COVER DESIGN: Interview With Samantha Hennessy (part two)

Last week I introduced you to Samantha Hennessy at SAMANTHA HENNESSY DESIGN   who created the cover for my latest novel THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY – and the covers for all of my books. (PART ONE HERE)


Enjoy part two of this interview with the very talented SAMANTHA HENNESSY:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?

As a kid my mother enrolled me in different after-school art classes – ceramics, paper-making, all sorts of things. I loved these classes.  My mother let me look through the catalog of the local art school and pick a different class every year. One year I took a cartooning class, but felt uncomfortable when I realized I was only girl in the group; I didn’t make any friends.

I realized that cartooning wasn’t something I was very good at or even liked to do! At that time I was also taking piano lessons and decided to quit after years of lessons, but I stuck with the cartooning class. I pushed myself to try something different that I wasn’t sure I’d like, but never felt discouraged. There are many, many things that I’ve made since that cartooning class that I didn’t like or wasn’t good at, but I’ve never stopped loving  creating things. You know you’re supposed to do something when failure feels like a chance at a new beginning, rather than an end.

Tell us about the other design work you do.

I work in a lot of different mediums. Digital design is something relatively new for me. I taught myself how to use Photoshop and Illustrator to manipulate hand sketches and to create vector illustrations for my book cover projects. These programs are great because you can play around without having to waste materials or scrap canvases. It feels less permanent.

tenafly1I’ve recently got back into printmaking, which is the antithesis of digital design.

This summer when rummaging through the art supply closet in my childhood home, I found my old carving tools and started right back up again. For my prints, I begin with a sketch in pencil, which I trace over on a piece of tracing paper. I lay the tracing paper on a block of linoleum, sketch-side down, and trace over a second time, so that the graphite from the tracing paper sketch presses onto the linoleum leaving graphite outlines. I carve out the block with a linoleum cutter. This part takes the longest (depending on how detailed the design). Using a metal bench hook as an inking plate, I roll out printing ink using a brayer, and then roll over the carved linoleum with the inked brayer. Lastly, I press the linoleum onto paper or fabric to create the “stamp” and wait for the linoprint to dry.

This is a HUGELY time intensive process. It’s the opposite of digital design where I can send botched files to the recycle bin without a second thought, or work for short increments without any preparation or cleanup. Linocuts are meant to be reused and reprinted – whatever design I decide to carve has to be “worth it” in the long run. The blocks need to be stored somewhere after they’re carved. The carving process is precarious because one slip of the cutter can take out a piece of linoleum you don’t want taken out (or send you running for a band-aid or worse). Then inking, and rolling, and maybe even smudging the print and having to re-print, and washing the thick, gooey ink the consistency of peanut butter off the bench hook between colors… the whole thing is a pain! But! Linoprints look and feel so beautiful, like velvet. The process is traditional and laborious, and in turn, kind of romantic. I keep coming back.

Aside from the printmaking and digital design, I also paint, draw, collage, embroider, sew, craft all sorts of projects, and color in coloring books with my son in my spare time.

As a newlywed raising a toddler and working a full-time job in insurance how do you find time for your blossoming design career?

I don’t! Actually this question is something I’ve been thinking  a lot about since I started working full time this July. Up until that point, I was finishing up my degree and staying at home with my son. While I had classes to attend and diapers to change, I still had a lot more time to design. My son’s two hour nap was always dedicated to projects. I was able to be a lot of things at once – a mother, a student, an artist – because I could make my own schedule.

Now that I’m working full time, my day-to-day is completely different, and design seems like the last thing on my list of things that never get done. I’m trying to work on projects when I can – since we just moved to a new apartment, the projects have been mostly home-decorating related but that’s ok, it’s a start! I just made a garland out of scraps of fabric that looks really colorful and fun on the wall.

I’ll get a handle on this time-management thing someday, because I know that for the sake of my sanity, design needs to be a part of my life.

Check out Sam’s work at:


**Featured Image Samantha Hennessy, Self Portrait

COVER DESIGN: Interview With Samantha Hennessy (part one)

One of the joys of independent publishing is finding a cover designer who “gets” your work. Samantha Hennessy at SAMANTHA HENNESSY DESIGN is the IT GIRL for me. Her  cover for my latest novel THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY is a lush, velvety dream (I’ve had people at book fairs gush over it).


A designer who listens to your vague ideas and improves upon them to create works of art is a rare find. By the third novel I really had no idea what I wanted. I gave Sam the title (and maybe a brief synopsis of the manuscript) and before long the cover arrived in my inbox. I didn’t make a single change to it (it helped that she’d designed my other two books and had a great feel for the series).

Enjoy part one of this interview with the very talented SAMANTHA HENNESSY:

Tell us about your book cover design process. What inspires you?          

With the cover designs for THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES, I borrowed inspiration from Adrienne’s blog header and created designs where past meets present. I wanted the covers to feel modern while still keeping with the spirit of historical fiction.

