Interview with Book Cover Designer Fiona Jayde

Fiona Jayde is the owner, art director, and award-winning designer of Fiona Jayde Media, a company that offers book cover design, editorial, and marketing services to authors.

Book cover designer Fiona Jayde creates images for all genres, including horror. Jayde said her cover for William W. Johnstone’s Carnival “creeped the heck out of me.”

Jayde won 2013 RONE Awards for Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers, melding her creativity with a business-like marketing approach to create beautiful book covers.

Jayde agreed to a fun and in-depth email interview with HorrorAddicts.net.

We started off with a quick ten-question lightning round before jumping into the real ten-question interview.

THE LIGHTNING ROUND

  1. A favorite movie? The Cutting Edge (from the 90s)
  1. Favorite binge-watching series on Netflix? Hmm … Tough question. I rewatch Dick Van Dyke, Star Trek TNG, and Star Trek Voyager on a regular basis.
  1. A favorite author? Nalini Singh and JR Ward
  1. A favorite book? Three Musketeers
  1. A favorite visual artist? Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan, Luis Royo
  1. A favorite musical artist? Evanescence, Lindsey Stirling, Etta James
  1. Any song stuck your head? At the moment? “It’s always best to match your tea and cake. Look at all the colors. What matches can you make.” I bet you can’t get that out of your head either.
  1. A favorite website? Lifehacker.com
  1. Pet peeve? When people use “i” or “u” when emailing. Texting I can live with although I don’t like it, but in an email? Also, spitting in public. Gross.
  1. You have one last meal. What do you want to see on that plate? Ukrainian Potato Salad, Hubs oven-baked chicken, and Grandma’s Napoleon cake.

    Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s The Uninvited buzzes with a nightmarish insect motif.

THE REAL INTERVIEW

Q1: Where are you from and where did your artistic eye and talent originate? Any artists, books, or movies inspire your style?

FJ: I’m originally from Old Europe, the part of Romania that was annexed by Soviet Union. My artistic journey started when I discovered internet in college and spent hours browsing through fantasy artwork. This is how I fell in love with fantasy artists like Luis Royo, Michael Whelan, and Boris Vallejo. The funny part is I couldn’t draw – and still really can’t, despite going to art school. Somehow, I always had a knack for all things digital and when I learned Photoshop, it was love at first sight. (Okay second sight, because it took me a bit to figure out that sucker.)

Q2: You’ve been a book cover designer for 10 years. What compelled you to start your own business in this field?

FJ: Funny story there: just like many writers who start out by throwing a poorly written book at a wall and declaring “I can do better”, I started out as an author who got a truly … shall we say … remarkable book cover and swore I could do better. Now, anybody with rudimentary skills in image editing can say that, but it took me years to figure out just knowing Photoshop isn’t going to cut it. What you see – the end product – is the execution. The unseen underlying factors fuse together marketing studies with compositional and graphic design to create a mouthwatering product package. (How’s that for a mouthful?)

I hadn’t planned on this being my career. I was working as a full-time web developer/project manager and doing covers on the side, but when I came back from maternity leave, my company laid me off. Best kick in the pants ever. I went into cover design and packaging design full time and haven’t looked back.

Q3: In the age of Amazon and ebook readers, are book covers as important in this digital age as they were in the days when hardcovers and paperbacks ruled? If so, why?

FJ: Book covers are just as important, but a much more “faster” scale.  People browse the same digitally and physically: a book cover catches their eye, they pick up or click on the book to see it close up, then read the blurb/cover copy. In the digital age, that process is a hundred times faster – instead of walking past books that may or may not catch your eye, you’re scrolling past tens and hundreds of books, and clicking on a select few that pop. The importance of the cover is the same, but the ratio of “what gets attention” is that much smaller now due to the sheer volume of things competing for that attention. It’s that much more vital to connect to your audience and make the best use of the tiny thumbnail you’re afforded when readers are browsing.

