Today we have two very special guests, husband and wife team Emmy and Paul, who run the art and graphic department at publishing house Totally Bound. Emmy is also a Brit Babe writing under the names Natalie Dae, Sarah Masters and Geraldine O'Hara. Please give them a warm welcome and prepare to be dazzled
Emmy, tell us about being Head of Art with Totally Bound.
I absolutely love creating art for Totally Bound. I’m always pushing myself to create eye-catching covers that grab the attention. I also want to create a cover that makes an author so pleased that it gives them a happy vibe for the rest of the day—and hopefully beyond!—after they’ve received it. There’s not much that comes close to receiving cover art in the excitement stakes. After all the hard work of writing a book, the cover is the one thing authors look forward to seeing—their story depicted in an image. I try my very best to create what authors want and hopefully I achieve that.
My other duties are creating banner packs, trailers, print covers, and some of the artwork that is needed for marketing or promotional reasons. I make sure the art department is run in a timely manner, that all art is completed on time, as well as being on hand for Paul, our Graphic Designer, when he needs a second opinion. He also does the same for me on the opinion front. At times, when something just isn’t working for me and I can’t see why, I’ll turn to him and ask, “Help! What the heck is wrong with this?” He usually spots it right away, which is cool and saves me further hair-pulling as to why I can’t move forward on a piece of art.
All in all, this is my dream job. I get to create art all day. How ace is that?
Paul, tell us about an average day in the life of a graphic designer for Totally Bound.
Every day is different. I keep a work diary which I refer to first thing every morning, in this are all the projects that are open, their deadlines and at what stage the project is at. I then prioritise my day based on this. Of course, by 10am this has all gone out the window and I’m working on something new or urgent and drinking a big, hot strong coffee ☺
Emmy, what is your favourite part about creating cover art?
That’s easy. When I read a Book Information Form and a cover pops into my head fully formed. Absolutely everything is there, all in position—all the colours, the fonts, the people—and I just have to find the right images to create it. This always happens with Helena Maeve’s books. Her synopsis tend to get my brain working immediately. My other fave thing is creating something by “accident”. Sometimes my hand will slip on the mouse and a filter gets flicked on or a layer on the palette gets moved. Most of the time that isn’t good news, but sometimes it makes such a lovely effect that the cover takes on a new dimension. Great when that happens!
Paul, do you think it’s important to have consistent artwork across brands like TB?
Having a strong, consistent brand promotes quality. Any artwork that promotes Totally Bound MUST carry that branding and adhere to the rules we have created. Once you allow deviation no matter how slight, the brand becomes compromised.
Emmy, you’ve made hundreds of covers for TB. What is your top tip for keeping your artwork fresh?
Hmm, not sure on that one because each book is different, so each cover requires different things. I tend to just go with whatever I feel like on that particular day. Lately, I’ve been thinking out of the box, trying to create something that isn’t the “same”. The tried-and-tested couple with the cityscape is a lovely image, and one that is requested quite often—and sometimes, with limited information, that is the route I go down—but I’m hopefully making them stand out a bit more than I did before. Sometimes, that preference can come over as pretty flat, so adding depth and the illusion of movement is something I’m tinkering with at the moment.
I’m also a fan of minimalist covers and those with just an item on them, but many times authors have asked for something else so it isn’t often I get to play around with those. The most important thing for me is make an author happy, so I basically create what they’ve asked for. Sometimes this can stifle me, though, especially when I know that what is asked for won’t work very well. But if authors state they trust me to create whatever I want to, I find I get new ideas sparking from that, like my mind has been given the green light to just go for it and have a whale of a time. I love that. I’ll admit to letting out a little squeal when authors tell me to go for it. It’s like I’ve been presented with a ballpit full of peanut M&Ms and told I can dive in and eat them all. Yes, THAT exciting—and trust me, peanut M&Ms are exciting.
My fave genres to create covers for are crime/thrillers and Sci-Fi—the latter because I can get out my space brushes and make a background unique to that book. I also like it when sky needs to be on the cover. I tend to make my own clouds etc. with brushes.
Paul, what’s the biggest challenge for a graphic designer?
The biggest challenge I find is some days you are in the zone, some days you are not, and the days you aren’t are the days the most creative pressure is put on you LOL. I jest.
Seriously, the hardest part is keeping the artwork fresh. It’s easy to use templates and continually turn out artwork based on a style you have used over and over but I personally like to experiment and try new methods.
Emmy, what’s the most out of the box cover you’ve worked on so far?
The other day I had quite the surprise. An author requested a “pulp” cover. I’ve never been asked for one of those before, so after doing research and finding out what styles there are for that kind, I came up with this. I must say it was great to do something different and expand creativity. I got a massive buzz and smiled almost the whole way through making it. Of course, if anyone had seen me smiling like a loon had they been nosing through my patio doors—what on earth would they be doing out there anyway, huh?—I wouldn’t have been smiling for much longer. More like screaming, “Intruder! Intruder!” and scaring Mr Ellis half to death. This happens regularly, by the way. Not me screaming intruder, but me scaring Mr Ellis. I like doing that. Makes for an amusing day.
We challenge you to create a meme that will make us laugh! Show us what you can do!
Emmy, if you had to be in any book, which would you choose?
I’d be a Victorian urchin in whatever book is set in that time (LOL), spying on the gentry and seeing how the other half live while wearing my filthy rags and running around with my hair looking like I’ve been dragged through a bush. No idea why. Possibly best not to delve into my psyche on that one haha. But if I had to name a specific book… Hmm, this is a hard one as I love so many and read so much. Okay, I’d love to be in Joyland (Stephen King).
Paul, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Teleportation. Sometimes I could do with being in two places seconds apart. I could also teleport for the evening to Vegas for some fun on the slots, New York to take in a show on Broadway or maybe Paris for a midnight stroll along the Seine with Emmy (who am I kidding, I'm usually in bed by 9:30 and she hates open water) so it would probably only be used for nipping to the supermarket etc.