Friday, June 1, 2012

Spirit Of Fire Tour: The Artwork of the Novels

Today i'm pretty excited because this  is one my favorites posts i've post from tours! You may not know it but i am an art junkie, especially fantasy style and i love reading about the art in books and covers. And today Stephen Zimmer will talk about exactly that! So enjoy the post along with me :)

The Artwork of the Novels
by Stephen Zimmer

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a small press author, and I could write at length about any one of the pros or cons, but one thing that has been a tremendous positive has been the opportunity to have a growing series of artwork from one artist being done in conjunction with the book releases. Those familiar with my books will already know about Matthew Perry, and for those who are not, I hope to introduce you to a very gifted artist today.

Having artwork in my novels was something I wanted right from the beginning. I always loved seeing artwork associated with a novel, such as Alan Lee's work in relation to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Frank Frazetta's Conan the Barbarian imagery, which had a major impact on popular conceptions of Sword and Sorcery.

I knew Matt from having worked with him earlier in various film projects, and knew what he was capable of. I also knew he would be great to work with, as he has a superb attitude and displayed grace under pressure many times during those film project endeavors.

Fortunately, Matt was willing to work with a small press situation, and ever since the first set of art he created for The Exodus Gate, his artwork has been in all the book releases for The Fires in Eden series and Rising Dawn Saga. No less than 9 new interior illustrations have been created for each book, in addition to the cover art, and at the moment there are over sixty full-page illustrations associated with the novels of the two series. I have come to really look forward to the final phases of a new book release, when I get sneak peaks at the artwork in progress and ultimately the finished pieces themselves.

Matt is a very talented artist, as his work clearly demonstrates, but he also has a love for the kinds of genres that I write in. He has an understanding of things like fantasy and horror, and is a reader himself, being a huge fan of Stephen King.

Whenever the time for doing the cover art and interior illustrations on a new book roll around, I provide Matt with a bunch of information regarding the forthcoming title. I will send him a list of suggestions, with accompanying text from the novel itself, entailing scenes or characters that I feel would make for compelling artwork. I provide him with a larger list of options than the actual number of illustrations to be done, so he can pick the things that he feels the strongest about. In cases where there is a historical basis for one of the suggestions, I will often send along some additional material, whether images or notes about the historical element that he can use as a quick reference and leads to finding more information.

Celestial Being from The Storm Guardians
Matt will then do some early sketches of the ideas that he has. He will send me works-in-progress so that I can let him know if there is something noticeable at odds with the text of the book. This has been helpful, as when The Storm Guardians in the Rising Dawn Saga was approaching release, he rendered an image of the dragon Gorynych, which is based upon a mythical Russian dragon of the same name. The text of the novel is very clear about the dragon being three-headed, and the ancillary material I provided on the Russian mythical creature also depicted three heads, but Matt got so immersed in the artwork that he sent in a one-headed dragon! In cases like this it is good that we do checks on the works-in-progress so that Matt doesn't go to great lengths in detailing to find out that there is something at odds with the text that needs to be adjusted.

Beyond a more obvious issue like a three-headed dragon versus a one-headed one, it is important to me that Matt is able to render his own artistic interpretation of the things from the novel. It is really amazing how often his final images do draw close to the things I see in my head, but I do not want to interfere with his art in a creative sense. I always encourage him to have fun with doing the pieces and to bring out what he sees after reading the text. Only in places where there is a direct conflict with something in the novel that a reader would quickly recognize will I make mention of something.

When Matt puts in the final detail, it is always an exciting time. I'll get an email with an attachment, and upon opening it I get my first look at the finished pieces. Those moments are always a real thrill. The artwork as a whole always blows me away, as the best I can do is draw stick figures. The depth, lighting, shading, and other detail Matt brings to these pieces really make them come alive.

One of the strengths that Matt has is that he is also a gifted filmmaker. As such, he brings a filmmaker's eye to the composition of a piece of art. You can see this all across the collections he's developed for The Fires in Eden series and the Rising Dawn Saga, with a large variety of perspectives on display. I believe strongly that readers will find the angles at which the scenes are depicted in the art pieces demonstrate a skilled filmmaker's eye.

Matt has an extensive horror background that is reflected in his love of creatures and monsters. With my series, he has an abundance of options to explore, with all manner of beasts and non-human entities to play with. He puts an extra flare into the creatures, whether it is the snarl on the face of the Trogen warrior Dragol in one of the new Spirit of Fire pieces, or the gaping jaws of an Uktena coming up from underneath one of the Unguhur on a raft.

While I love those art pieces involving the non-human entities in my novels, I also think Matt has a flair for the mystical and elegant. In fact, the art piece he did of a celestial being from The Storm Guardians has been, without question, the most popular t-shirt and poster image at conventions. People have absolutely loved it, and we are already seeing many gravitate to the art piece he did of the character Asa'an from The Seventh Throne, a fairy-like being. I think his new illustrations of the beautiful and dangerous Gyriel and Morrigan are solidly in this sphere of the art collection.

The readers have come to look forward to seeing the new art themselves, and I always love it when Matt has an opportunity to see that enthusiasm from the readers. Matt joined me at my hometown signing for Dream of Legends and was barraged with compliments and autograph requests on his artwork. More recently, his cover for The Seventh Throne was voted first in the 2011 Readers Choice Awards poll. I am very glad that Matt has gotten to see these kinds of signs that his artwork has been embraced by the novel readers, as I am always fielding unsolicited compliments on his art at conventions, book fairs, in emails and social media, on podcasts, and every other venue where I interact with people familiar with the books.

It is definitely a real privilege to have an artist like Matt involved with the book releases, and a substantial, exciting collection of fantasy artwork has been generated in the process that grows with every new book release. I definitely invite all fantasy fans, whether familiar with my novels or not, to take a look at Matt's artwork and enjoy it. I know I do just about every day!

Matthew Perry signing at the Dream of Legends Event (behind i believe it's Stephen Zimmer)

 Spirit of Fire is the third title in the Fires in Eden Series, following Crown of Vengeance and Dream of Legends.  Also associated with the epic fantasy series is a growing collection of short stories, the Chronicles of Ave, that have been released on eBook and are part of the Seventh Star Singles catalog.
In Spirit of Fire, a maelstrom of war engulfs lands resisting the designs of the Unifier to bring about a new order, of a kind that has never existed within Ave.  Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney.
Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan.   They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy.
Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave.  Exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier.  The very nature of creation itself stands in the balance.
It is a time when the honor and fortitude of many are put to the test, and terrible prices are paid for resisting great evils.  It is also a time of awakening for many, old and young alike, some of whom may yet discover the spirit of fire that lies within.


  1. Thank you for having me on your site today! I really appreciated the chance to talk about all the amazing artwork from Matthew Perry that's in the books. It is really quite a nice collection now and growing all the time, and I really love it when there's a chance to give Matt some recognition for all the work he's done. Thanks so much! :)

    1. I love how all the books from Seven Star Press have art inside. It makes them more special :)
      And as i said i'm an art addict, so i love that kind of posts :D

  2. That was a fantastic post and I totally loved that pic at the end of Matt and Stephen.

  3. Stephen,
    you could not find a better artist for the Fires in Eden series!

  4. I love the artwork in Seven Star Press books. Great to find out a bit more about it.


There is lot of spam lately at the posts, so for a while i will put up the comment moderation. Sorry for that, i really don't like it but i thought it might stop the spamming. It will be down soon enough! Thanks a lot :)

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