Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Scorched Cover Artist Interview: Tony Sahara

Hey guys, 

I've got a special treat for you today. An interview with Tony Sahara, the artistic genius behind the Scorched cover. (As well as my Tomorrow Land and Alternity covers) The Scorched cover has gotten SO much attention since its reveal back in May--people have just been over the moon about it and it's by far my favorite cover EVER of my 17 published books. So I wanted to get the inside scoop on how it all came to be. 

Mari: How much do you usually know about a book and its characters/plot before you start working on a cover concept?

Tony: It really depends on the book and the publishing schedule. Ideally, I would like to read the entire book prior to working on the cover art. But sometimes the manuscript is not complete, or I am given only a part of it, or just a synopses. In these cases I would talk to the editors to get as much information as possible about the book. For “Scorched”, the editor gave me the first nine chapters and some concept notes.

Mari: When you first heard about Scorched, did ideas immediately spring to mind?

Tony: I didn’t come up with the composition of the final art right away, partly because the entire manuscript wasn’t available. In fact you might be shocked to read this, but throughout the sketching process, I tried not to show the dragon. I thought just a suggestion of the dragon would provoke the reader’s imagination and be more intriguing.

Mari: This isn’t your first dragon book – what are some of the challenges in creating fantasy covers that you might not have with a contemporary story?

Tony: Sometimes I get books with a unique combination of characters and plot. “Scorched” is definitely one of them. It contains a unique mix of a mythological creature, time travel and romance. Every book cover is reviewed and discussed by many people from varying departments. They include the art director, editors, Sales/Marketing departments, the publisher and the author. I can come up with various cover concepts, but obtaining a unanimous approval on one visual is very challenging. However, my main focus is what is behind the art. I try to read between lines, I try to understand the authors’ inspiration and the core message. I could be off sometimes, but for “Scorched”, I think I accomplished the task.

"In my mind dragons are some surviving dinosaur of which we haven’t found the bones."

Mari: You absolutely did! Can you talk a little bit about some of the initial cover concepts you came up with for Scorched.

Tony: In each of the early sketches I incorporated one of two elements, instead of cramming in too many images and concepts. As mentioned earlier, I tried to show hints of dragon while avoiding the full visual. I made a few comps using dragon icons with the landscape of a burning city. I also did one comp with images of Trinity, Caleb, and Conner. Though dragons have a certain visual appeal, the romance aspect in the story could also be played out on the cover, depending on how the publisher intends to market this book.

Some of the original concept art for Scorched

Mari: Right. One of the things I actually love about the cover is how it appeals to both guys and girls. A rare thing in the YA cover market. How did you come up with the concept for the final cover?

Tony: Before “Scorched”, I was fortunate to work on your book covers “Tomorrow Land” and “Alternity”. At some point we became Facebook friends. I don’t actively use Facebook, but I flip through people’s posts that pop up on my wall. There you posted your picture with your daughter, Avalon. In the book, there is a profound affection between Trinity and Emmy the dragon. I could be wrong, but I feel Avalon was one of your major sources of inspiration. (Besides Robin Mckinley's "The Hero and the Crown.")

So, I decided to do one sketch focusing on this, and the straightforward way to show it was physical contact between Trinity and Emmy, without any hugging or kissing. As can be seen in the attached semi-final image, I was still trying not to show the dragon entirely. However, the publisher could not make out what I was trying to represent. So I ended up pulling back to show more of the dragon, and I put both of Trinity’s arms around the dragon paw, with the “scorching” color pallet throughout.

Mari: Awh. As if I couldn’t love the cover more! As does everyone else. In fact, this cover has been getting a LOT of attention. Are you pleased with how it came out? Do you have any favorite aspects to it?

Tony: Yes, I'm very pleased with the final image. I assume that the viewers are reacting to the violent aspects of the art, the fierce creature, the flames, and the destruction, etc. My favorite aspect is that the viewer does not immediately see what is built around it. It’s the mystical bond not only between Trinity and Emmy, but the families of each, which goes beyond time and space.  

"I try to read between lines, I try to understand the authors’ inspiration and the core message."

Mari: One of the things I keep hearing is about how much people appreciate the dragon looking so “realistic.” Talk about the work you did to create the creature itself.

Tony: I don’t know why dragons are considered “imaginary”. I don’t think that those ancient people could come up with mythologies out of total nothing. They must have had some type of reference. In my mind dragons are some surviving dinosaur of which we haven’t found the bones. To create Emmy, I looked at a lot of pictures of dinosaurs and various kinds of existing reptiles.  

Mari: This is the first in a trilogy. Are you already conjuring up any concepts/ideas for book two?

Tony: I was contacted by the publisher, and I agreed to do the art for book two. I heard that the tentative title is “Shattered”. I don’t know anything more than this at this point. In my imagination I am seeing “The Empire Strikes Back”! The pivoting point in the series, where everything fails, and some important characters are eliminated and some new forces are introduced. I really don’t have any details or even the general plot, but somehow I’m picturing the bird’s eye view of the burning skyscrapers. Battered Emmy is falling from the sky, and Trinity is also falling trying to reach out to her. Well, this sounds a bit too depressing. I will have a more concrete concept as I get more info. The “Scorched” art wasn’t a specific scene from the book, so I would approach book two in the same way—creating something symbolic to represent the drama.

Mari: I cannot WAIT to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. And for making the cover of Scorched so freaking awesome!!!



Heather Holden said...

Loving this interview! It's always so fun to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of cover-creation. So interesting to learn how the dragon wasn't planned to be so prominent originally...

Alphonse said...

This is cool!