My editor and cover artist, James Hrkach, showed up for my Discovery Launch Facebook Party, so I ambushed him for a quick group interview. Here’s the cleaned up transcript.
James Hrkach is my editor and illustrator for Discovery and has become one of my favorite people! He took a pretty good novel and made it gold by giving me some hard editorial suggestions, including axing one of my favorite characters! He also took a really awful, almost daisy-is drawing of the alien ship and made it awesome. Let’s welcome James to the party and get his take on what makes great SF.

Karina Fabian James, why don’t you start with a little about yourself?  While he’s typing, feast your eyes!

K. Ann Seeton I love that cover.

Karina Fabian Me, too. Yesterday, I had a consult with a marketer (one of those freebie things) and she could not say enough good things about it.

James Hrkach Well, I’ve been drawing since I was three, then distracted myself into a quarter century long teaching career, then came to my senses and retired 4 years ago in order to get back to art, music, drama and creative writing.

Karina Fabian He makes cute cartoon starring his family, too. Think Catholic Family Circus.

Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz I LOVE James and Ellen’s cartoons!

Ellen Gable Hrkach Barb, you’re too kind!! Here is one of our cartoons…

Karina Fabian I remember you did a calendar one year. Are you doing another?

Ellen Gable Hrkach I can answer that one, Karina. The calendars didn’t sell so we’re not doing them anymore…

{{Here, there was some discussion about incorporating them into a Natural Family Planning journal.}}

Karina Fabian Next question is a selfish one on my behalf: I loved how enthusiastic you were about Discovery. What excited you about the story the most?

James Hrkach Oh, geeze…where to start!? Alien contact, random personalities trying to survive with each other in a tin can surrounded by void, sisters in Space!!

Karina Fabian Did I ever make you want to bang your head against the wall in frustration?

James Hrkach In the end though, it was that the story wanted to try to get to the truth about behaviour and salvation in an atmosphere of wonder. (um, that’s just a little Canadian spelling there folks)

Karina Fabian Ellen and James are in Canada, which is one thing I love about the Internet. I have friends from all over. Three of my publishers are Canadian.

James Hrkach There was no urge to bang my head (I’ve experienced the consequences of such actions). Don’t get me wrong, you have a strong will, Karina… but balanced with reflection. It was great working with her, folks.

Karina Fabian I have a friend who compared me to a stubborn horse, and she’s absolutely right. Did you study cover art design?

James Hrkach Not formally…but, ever since becoming an expert in visual composition in the realm of fine art, I have been unreasonably judging book covers as I happen upon them.

Karina Fabian What makes a good cover? What makes a bad cover?

James Hrkach A good designer makes a good cover, a bad… Let me start again, a good cover gets the message of the entire book across in a small rectangle. So there are two parts to this:

1. Study how to get a message across in a visual way (study design) and

2. Study how to recognize a message (study theme)

Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz Hardest part of creating a great cover?

Jill Bowers As the editor, what’s your favorite part of Discovery? Or, was there something you had to cut out that you miss? (Also, random side note: I love the Discovery mission patches you made!!)

Mission Patch textured

James Hrkach I think, in some cases, ‘bad’ covers result from people not really seeing clearly what the theme of the writing is. I mean there’s the obvious content the author intends… and then there’s the end result of all that they do…which include their style and voice and subtle attitudes. It’s good to consider the more hidden things when designing visually.

My favourite part of Discover was really its complexity… the fact that I was never tired of thinking more thoughts about the character mix, the character depth and the crazy plot.Oh, and of course I love that there is a “y” at the end of the title, too.

The hardest part about creating a great cover, is fighting the urge to stop rethinking… isn’t this the way it is with writing too?

Carolyn Perpetua Astfalk I think knowing a book so intimately has to be a great advantage in designing a great cover.

James Hrkach Hi Carolyn! Yes indeed, I didn’t have to pick Ellie’s brain so much on this one!

Karina Fabian James, thanks for being a great sport and letting us interview you. I want to say again how much I appreciate the awesome job you did not only on the cover, but on the polishing of Discovery. Let’s give it up for James! *applause*!