Q4: You use a “go big or go home marketing approach” for your book cover designs. How may this marketing approach differ from the author’s vision?

Fiona Jayde’s book cover design for William W. Johnstone’s A Crying Shame inserts the mysterious image of a bloody body amid the haunting mist of a secluded swamp.

FJ: For the most part, it’s literally about making the most marketable aspect of the cover as big as possible, and reminding the authors that readers haven’t read the book. For example, an author I recently worked with had a series where the heroine could throw blue fire. Marketable? HUGE! The heroine also happened to turn that fire into blue flaming raccoons. The author LOVES raccoons. Cute? Yes. Marketable? Not for the genre she was targeting. Therefore, Chick with Blue Fire=Big. Raccoons got 86ed.

Q5: You do book cover design for all genres, including horror and fantasy. Do you have a favorite genre? If so, why?

FJ: I don’t know if I have a favorite genre, since most of the work I do all boils down to “pop” factor. As long as I can add “pop” somewhere, I’m happy, regardless of genre. Plus multiple genres ensure I don’t “phone it in” and get too comfortable. This way I can offer fresh takes on existing genre visual “tropes.”

Q6: What’s the key in a successful collaboration with authors in creating book cover designs? Do most authors have a specific cover in mind or do they give you a lot of latitude in your design?

FJ: Successful collaboration works best with clear communication, zero ego and the same goal: a marketable book cover. I like to fuse together an author’s unique premise with what is marketable, and as long as the author works from the “readers haven’t read the book yet” we work exceptionally well together.

For example, an author can request their name to be huge on the cover. That request could be a marketing thing if they have a lot of followers and their name alone can draw a reader. On the other hand, if they are just starting out, a huge name will be an “empty” focal point, covering up something that could be much more marketable for the genre. And if we go back to that small thumbnail, a reader who sees a giant name that they don’t recognize will easily move on to a book with a smaller just as unrecognizable name with a huge visual que for the genre. As long as both the author and I communicate on that level – cold hard marketing being the goal, we will collaborate beautifully and produce a marketable cover.

Q7: Which book was the easiest to create a cover for and why? Which book was the most difficult and why? Or do all covers take about the same amount of time and creative energy?

FJ: The easiest covers boil down to how visual/descriptive and “grounded” an author’s world is. For example, I just had completed a series where the heroine is a witch and had very specific objects/symbols prevalent in each book. That series flowed very well visually because all those symbols existed already, we just needed to “bring them out.” On the other hand, I had a recent horror book with a very existential/internal theme and the author and I had several in-depth discussions about the book and symbols depicted there.

Q8: You won 2013 RONE Awards for Best Fantasy and Best Contemporary Romance covers. How important were those awards to your business and to you personally?

FJ: I’m going to sound like a jaded know-it-all, but in reality, the awards – while great for my ego – don’t really mean that much since the authors of those books didn’t exactly rake in accolades and royalties. Cover design awards aren’t considering the most important function of a book cover – to get click-throughs and sales. I didn’t learn to draw in art school, but the one concept I always carry with me is “function before aesthetics.”  If a cover doesn’t get sales, no matter how beautiful, it’s a fail. And a beautiful cover can easily be a fail if it doesn’t communicate to the target market – aka, the reader of that genre.

Q9: Since this interview is for HorrorAddicts.net, I wanted to ask about your horror covers. They are impressive, particularly the ones for The Uninvited, Carnival, and A Crying Shame, all authored by William W. Johnstone. What inspires you to create such unsettling yet beautiful horror book covers?

FJ: Thank you! That clown in Carnival creeped the heck out of me 🙂 Horror is a chance to play for me because the job here is to BE unbalanced and unsettled, to convey that feeling. Most covers are about white space and balance of elements, but horror puts those rules on their ears. Plus, it’s an opportunity for me to bust out the photoshop blood brushes.

Q10: What scares you?

