• Cait Ashwood

New Shinies and an Interview with Ryan Schwarz

Hey guys!

So, last time I promised you sketches and info on the cover updates. Well, the cover update has turned into... the actual cover! The artist, Ryan, had a cancellation, so he was able to work me in early. These covers are completely hand-painted (digitally, of course) and I feel they really capture the spirit of these books so much better. The original artwork was beautiful, but I bought them before I realized I was writing a coming of age, young adult series. Take a look, and I think you'll agree with me!

Ryan runs a cover design company, The Cover Designer, over at He's done some pretty epic work, all things considered, and was kind enough to carve some time out of his day to grace us with an interview. If you have any further questions for Ryan, leave them in the comments and I'll see if we can't pester him to answer.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

I think I’ve always been that introvert that wanted to go into his room and draw. My dad had a bit of skill as well, he just never explored it. I could tell he wanted to, though. We would do art classes at the Nelson (the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, where I grew up – Go Chiefs) and work in charcoals, oils and pastels together. He bought me a huge drafting desk that tilted when I was a kid. I loved the art of comic books and animation when I was a kid, too. It blew my mind that someone could draw the same thing over and over and make it look exactly the same – that skill still eludes me a bit!

Your website shows that you have a degree in Graphic Design and alludes to quite the portfolio of logo work and whatnot. What prompted the shift to working with book covers?

Yep, I am educated in design and marketing. For many years, I made that my primary ‘day job’, working in the graphics and advertising industry. What I found was that when you do what you are passionate about under that format (working for someone else, being creative under orders, etc), it exhausts you creatively. You don’t want to work on your own stuff.

I was still working in graphics professionally when I started writing. Then, on a dare from my writing group, I wrote a ridiculous trilogy about Elderly Superheroes. When I designed those covers for myself and posted them online in various feedback groups, the response was overwhelming. “Can you make me a cover?” “What do you charge?” and so on. I realized right then that I could design for others and give them something fun and special as well.

How has being an author yourself influenced your work with cover design?

It’s been a huge boon. I understand the plight of the author. The sleepless nights or early mornings laboring over a manuscript. The emotional investment in characters and plotting. The stress of trying to get your books noticed on Amazon. It’s hard.

Consequently, I make sure that I lean on my marketing background to help authors. What’s selling in your genre(s)? How can we create you an eye-popping cover that still propels sales? I think that stuff is as critical as the quality of the art.

I’m not going to ask you what your favorite cover you’ve designed is, but what’s your favorite genre to design in? Are there any genres you wouldn’t make a cover for?

Ha! I’ll answer the favorite cover question! I love two types of covers: Ones that make me laugh while I’m designing them, and ones that challenge me to paint something new. In that regards, Tom Dublin’s upcoming series about a team of battle nuns saving the world from zombies, vampires, and aliens are hilarious and were my favorite to design. A close second? The giant eagles and landscapes in your covers are a blast, Cait! - Aww, thanks!

It takes me more brain space than I’d like to admit to wrap my head around cozies and romance. I feel there needs to be a sword, or creature, or explosions. Since those genres don’t usually need those…eh.

Somewhat of a follow-up question, are there any specific poses/creatures you love drawing?

I love mythical creatures and anything in an action pose. But I also love dynamic landscapes that take you away.

What’s been your most challenging work to date?

There are things that are technically challenging (how do I make these dragon scales look great?), but more so are the series that have 3-6 books in them. How do I give the author a dynamic, unique cover – but still keep it ‘on brand’ with the other covers in the series?

Anything you think readers should know about you?

I’m an author. I’m an artist. I love BBQ, Baseball, and the NFL. I wish I was on a lake right now. Send me a question, you will receive an answer. Want to see artwork in progress, I will happily make a video and post it to my page. I have a lot of fun interacting with fans and such.

Oh, and I like ridiculous, slightly inappropriate humor. Case in point, my Christmas decorations. That’s me in a nutshell:

That's it for this week, folks. Want me to blog about something next? Shoot me a line at and you might see your idea next week!

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