Client: Trish Heinrich
Genre: Monster Romance
My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am the Cover Villain. I’m here to talk about the concepts behind the cover. Today we’re going to be talking about the monster romance, Feral, Book one in the Monsters & Artifacts Series by Trish Heinrich. It’s important to note that while this book falls into the broad category of romance, monster romance is a beast unto itself. This is the sixth collaboration with Heinrich, but our first time working together in this particular genre.
I have worked with Heinrich for years as a colleague in writing. When it came to book covers, her previous Celestials series worked to bridge the gap between superheroes and romance. Ultimately, she leaned into the angelic aspect of the story. For the Monsters & Artifacts series, she wanted to make sure it fell firmly into the monster category. She came to the initial consultation armed with an uncanny amount of information about this emerging niche. Because this was my first cover in monster romance and because of its recent inception, I had to rely on her knowledge to gather intel.
She also came to the conversation with questions. The first and most important, “Do you think you can do this?” She had studied my portfolio and seen hints of monsters in my horror covers, but nothing quite like the demands of this genre. I had to be honest and say it would take a bit of discovery and research to make sure I was the right designer for the job. My questions focused on the reader’s expectation for her story. Since this story features a wolfman, it needed to be clear it was not a shifter. Many of the visuals also rely on classic 80s clinch poses. The last part of the conversation revolved around the level of sexuality present on the cover and how it would be perceived by the Amazon filters. Once I had this, it was time to research best practices.
Several elements of this piece had to come together at the same time and required a dozen tabs open while researching. A classic clench pose had to be at the center of the design. A deep dive into 80s romance novels turned up a hand full of poses repeated time after time. Heinrich wanted the female model to feel as if she were nuzzling the wolf man’s hair. There also needed to be a feel of him “clutching” her. This narrowed down the search for female models. The female model needed to have her head turned, leaning into a man who could later be removed. Once she was selected and her partner removed, we could move onto the most difficult element of the cover, the wolfman.
Stock photography for werewolves is extremely rare. This is even more so for creatures who appear upright with wolf-life features. There is a single model that meets the requirements of a wolf man. I knew I’d need to rely on it, but because I wanted something bespoke, I reached out to May Downey at Kick-Ass Renders and asked for a custom pose. With a mockup sent to her, she created a custom DAZ model to use for the monster model.
There is always a challenge when blending computer generated models with photographic models. Making two individuals that do not belong together appear as if they occupy the same space requires correcting shadows and having them influence the fabric or hair of their partner. The female model’s arm is a composite of four different arms necessary to hold the wolf’s head. Once the composition is in place, we can begin manipulating the style. Heinrich wanted this to teeter on the verge of illustration. Because of that, the female model had her skin smoothed to the point of almost appearing flat. The dress was expanded to create a more fabric for the punch of red and this required a smudging effect to achieve the painterly style.
The background for monster romance only loosely informs the novel. More often, it is placed on the cover to generate a mood. I wanted to go with some icon symbols that might relate to a wolf man. A church spire, moon, and wrought iron fencing help give that feeling of isolation. It also adds a bit of scandal to the intimacy happening in an inferred cemetery. Monster romance has overt sexual themes, and we wanted this at the forefront of the cover, but restrained in a more sensual manner.
The last element to be included were the fonts. Heinrich strategically picked names that related to the monster element, but also had a carnal aspect to them. Her series banner is a play of the words Monsters & Artifacts to create a unique sigil. But what needed to stand out the most is the title and, thanks to the short word, I could make this the dominant typographic element. The light bursts are used to break up the block of black behind the lettering and allow the light to bleed onto the red of the dress.
And that is the concept behind Feral. When exploring a new genre, especially one that is emerging without clear cut visual cues, it’s important to listen to the author. If an author has said they’ve done the market research, it’s important to listen and in the long run, it provides guidance and produces an excellent product. When in doubt, we all need to remember that this is an art form and a collaboration.