview of what Cj has been working on for us.
Here is the style guide he’s done for the main character of our upcoming series.
A style guide is something done to help keep a look of something consistent. A person will look different at different times in their life, and from day to day they could wear different clothes, but they’ll still look like that person. From story to story, a character will be the same, with different looks and styles and in this case, weapons, but it’s important to keep the facial structure and the body type the same, as well as any subtle visual details that might not be important for several books.
A style guide for a character shows how that person looks in general, and makes sure the author and the artist are on the same footing when it comes to what to aim for.
Cj did a bunch of different sketches, and we talked a lot about details and what we each saw in our heads and how the movement and stance should be treated, things like hair and how greasy and unkempt it would be, skin color and racial influences, and lots of other stuff. Eventually we came to this, and it’s exactly what my wife and I had pictured.
I think it matches my initial description of, “A viking by way of Persia, with a bit of Mongol thrown in.”
The blurred area on that image is where the name of the main character is.
I’m not quite ready to release that information yet, but when I do I’ll come back and edit this post. His name is Flan!
He’s a rough man of the wild, a wandering adventurer that we think you’ll enjoy. A series of sword and sorcery, dark humor and horror, high adventure and low brow, these books follow an often hung over barbarian as he encounters gods, devils, and the monsters in between. Tropes and expectations are challenged, beauty is found, gore is splayed, and fun wears contemplation like a pensive pall.
They’re a mix of genres, and a love letter to authors like Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Full of action and adventure, haunting beauty and dark humor, these are the kind of things we love to read. We want other people to feel the same, to find these books and enjoy them, and because they’re a labor of love they’ll be worth it either way.
But you should really buy these books. You know, after they get published.
Our first book is due out in October, and over the next few months you can expect more posts to show off at least a few of the illustrations you’ll be seeing in it.
Every chapter will have at least two illustrations done in black and white, with heavy use of shadow for bold contrasts. The first will be a smaller piece of art for the heading of each chapter, used to set the mood of what’s to come and to show something important. The next type will be a full page illustration, and while the first book has one of these per chapter, longer books can have more if we feel they’re appropriate. That type is reserved for pivotal moments and badass action scenes, and has to have a lot of emotional resonance. There will also be an illustration after each story, which will usually be an object or a stark and simple scene.
Cj will be doing full color artwork for the cover of each book.
I’ll also be looking into other stuff like posters and t-shirts, and maybe a few other things like underwear.
Because really, who wouldn’t want that face on their banana hammock?
So, dear readers, what do you think of illustrations in books? Do you prefer boxers, briefs, or going commando?
Leave me a comment and let me know! And don’t forget, you can share this post with your friends using the links below!