FJ: Although I’m not a writer anymore, I have an incredibly active imagination and ability to spin a plot from the most minute events. Then I end up scaring myself building scenarios in the sand. But in terms of less existential and more real answer, I am terrified of getting lost. I have a terrible time following directions – with GPS no less – and regardless of logically knowing I have a cellphone and can stop for directions, I have an irrational fear of getting lost when trying to drive someplace new.


Check out Fiona Jayde’s book cover designs and services for authors on her website: http://fionajaydemedia.com/

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Book Review: Sepultura by Guy Portman

Book Review: Sepultura by Guy Portman

Hello Addicts,

One of my favorite of slasher-style tales is where you get to see the crime from the killer’s point of view. Being able to get a glimpse into the mind of a serial killer to find out what makes them do what they do so brutally as well as the lengths they’ll go to remain hidden. I thought Sepultura would be a good one to try, and the results were mixed.

Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries Department and is a very meticulous person in his tastes, fashion, food, and drink. He has a son with Rakesha, an ex-girlfriend he still has a physical relationship with, and is very much a player when it comes to women in general. He is a judgmental person who not only looks down his nose at those he believes are beneath him because of how they dress or carry themselves. His interactions with these people give you an idea of his level of sociopathic tendencies. One of those individuals is Rakesha’s boyfriend, who Dyson refers to as Free Lunch. He hates Dyson but has no problem living off the money he provides for Rakesha and their son.

When Free Lunch gets physically confrontational, you see just how efficient of a killer Dyson is. He kills the younger man and cleans up enough of the mess to immediately spend time with one of his girlfriends in bed. Like most serial killers, he has a plan on disposing of the body and takes a souvenir to remember the act. As the story continues, you see his talent at making people disappear first hand. He gets rattled only a couple of times when he runs across people who bear a likeness to some of his previous victims but is cool when it comes to speaking with the police. It isn’t the only murder in the book, but it best illustrates just how much thought he puts into his crimes.

As I said in the beginning, I have mixed feelings regarding this book. It is the second book in the series, but the story stands alone well. You don’t need to have read the first book, Necropolis, to know anything about Dyson Devereux’s character. I can say that I wasn’t a fan of his, but because of his arrogance, pretentiousness, and disdain for people. That shows how good of a writer Guy Portman is. Dyson is one of those main characters who you either love, hate, or love to hate. Some people likened him to Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, a comparison that seems a good fit. I liked the attention to detail of viewing people he looks down on as not people, but things. With some, the only given names are the labels of what he dislikes about them.

One of the things I disliked about the book, however, is the dialog written with very heavy accents. It worked well for some, like the Italians, but made understanding others practically impossible. Multiple times I had to reread sentences to decipher what the character said. Also, how Dyson establishes himself as being above everyone else felt overdone at times. The ending felt kind of rushed as well.

Overall, I thought the book was okay, but not exactly a home run. If you can get past the heavy Cockney style accents and the heavy-handed descriptions, you will enjoy this book. If you can’t, then you might want to skip this one or go for an audio version. I recommend it for those American Psycho and Dexter fans out there.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Nightmare Fuel – The Tragic Tale of Olivia Mabel

Hello Addicts,

In the last episode, I gave a brief overview of tulpas or thought forms. That is so I can bring you this week’s Nightmare Fuel, the tragic tale of Olivia Mabel.

Olivia Mabel was a happy wife and mother living on a ranch just north of Dallas, TX whose life was rocked by the death of her son, Aiden, who was found dead in one of their ponds. Devastated, Olivia began drawing away from everything else in her life. She spent less time with work, friends, and church, and eventually divorced her husband before secluding herself away in her home.

