Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Cover Junkie Interviews Horror Author Brian W. Matthews

Brian W. Matthews grew up in a small town in southeastern Michigan, the son of a policeman father and a factory worker mother. After graduating from high school, he worked his way through college, earned three degrees, and then spent over a decade as a child therapist. That changed in 2000, when he switched careers. He currently works as a financial planner and writes novels in his free time. The Conveyance is his third book.

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Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
The Conveyance is about a psychologist, Dr. Brad Jordan, a man accustomed to keeping secrets. When he stumbles upon the strange happenings in a small town called Emersville, he uncovers a series of threats, each darker and more dangerous than the previous. Together with his friend, Frank Swinicki, he is forced to confront these secrets if he is to save himself, his friends, and ultimately the human race from a sinister device called the Conveyance.

After two books with complicated plots, multiple points-of-view, and extensive use of flashbacks and other literary tricks, I wanted to write a straight-forward horror/science fiction thriller. There is only one point-of-view, no jumping around in time. I had a great time writing it.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
Conveyance is the second book in a three book contract I have with specialty publisher JournalStone. That contract followed JournalStone’s purchase of my debut novel, Forever Man. The process was daunting: sending in a sample chapter of that first book to publishers, having JournalStone ask for the full manuscript, signing a contract to publish it. But the experience was also exciting: working with an editor, hearing from the graphic artist and having him ask my opinion on a cover, and of course, seeing the book in its final form.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
There were three different titles for this book. At first, I called it Starfall. Over time, I didn’t feel the title properly reflected the book’s subject matter. I did keep Starfall, though: it’s the name of a hotel where a couple scenes take place. The next title was Emersville. That’s the city where a majority of the story takes place, and the title held until the very end. But town names had been used in horror books (Salem’s Lot, Imajica), so I ultimately decided on The Conveyance. The word has multiple connotations that might entice a reader, and it ties together various plot points once the reader has finished the book.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
JournalStone asked what I would like to see as a cover, which isn’t all that common. Book contracts give control of the cover and the title to the publisher. But JournalStone has always been considerate of me. So I wrote out my idea for a cover: a nighttime pastoral scene with a lake, a sky filled with stars, and a Raggedy Ann doll laying forgotten on the shore of the lake. Unfortunately, my idea couldn’t be worked out. The publisher sent me several ideas the graphic artist had devised, and together, we worked out the cover you see today.

Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
A gentleman named Chuck Killorin designed the cover. JournalStone hired him, and then put him in touch with me. We emailed back and forth, originally regarding my idea. When that fell through, Chuck came up with the idea of a man’s head with images of mountains and a lake and outer space locked inside the head. It was such a perfect concept that we worked through several iterations until we had a cover we both liked.

How was your experience working with the designer?
Chuck is a wonderful, generous man. We worked quite well together. He listened to what I hoped to covey with the cover, and he responded with a great idea. As I mentioned, this doesn’t always happen. Publishers can consult with the author, but they are not required to. If you get a chance to work with an artist on your cover, go for it.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
So far, it’s been well received. Most get the outer space theme, and they seem to enjoy how the story is encapsulated in the mind of the man on the cover. That is such an integral plot point. To see it on the cover thrilled me to no end.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Try to conceptualize your story into an image. It’s difficult, but well worth the result. And listen to the artist. Writing is an author’s specialty; artwork belongs to the graphic artists. Be sympathetic to their efforts, and respect what they are trying to do for you.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
Of all my books, I think this cover best conceptualizes what goes on in the story. That’s not to say the other covers were poor; I loved them. But there’s something special about this cover, a symbolism I understand. I hope everyone enjoys the cover and the book as much as I do.

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