Hello my lovely followers.
I am super stroked to celebrate the release of J.R. Gray’s latest book, Speak No Evil with you.
To celebrate this release day I have not one but two special guests here on my blog. I hope you give author J.R. Gray and his super talented cover artist Kerry Heavens a warm welcome. They talk in the guest post about the cover making process and how it was for each of them to work together, from the vague idea by the author to the realization. (site note: both are close friends. I had super fun reading the post :D)
Speak No Evil is a story about an unfortunate guy who’s life was torn apart by something he doesn’t believe in: voodoo. He’s now a hitman who can’t lie, due to be cursed by the voodoo goddess and meets Eli during an observation job, who is taking his world upside down. This sound like your jam? Awesome. 😀
Read this post for an excerpt & don’t miss the giveaway at the end of the post.
My review is set for March 29, so stay tuned. :3
Good luck & happy reading. 🙂
Title: Speak No Evil
Author: J.R. Gray
Genre: M/M/ Romance, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary
Release Date: March 28, 2019
Publisher: Self-published, Gray Books
Lenght: 70.000 words
Cover Artist: Kerry Heavens
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Weston doesn’t believe in voodoo but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t believe in him. His life and family were steeped in the stuff and it was fine, until voodoo took everything from him, ripped his life from his grasp. And when it swallowed whole the person he loved most he had to escape.
But there were consequences. His voodoo goddess wasn’t going to let go of him so easily, and her revenge was the pinnacle of evil. He could have dealt with something like impotence or boils, but this was purely depraved. She came for him and hit him where it hurts. She might as well have taken his guns.
Weston found himself unable to lie. A hitman who can’t lie. What a joke.
When his handler throws him a bone, a job that requires no interaction only observation, Weston takes it. He should be able to do this in his sleep, but he’s off his game. He gets way too close. Nothing is as it seems, and someone else, maybe someone worse than him, is stalking his mark. But he can’t leave the kid high and dry. Not when Eli is all he can think about.
Cover art – the love and take
by J.R. Gray & Kerry Heavens
Gray: There is no science to a feel of a book. I have bought so many books on the cover alone. Yes, I know this is terrible and goes against what authors say, but I think humans are visual creatures and we are drawn to beautiful artwork. It’s important to me a cover has the same feel as a book, and I use the artist I do because I know she puts as much thought and work into a cover as I do my novel.
My cover artist, Kerry Heavens, is one of my best friends. I think this enhances our creative relationship but also puts a massive amount of stress on it. It’s not easy to work with a control freak and we both are. A big help in my creative process is she reads my books before she creates a cover. (We beta read for each other because she is also a kick-ass author.) She goes into it knowing the feel of the book. Every one of my books has a different visual feel to me. So after we’ve gone through our editing process, where we comment back and forth, she and I look for pictures. I am really really damn picky with pictures, and she is as well, and not always in the same way. This is a process for me. I spent hours looking at photos for each cover and then I start to send her ideas.
For this cover, we actually started a year ago. I knew I was going to rewrite this book for the third time and I’d found a photo I loved. So I asked her to start working on the photo. I told her the book felt green to me. Books always end up feeling a color to me. She sent me back and we were miles apart. I don’t think we ever had such an issue with a cover. Starting before she’d read the book was not working for us. We scrapped the cover for the time, and then when we were working on a cover for another book (Forsaken) she said she thought the photo I bought would work better for that book. So we stole the photo and were back to square one with Speak No Evil.
She read the book this past fall and we started from scratch. I was looking through pictures and found this smoke picture which completely drew me in. Eli one of the main characters has this thing with lost love and a cigarette case so the picture spoke to me right away. I used it for a first teaser and told her I loved it. Kerry is apparently not a huge smoke fan and I was in a bit of a panic thinking it was going to be like last year all over again. I was dreading this. She said she would try and make it work. I saved some other photos for her and sent them all and then I woke up to a message she had something but she didn’t know if I’d like it. She’s in the UK so is up hours before I am. I told her to show me and she was hesitant but she sent over the cover and I was in love. It was fucking beautiful. The only thing I wasn’t feeling was the font. So she and I went over to the creative market and within 10 minutes sent each other the same font. She worked her magic and it was the cover. Honestly one of the hardest easiest ones she’s done for me. And probably my favorite cover she’s ever done. I am so lucky to have such a patient cover artist who loves me since I am such a creative tyrant. I’m not even sure I want her to add her thoughts to this! But here she is.
