BehindTheCoverToday’s artist is Nathalia Suellen, creator of the covers for the Splintered series by A. G. Howard, by Amulet Books, as well as the One Universe series by Leigh Ann Kopans, self published.

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Nathália Suellen is an independent artist and commercial illustrator based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Entirely self-taught, Suellen’s signature style incorporates female in surroundings of a twisted and disturbing world characterized by the use of dark elements, pop-surrealism, haunting sceneries and otherworldly creatures done through a mixture of photography, 3D, and digital painting.

How did you become an illustrator? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?

I think a better question would be how did I become a professional illustrator because that was a thing that simply happened. Before working for clients I worked for myself, art is part of my life, as a way of expressing myself when I cannot express with words.


How did you get involved with these covers? Did Amulet Books contact you directly, or did they already know your work? 

They contacted me through email and we started discussing about the series. I became interested immediately.

How was the process of developing these covers? Was there a clear goal in mind?

I knew roughly about the story through the art director and, of course, I had some requirements to comply but nothing too specific. I remember starting the first sketches thinking in three essential things: bugs, strangeness, and eye-catching colors.

The very first Splintered sketch was a full body Alice with gothic clothes, striped socks, windy hair and a scenery full of bones, mirrors and bugs around (the model was insanely beautiful too). We spent a month or so in this first idea but things got too nice and serious that they decided to move the whole idea for a close up Alice, which I think now was one of the most important things for achieving this “special” thing, it somehow turned the cover more powerful and movie-like.

How was the author involved? Was there some back and forth conversation with A. G. Howard, any ideas or suggestions?

I had no direct contact with the author just with the company. But of course Anita’s opinion was essential and taken in account for every single change done, she was behind everything. But there are other parts involved too, including the art director, marketing department, sales and so forth.  I think my job is to please them all.

From your experience, does the publisher have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator (and in some small ways, the writer) have free reign?

As I said before, there are many departments involved, there are important things for a publisher that it’s not quite clear for the artist in the first instance. The model we chose, for example, needs to be “the one” and even though we think we have found the right model, sometimes the sales/marketing think its too old or too young. I don’t think there’s a final say, we work as a group with different views and purposes and every opinion is important, many things are taken in consideration for a cover.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about these illustrations, interesting facts you’d like to share?

I could feel the public waiting Morpheus and Jeb’s cover. They were really crazy for the cover reveal. Everyone was really excited for the next books and was somehow a big responsibility to me. I mean, I was the one who had to find the right Jeb and the right Morpheus and turn the whole story into existence. That was an incredible feeling.


How does it work when it’s the author themselves contacting you, and not the publisher?

Same thing but more informal.  It’s only you and the author and it’s faster.  Perhaps the big difference is you are more free to try unusual things. If the author said yes, you just go ahead.

How was the process of developing these covers? Was there a clear goal in mind?

No specific goal, I think… but it was clear the main characters were able to fly. So I just had to do something with that. Later we decided to play with something related to DNA and from this came the DNA wings.

Was there anything particularly different or interesting about these covers, interesting facts you’d like to share?

I don’t think there’s nothing particularly different but was nice the idea of connecting both covers through their wings. I like to do that.

From your experience, is it better/worse/or any different working with the author directly, instead of having a publisher as an intermediary?

There’re good things in both cases. Not better or worse. I like to make art so it’s always a pleasure to work for someone. It’s good to work for a group and see your art around the world but its also good to work for a single person and challenge yourself, try different things and see a book grow. There’s advantages in both experiences.

Finally, what are some of your favourite book covers, whether they’re recent or not?

I like Cinder cover art really much. Simple and elegant.


Leigh Ann Kopans has some words to say about her covers!

My goal was to publish a book that was indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher. Your book’s cover is one of the most important things for making sure it reaches the maximum amount of readers. I know we say that people shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but that’s ridiculous. Your book’s cover is the outward representation of what’s inside. If you didn’t invest creativity, care, and professionalism into your cover’s design, how do you expect your readers to think you did anything differently with the words and story inside?

I just can’t shut up about how extremely, incredibly, unregrettably DELIGHTED I am that I had complete control, both inspiration and veto-power wise, over this cover. And if I wasn’t self publishing, I most likely would not have had the fine-tuning control over this most important of book aspects that I had. Basically, this cover business is one of the things that most makes me love, love, LOVE my decision to self-publish ONE. And a HUGE “thank you” is due to Nathalia, for being so patient with me through the whole process, and, of course, creating a GENIUS cover. Genius genius.

I’m still getting comments on how gorgeous the cover is. And I think it went a long way toward making ONE’s release as successful as it was.

(You can read more about the process here)

Obrigada Nathalia for your time, and thank you Leigh Ann for your thoughts!

I hope you liked this interview, and if you want to see more of Nathalia’s amazing work, you can check out her website. Here’s a preview of what you can find there.


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