On February 27, 1994, police arrived at Olivia’s home responding to multiple silent calls to 911. After repeatedly knocking on the front door without a response, the officers broke the door down. Inside the house was filled with dust, stale air, and neglect. They eventually discovered Olivia’s body in her son’s immaculately kept bedroom, sitting in a rocking chair in front of a shrine dedicated to Aiden and clutching a stick figure doll. Based on the state of her body, the authorities figured that she died months prior.

The altar to Aiden was what you expect to find for a grieving parent: personal possessions of his, letters from his mother to him, hand-drawn pictures, candles, flowers, and an urn filled with ashes. Affixed to the front of the altar was Sanskrit writing that translated to “construct” or “to build.” These elements contributed to a feeling of an “angry presence” in the home.

Before long, some people began piecing together a theory on what may have happened to Olivia Mabel. They believed that the constant concentration, thoughts, and effigies focused on her son may have created a tulpa version of him. What is most disturbing about that is, if true, it is the first case where a tulpa is believed to have killed its creator. Fueling this is a note found at the scene from Olivia to her son which reads, “My Aiden, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I should have never let it get like this. I’m leaving. I will not let you keep me you ViLE, EViL CREATURE. Mommy’s coming for you, Aiden, my sweet Aiden. Mommy loves you.” What makes this note especially odd is that the letter was dated February 27, 1994, many months after her estimated death.

Did Olivia die of a broken heart, or did she create a tulpa of her son, who later killed her? If she did create a thought-form, what happened to him? If not, who placed the phone calls to 911? Is this case unique, or just a mischaracterization of a heartbreaking tragedy? We may never really know.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

By The Fire: Episode 149: Challenge 13: This is the End

As I start to write this post the song that is playing in my head is The End by The Doors. Because that’s what this is, the end of the contest and what a trip it has been. The last challenge in The Next Great Horror Writer for episode 149 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast is the hardest one yet. This one was only open to the semi-finalists and they had to submit The first 3 chapters of their horror fiction novel including a cover letter, synopsis, and query. Wow!!! I have the highest respect for everyone in this contest because they had to work hard to be a part of it and everyone in it has shown how dedicated they are to their craft. The winner of this challenge and the grand prize for the contest is a book contract from Crystal Lake Publishing.

To sit and think on what everyone in this contest had to do to stay in it just boggles my mind. I can’t imagine doing it myself but this little group of writers really showed us what they were made of. The contest began with almost 120 entries and we eventually saw the field get narrowed down to just few. Along the way our writers had to produce an audio drama, a commercial, short stories, non fiction blog posts, create a monster, an intro to an original character and finally the beginning of a novel.

Through the course of this contest we’ve seen all of these writers grow and improve their skills and get tested like never before. I’ve really enjoyed the journey of these writers throughout this season of the podcast and it makes me sad to see just one winner. I think everyone in the contest should consider themselves a winner and be proud of what they have accomplished. Even if you get rid of all the other parts of the contest and just look at the fact that these writers have gotten to the point where they have submitted the first three chapters of their book is a big deal.

A lot of work goes into writing a novel, the planning, the outlining, the rewrites and finally the finished product. Some people spend years working on a novel and in my opinion its the most personal art form there is. Writers have to put their heart and soul into their novels and sending it to a publisher takes a lot of guts. It’s not easy becoming a published author, there is a lot of work involved in the process and when you do get published a whole new set of challenges await you. A writer’s work is never done and the ones that keep doing it are the ones that consider it their passion.

So Addicts, what did you think of the contest as a whole? Who did you think did the best job on this challenge? what do you thing the hardest part of doing a query and a cover letter are? Have you done one? What are the experiences you’ve had? Let us know in the comments.

 

By The Fire: Episode 147: Challenge 12: Write a 2500-3000 Word Story Featuring a Diverse Woman and an Original Monster of Your Making

Our contest is drawing to a close, we made it to episode 147 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast and the twelfth challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to Write a 2500-3000 word story featuring a diverse woman (of color/ethnic/minority) that also contains an original monster of the writer’s making. Our contestants created a monster way back in challenge 2 which they can use for this story, or they can create a new monster. The goal is to test their ability to write a story with a theme involved, they will be judged on creativity, overall story concept, and writing quality.