2-weary_final_edit-pdf-4-27-15-page-0With WEARY OF RUNNING,  the first cover I worked on, I started with the torn and old photograph of the cadets.  At first I considered cleanly cropping the edges but realized  those rough edges I had first thought of as a nuisance could be used as a charming design element!  The torn edges added texture and brought in a little of the bright teal color to break up the sepia tones of the front cover. It also acted as a transitional element to connect the spine and the front cover through color.

Design work is problem solving. As a designer I make incongruous bits and pieces or ideas fit together, often times by reconsidering those bit and pieces that at first seemed a problem.

tenafly10With the second cover I designed, THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD, I started out with a scan of a photograph of the actual house on Tenafly Road. The scan’s quality wasn’t great, so I knew I would have to modify it in some way to make it workable. After playing around for a bit with the photo, I finally settled on a halftone filter for the scan.

Halftone is a printing process originally used in newspapers – think of the little dots you see that make up comic strips or newsprint letters. It’s a rudimentary way to print, and applying the halftone filter maintained the photo’s vintage sensibilities, while the bright magenta and contrasting pastel yellow color added a bit of freshness that the original scan needed. Color relationships are what I focus on the most in my designs, and I love trying to figure out how I can use color to create mood, interest and movement.

cover-dewTHE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY cover is special to me because I used my own photograph for the art. The photo was inspired by Alexa Meade’s work. Her paintings are unusual because Meade paints right on top of a real person, sitting at a real table, and applies exaggerated shadows and highlights straight onto these unique “canvases.” It’s very meta. And everyone knows that anything can be art as long as its meta!

One of her paintings – or to be exact – a photograph of a person she painted on top of, was a woman half-submerged in opaque, white liquid. The photo was captured just as the woman’s painted face met the water and started to run.

I was brainstorming ideas for cover art for the third novel in my apartment, looking at a bouquet of flowers in a vase. I knew the title of the third novel (The Dew That Goes Early Away) and that it was a story about lost innocence. That conjured in my mind images of dew drops on flowers and the transience of nature and life.

Alexa Meade popped into my head. I quickly filled a plastic bin with water, added a cup of milk, dropped in some daubs of red and blue paint, swirled everything around, and floated the now beheaded flowers on top. My favorite part of the photograph is the white flower on the top right corner of the cover that has a couple red-paint dew drops on its petals.

What is your favorite part of book cover design? Your least favorite part?

I mentioned that the third book was special to me because I used my own art, but my least favorite part of cover design is choosing the right art. Looking at those flowers and trying to figure out what to do with them – for a couple of moments there – felt torturous. Choosing the right art is stressful, but once I settle on it manipulating things like fonts and layout feels meditative in comparison. I’ve spent what might be considered an obsessive amount of time getting the kerning just right (kerning is the spacing between letters). I’m fascinated by typography and experimenting with different fonts to best represent the personality of the design.

You work independently. Have you ever considered working in traditional publishing or do you prefer the indie world? What would be your dream set-up artistically?

I do enjoy working on projects independently but definitely want the direction that an agency provides. While studying art in college, I always found that the projects I became most invested in and enjoyed the most where the projects I was forced to do, that initially seemed completely incompatible with my artistic style and voice. The assignments I started off dreading were the ones I often had such fondness for in the end.

Having complete artistic control without the intervention of mentors and colleagues can feel narcissistic if I’m not self-evaluating my work properly. And that’s a hard thing to do! Sometimes when I look back on old projects I wish I had someone there at the time to tell me that the work wasn’t fully “there” yet. I love having that dialogue between artists. Hearing criticism in the moment can make me feel defensive, red-faced, and like my identity as an artist is just a huge sham! But then I get over my pride, and I’m a better artist for it.

Do you listen to music while working? Does it influence your designs?

I don’t listen to music much while working but I do listen to podcasts. Music can be distracting for me because stopping to skip a song or to choose a new artist breaks my concentration. Podcasts on the other hand, especially long-form narratives, are so immersive and wonderful in their storytelling.  Audio as a medium, I think, is superior to visual media in a lot of different ways. That might sound strange coming from a visual artist! I just really respect the art. In another world where I was a talented writer, that would be my dream job. Audio allows the listener to build their own visuals and fill in the story using memories and personal experiences. It’s magical. Two shows I will recommend are 99% Invisible and Criminal. The former is a show about design, but it’s not just for designers. Give it a chance. The latter is a riveting true-crime-esque podcast that I love even more for the illustrations made for each episode by Julienne Alexander. Visuals complimenting audio is up there in my list of things I love.

Do you come from a creative family?

Greetings by Barbara Meise

My grandmother is a STAINED GLASS ARTIST and owns a studio in Jersey City. She’s done stain glass work for a number of churches and synagogues around the area, and she restores glass as well. My childhood home is decorated with her stained glass projects and I grew up admiring her work.