Guest post: "From Sketch to Cover," by Dora Machado

Have you ever wondered how an original book cover is created?

As an author and a reader, I've always been fascinated by the creative process that goes into a book cover. It's a work of art, a labor of love that includes teamwork, brainstorming and research, an intriguing journey. It's a creative process that involves the transformation of ideas into concepts, the conversion of words into tangible images. It starts with a sketch and it ends with a visual statement.

This summer, with the release of my fourth fantasy novel, The Curse Giver, from Twilight Times Books, I've had the opportunity to witness that wonderful process from beginning to end once again. The journey began when my publisher requested some ideas for the front cover. Now, you must understand, I'm a great admirer of art in all its forms, but when it comes to drawing, designing and painting, I'm hopeless.

So I took to the keyboard, the one tool these hands can manage—at least most days— and put together a proposal with several options, some of them simple, some more complicated, some requiring guts, a lot of  work and a great deal of imagination.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, my publisher selected the most complex option and Brad Fraunfelter, a talented artist, to create The Curse Giver's cover.  I won't lie, I was a little nervous about this cover. Before now, all of the books of the Stonewiser series had gorgeous conceptual designs on the covers. I had loved those elegant covers. You can see them at  What Brad was proposing to do was very different. It involved people, for God's sake, real people—one of them perhaps scantily clad—on a Machado cover!

I could tell you the rest of the story in words, but this is one of those cases where the storyline is best illustrated by images and the process is best explained by the creator himself. Take a look at the process that ensued:  

Pretty neat, yes?

To take a look at Brad's entire creative process, from beginning to end, go to:

I had an opportunity to talk to Brad, who agreed to share his perspective with us, answering a few questions about his work and the cover's creation process.

Q: What was your inspiration for The Curse Giver's cover?

Brad: My inspiration for the cover was drawn closely from the author's write-ups which I studied carefully.  I chose the last idea on Dora's list because I felt it would be visually most interesting. I wanted to show a dramatic contrast between the softness of the skin and dress of the girl, against the harshness of the armor of the man. For this reason I chose a white dress and pale skin for the girl and dark, jagged armor for the man.

Q: How long did it take you from start to finish?

Brad: From start to finish, the painting took roughly a month: It involved a lot of preliminary research to study various forms of armor, and to design and sketch all the parts of what he was wearing, including the sword, helmet, and shield. Once I had these problems solved I could start on the painting itself.

Q: How did you accomplish such a stunning light effect on the armor?

Brad: To achieve the lighting effect on the armor I carefully studied the effects of light and reflections on metal. I also studied a few images of armor that I found on the Internet for reference material. I also did several photoshoots of my own to get the placement of the man's arms and hands correct and to nail the position of the light source.  I wanted to achieve the appearance of a "mystical" glow, so as one of the last steps to the painting I brushed in a soft white haze across the highlight areas, such as the girl's dress.

Thanks to Brad Fraunfelter for sharing his insights with us today. It was a fascinating process that achieved a stunning cover. Don't you think?

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Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, from Twilight Times Books, available July 2013. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master's degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind's adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at Subscribe to her blog at, sign up for her newsletter at and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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