One thing I wonder about is would it be easier to create a monster or to create a good diverse female character and what would be the theme that would fit both? I think for all parts you are using a different part of your imagination. For a monster you want to try to think of something original but you also have to make it scary, being able to describe the monster and make it come alive is important. For the female character you would have to go into detail on her personality, what makes her tick and why should we care about her? When coming up with both of these creations probably the most important thing would be to make us feel some emotion for them and perhaps this is where the story’s theme would come out of. Whether its fear, compassion or even hatred, if we don’t feel anything and there is no theme, then we won’t want to finish the story.

So our contestants already know something about making a monster but how hard is it to come up with a good ethnic female character? Would it be harder to come up with a woman than a man? Or does that depend on if the writer is a woman or a man? Personally I think coming up with the monster would be much easier than coming up with your lead character because the lead character is the most important part of the story. So what do you think the hardest part of this challenge will be and who do you think did the best job with it? Let us know in the comments.

By The Fire: Episode 146: Challenge 11: Write a 5-6 minute Horror Audio Drama

Hello, Addicts, how time flies, we are getting towards the end of The Next Great Horror Writer contest and we have another tough challenge to talk about. In episode 146 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 5-6 minute horror audio drama. This is another one of those challenges that doesn’t sound too hard but really is. At first glance, 5-6 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot but when you write it out, that’s 6 pages of script. Contestants will be judged on creativity, entertainment value, and concept. Contestants have to come up with their own characters and own idea, they can’t use anyone else’s characters or established story. Winner will get their audio drama produced for the show.

One great thing about this contest is that the participants are really getting tested in every aspect of writing. They have had interviews, short stories, commercials, nonfiction blog posts and other challenges. An audio drama is another form of writing that is very different from any other form of writing. When I think of audio dramas I think of the old radio plays from the thirties and forties. Radio plays are kind of a lost art form but if you look for them you can still find podcasts dedicated to this art. The horroraddicts.net podcast has had a few good audio dramas throughout the years.

Audio dramas are very different from reading a short story or novel, the story is always important but in this case, you have to tell a lot of your story in dialogue form. You also probably need a narrator to set up the story and you have to consider what kind of sound effects you would need. Finding voice actors may be something that has to be considered also.

So Addicts, do you enjoy listening to audio dramas? If so what are some of your favorites and what makes an audio drama good? I think the right voice actors play a big part in it but you also have to come up with good characters, a good setting and a great story idea. So what do you think the contestants will come up with and who do you think will do the best job? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

By The Fire: Episode 145: Challenge 9: Write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format

Hey HorrorAddicts, I hope you’re enjoying the contest so far because things are getting more exciting. In episode 145 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format, as if you are telling it to us around the campfire. Contestants will be judged on scare factor, originality and storytelling ability. The winner will have their story published by horroraddicts.net publishing as part of their “Horror Bites Series”.

Campfire tales are possibly the most fun form of horror storytelling there is. If a campfire tale isn’t simple enough it will lose its effect. They should be short, hopefully, have a monster, crazed killer or a ghost and a shock ending would be the icing on the cake. Campfire tales aren’t rocket science, the story doesn’t have to even be that good as long as it’s scary. The whole idea is to gather around the campfire and try to scare your friends with tales of the grotesque or a good urban legend. We’re all storytellers if you think about it and a campfire is a perfect place to perfect your craft.

So Addicts, have you ever told scary tales around the fire? I think most people have, it’s like a rite of passage. To quote A Nightmare Before Christmas: “life’s no fun without a good scare”. What were the stories you tried to scare your friends with? Was your audience scared? Did someone scare you with their story? Pretend this blog is a roaring fire and let us know what your favorite scary story is and leave your tall tale in the comments.