Behind The Cover Art-Catt Ford
How often have you seen this comment by readers? “I was drawn to the book because of the beautiful cover.” Or sometimes, you see this. “The story was great, but I almost didn’t pick it up because of the ugly cover!"
Writers labor over a manuscript for weeks, months, and sometimes, years. Once it’s accepted by a publisher, their “baby” goes through several processes before it finally hits the shelves. One of the most stressful of these steps is choosing a book cover. First, you have to decide which artist will be able to bring your vision to life. Do you want it drawn or would you rather have a photo? Do you have a preference for colors? Should there be nudity, or should we take a more subtle approach? What type of background did you envision? What do your main characters look like? Did you wish to convey passionate love or not? The questions are endless, and most writers provide more information than necessary. It takes a skilled artist to sift through the jumble of words and pull out the key elements of the story to create the perfect cover to showcase our work.
Join me in acknowledging the men and women who provide their expertise to make our cover art the best it can be. Other than the initial round of applause when a book releases, they don’t get enough kudos, and I'd love to help change that. Each month I’m going to showcase a new cover artist to give them the online time they deserve. It’ll also serve as an opportunity for you, the reader, writer, publisher, and aspiring artist, to pick their brain. Feel free to comment and ask questions. At the end of each month, one winner will be drawn from the list of visitors to win a $25.00 gift certificate from Dreamspinner Press.
I'm very excited to feature Catt Ford as this month's cover artist.
Can you tell us a little bit about Catt Ford that isn’t on your official bio?
I’ve been an art director for many years. I used to run and swing dance, until heel spurs and stress fractures interrupted. I am shy and retiring. I have a quiet voice and most people comment that it makes them feel calmer when I come into a room. This amuses me as I am apparently successfully concealing the turmoil within. I love drag queens and gay men in general.
Aside from being a well-known cover artist, you’re also a writer. Which career came first?
Thank you for saying I’m well-known. I didn’t know that. They came simultaneously. When I first submitted a book, I asked if I could do my own cover and Elizabeth graciously agreed. Then Mara, the art director, being swamped, asked if I could help her out by doing a few more and I was launched.
How do find time to do both ?
With great difficulty. LOL. Photoshop and writing use different parts of the brain and sometimes when you’re in one groove, it’s difficult to switch over. But there are stories that demand to be written and cover deadlines to meet.
Which side of you is more dominant?
It’s a constant struggle.
I was drawn to your work when I saw the cover for A Strong Hand. Tell us how that beautiful cover came to be.
That was sheer dumb luck. I found the photo on a stock site. It’s just beautiful and all I had to do was not spoil it.
Do you have a degree in graphic or fine arts?
I have a BSA in Visual Arts.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of research?
Probably go to a live event of the PBR. TV flattens things out and you don’t realize how huge and powerful the bulls are until you see them live. Or how tiny and vulnerable the cowboys look up on top of them. It was very exciting to be in the arena and I was so thankful no one got hurt. I hate that part. I would love to travel but my parents’ health problems make it difficult to get away.
Are there any artists out there who have inspired or influenced you in any way?
Definitely Paul Richmond and Anne Cain.
Which of your covers is your favorite and why?
I love A Strong Hand because it’s enticing and not obvious. Turkey in the Snow is a cover I did for Amy Lane. It was supposed to be a photo cover but all the turkeys looked like vultures. I decided to illustrate it because I thought the story needed something more tender and poignant and the flow of watercolor was perfect for it. Captive by Scarlet Blackwell because it’s subtle. Requiem for a Dream by Lori Hawkins because it’s so noir. Solid Core of Alpha for Amy Lane because it’s weird. The Lonely War for Alan Chin because it’s surreal. The Last Concubine because it was nearly impossible to find photos but came out so beautiful. The Untold Want because of the expressions on the models and the simplicity. Bullheaded because it’s funny. There are many more.
Does any genre appeal to you or are you strictly m/m?
It depends on the visual. One of my first jobs, other than babysitting, was at my local library, as a book page, shelving and retrieving books. I got very tired of the het romance novel covers and many current covers haven’t really moved on from the old bodice rippers. However, so many covers have moved into a more conceptual arena that I’d never just say I don’t care for the entirety of any genre. Even textbooks are getting much more interesting than they used to be.
Do you prefer drawn or Photoshop covers?
I love both, although I am informed by a reliable source that photo covers sell better. The challenge is different with both. When an artist does a drawn or painted cover, the only restrictions are their imagination. When I’m doing a photoshop cover, I don’t have access to a photographer and models whom I can art direct into the pose I want. It’s a totally different challenge to look through hundreds of stock photos and craft them into something that will work. With an illustrated cover, you go into it forward, while with a stock photo cover, you kind of work backward with what you can find. It means you have to keep an open mind and be alert to possibilities because you may not find what you envisioned. I LOVE the cover Paul Richmond did for my story Bully for You. That’s one that we could never have been able to execute with stock photos.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I’ve noticed a lot of your recent work is in the interesting world of bull riders. Care to expand on that?
I am an actual card-carrying herdie. LOL. I am a registered fan of the PBR, the Professional Bull Riders Association, and I watch it both on TV and online. It all started when I was recovering from fractures in both feet and couldn’t dance. I happened to see a PBR event on TV one day and got fascinated in just how those guys managed to stay on top of a bull. Bulls are large and strong; bull riders tend to be short and skinny. It’s kind of like learning choreography; the more I watched the more I realized it’s just like dancing, a question of balance, movement and counter moves. Then I started becoming a fan of specific riders and then I noticed the bullfighters and I was hooked. I even have favorite bulls now!
Book covers, like fashion, are trendy. What have you noticed out there lately?
I have noticed far more conceptual covers in all genres out there recently. Instead of illustrating a specific scene from a story, or giving literal depictions of the characters, artists are conveying the mood and emotion of a book in other ways. A prime example of this is the cover Anne Cain did for CZ Snow, A Visible Friend. It conveys emotion, lets the reader know immediately the subject and mood of the story and is very eye-catching. It’s an exquisite cover.
Do you have any advice for artists who are thinking of getting into this field?
Take the author’s request into careful consideration. They know their own book best and it’s wonderful when you can make them happy. But also try other approaches. Sometimes you can’t find the right stock to execute what the author asked for and you have to give them what they didn’t know they wanted. Even if you don’t agree with their request, try to make it as beautiful as possible.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
In front of my computer writing. Or doing covers