Willow Wednesdays: An Anniversary

This is the second installment of our new feature, Willow Wednesdays! We’ll be featuring art by Willow, the cover artist for the Monkey Queen series, with her kind permission! Read on after the cut! (WARNING: Reminiscing ahead.)

June 2014. Due to a unexpected set of circumstances, I am in need of finding someone to draw the cover for the book I’ve just completed, the first in what I’m expecting will be a series. My memory has been prodded by several posters on the KBoards forum, so I’m up a bit past my bedtime on a Sunday night, sitting on my bed, using my tablet to surf the main page of DeviantArt.

For those of you not familiar with the site, DeviantArt is one of the leading sites for visual artists of all types to show off what they can do. It attracts people of all experience and skill levels, from working pros to teens just mastering pen and Photoshop. This means that surfing the home page can be quite the experience; stunning landscapes and imaginative character designs are side-by-side with drawing of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic characters dressed as Game Of Thrones characters. And vice versa.

It was a bit overwhelming for me that Sunday night, and I was thinking it was time to shut the tablet off and go to bed. But a little voice inside my head saw the word “Undiscovered” in the menu bar, and urged me to tap it. So I did.

The Undiscovered page…it’s like the main page, except that the real famous and real new artists are skipped. I was scrolling through it, noting some of the very nice work there, when this art caught my eye:

I found my way to the artist’s gallery, and I was amazed by what I saw. She had a knack for expression and character design, and her layouts were sensational. I found my thinking, “This Willow-San can DRAW.” Not only that, but she seemed like a nice person based on her comments, she knew English even if it wasn’t her native tongue, and she took commissions. I bookmarked her gallery and went back to check it a few more times in the following weeks, but inside, I already knew.

I’m not sure why I didn’t contact her right away, but it may have been due to to being worried about rejection, and not knowing what I’d do if she said no. But with a planned publication date of late September coming up, I knew time was getting tight, and so on a Sunday morning in late July, I sent Willow-San a Note (private message) on DeviantArt asking if she’d be interested in doing a book cover.

And there was no reply on Sunday. Or on Monday. I spent Monday evening trying not to be dejected, and failing, as I surfed DeviantArt looking for other artists. I found some more talented people…but no one with a style I thought would work as well as Willow-San’s.

Then Tuesday morning, before I went to work, I checked DA one more time…and there was a Note from Willow-San, thanking me for my interest and asking about what I was looking for. I sent her a reply with what I had in mind, and by the time I got to work there was a response from her with a price quote. For a moment, I found myself worrying about the expense, but I thought it over and I realized one very basic thing: Willow-San was one heck of an artist, and I didn’t want anyone else to draw the cover for my book. I accepted her terms, and she started work right away.

This was on July 29, 2014. In the twelve months since Willow (I finally learned that I could drop the “-San”) and I have started working together, she has done four Monkey Queen book covers, giving the series a recognizable visual style and bringing Michiko and Beth to life. She’s also produced some amazing art with her own characters along with some fantastic fan art, and she’s getting ready to show what she can do in the world of comics.

Willow has been professional and a delight to work with. She always finds a way to surprise me with her covers, from Michiko’s scarf to the design of Beth’s wand. And she’s been nice, funny, understanding and supportive. I started off looking for a cover artist, and I’m happy that I found not just a great one, but a friend as well.

On this anniversary, thank you to DeviantArt for making this possible! Thank you – I know this sounds weird – to the little voice that led me to the web page where I made the discovery that June night. And Willow? Thank you for everything! My writing journey has brought me many things so far, and I am glad and grateful that one of them was the chance to meet you and work with you.

Art © 2015 by Willow. All rights reserved; used by permission. You can see Willow’s extensive gallery on DeviantArt, see her works in progress by liking her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, and buy prints and much more at her Society6 webstore, including exclusive Monkey Queen items!

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