Kerry: So here is what really happened…LOL! He does have a good eye for images, however, when I am looking for an image I can do it with one of two hats on. My author hat looks for images that represent my characters, or the theme or plot. Images that do that job are great, but they don’t always make good covers. My cover artist hat will have an argument against almost all the images found by the author hat for many reasons. I can argue with myself and the artist wins because she knows best. But that is with myself. Arguing with Gray is another matter!
With the original incarnation of the Speak No Evil cover, my main issue was that I had nothing to go on, this is unusual in my process with Gray although I have worked on other covers for books I haven’t read, that’s just not how we work and I think my covers are better for having a knowledge of the book. All I had was a brief description and this image I didn’t feel was giving me the vibe of the book that was being described to me. Once we sidelined that project and moved on to Forsaken (which I had read) it was very obvious to me that we had the perfect image already and that we should make the switch. It worked out perfectly, having since worked on the betaing of Speak No Evil I can say with authority that the image wasn’t that character for me at all and I love it for the Forsaken cover.
Then came the smoke…To be clear, I HAVE NO ISSUE WITH SMOKE! It was this smoke, in particular, I had an issue with. One of the problems with working with friends is that there is a muddy line between the times when you can say ‘dude, what are you thinking?’ and when you really shouldn’t. I mostly live by the ethos that the customer isn’t always right, but when they’re paying, you do your best to make them feel like they are, while not compromising your own standards as an artist. When it’s a friend that you have no qualms saying ‘dude, what are you thinking?’ to, you sometimes have to dig deep to handle artistic differences. The smoke in question was blue. It was…kinda cheesy and that was the least of the problems with it technically. I could bore you with a list of reasons it wasn’t suitable for a really current romance, but just take my word for it. And damn was he set on it!
I just stashed the image with the promise to give it a go and got to work on the rest of the cover. I have to say that once I am at work with my head in the game, I can usually use anything I’m given in my own way to my satisfaction. I had no confidence about this smoke, but I do have a really, really stubborn streak that doesn’t like to be beaten, so I made that smoke my bitch! Honestly, I could have picked different smoke, the amount of work I do on this stuff I doubt he would have known. But I pushed through and made it work. His smoke wasn’t blue in the end, isolated on a black background, like the opening credits of some bad late night 80’s crime show. Nor was the cover green. In addition, his least favourite colour is yellow and despite this, the cover is his favourite! #WIN
I finished the cover with a couple of hand drawn elements I think really lift it and if I hadn’t read the book I wouldn’t have been able to give it that something extra, so I’m really grateful to have this working relationship to pull off the kind of work we are achieving.
Gray: She has me beat. It wasn’t blue, or green, and she so sold me on the yellow without me even knowing it. And for the record, the smoke looks amazing thank you very much. lol
What a terrific post. Thank you Grey and Kerry. ❤
Did you loved this guest post as much as I did? 😀 Let me know in the comments below if you like. 🙂
Weston shook his head. The gleam in Eli’s eyes, that slight edge to his voice, made Weston decide to go for broke. Straight military guys seemed to be the most homophobic people he’d met, but Eli seemed to be into this—into him. He would end up getting hit if he was wrong, and his excuse to get close to his mark might blow up in his face, but he couldn’t stop the words that came out of his mouth.
“You liked it.” He had a few inches on him and was thicker all around. He wasn’t worried.
“If I did?” Eli challenged, reaching up and fisting a hand in Weston’s shirt.
“Then I guess you won’t mind this.” Weston grabbed Eli’s neck, using the leverage to press his lips against the mouth that had haunted him for a week and taunted him for the past hour. He fully expected to be shoved into the wall or hit in the face, so he kept his eyes open and his hand near his knife just in case.
Author bio – J.R. Gray
Gray is a cynical Chicago native, who drinks coffee all day, barely sleeps, and is a little too fashion obsessed. He writes realistic and damaged characters because everyone deserves a happily ever after.
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