Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time - The Creation Of A Cover

This Valentine's Day at The Pink Heart Society our very own Trish Wylie is thoroughly ECSTATIC to be able to bring us an interview with cover artist Lawrence Roibal - the man who created the truly gorgeous artwork for her February book Her One And Only Valentine...

Every author has a favourite cover. We're not supposed to I know, it's a bit like having a favourite child. But if nothing else there's always one that's special - you know? And I, like so many authors around the world, have always wondered how that cover came to be.... what was the idea behind it... who was in the photograph... drew the picture?

Up til now I've had but one contact from someone involved with one of my covers. And that was the Mom of a guy who'd posed for the original photo shoot in New York. Now I was excited enough about that so you can but imagine how THRILLED I was when I got an email from the man who did the beautiful artwork on not one, not two but THREE if my covers back-to-back! And I loved Rescued: Mother-To-Be and Bride Of The Emerald Isle's covers but Her One And Only Valentine? Wellll... it's just a little bit special...

The man behind it is award-winning illustrator and artist Lawrence Roibal, who has created illustrations for many of the world's largest publishers and best selling authors, specializing in Romance, Children's Book, and the Young Adult markets. Larry trained as a traditional artist, studying at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, New York, and Parsons in Paris, France - receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1982 - and has been a working illustrator ever since...

He has created over five hundred book covers (without ever missing a deadline but we'll try not to hold that against him...) for publishers including Avon, Berkeley, Harlequin, Pocket, and Silhouette Books. A tenacious work ethic and passion for learning leading him to continue his studies at The Art Students League, The School of Visual Arts, and Ducret School of Art.

A proud member of the Society of Illustrators, where his work has been displayed, Larry's work was one of forty pieces commemorating the 9/11 tragedy selected to hang in the lobby of the United Nations. His work has also been recognized by the Romance Writers of America for Best Cover Art featured on a Long Contemporary Novel, and he was awarded the 2002 ARTemis Award.

Larry lives in New Jersey, just a short train ride from Manhattan, with his wife and their two children. And to find out more about Larry and his work you can visit his website:

I got to ask Larry lots of the questions I thought you guys might ask and here's what he had to say along with a series of pics he sent me to show how the cover of Her One And Only Valentine made it from conception through to the beautiful piece of work everyone has oohhh-ed and ahhh-ed over of late!

How long have you done pieces for the Romance Line's covers?

I've been an illustrator for twenty five years. My first assignment was a romance novel, and while I have painted pictures for wine labels and children's books, Romance novels have been the one constant throughout my career.

Do you enjoy doing them?

As a student I fell in love with painting people in environments, and I still get excited about each new assignment.

What got you started?

After graduating from Parsons School of Design I knew that the book cover industry was a natural fit for the style of traditional painting that I loved to do.

What is your daily working routine like? Do you have a studio at home?

Yes, I do have a studio in my home. When people find out I work at home, they usually say 'That's great, you get to set your own hours'. But being an illustrator is no different from being a restauranteur or any small business owner (minus the help) if you're not willing to get up early, work late, you're probably not going to last. I keep a very disciplined schedule. The nice part about working at home is that I could a twelve hour day and still see my family over breakfast and dinner.

How much information does the company give you about the characters in the book or the scene you're depicting on the cover?

By the time a typical romance book cover assignment gets to me, many dedicated people have done a great deal of ground work. Writers and editorial have provided the story locations, time of year, physical descriptions of the hero and heroine i.e., the age, hair and eye color and style, as well as other character traits like occupation and marital status. Art directors have not only developed concepts for the specific book, but work hard to develop a visual look for their line of books that their readers recognize, identify with and stand out from other lines. As the artist, it's important to keep all of this information in mind when carrying out the assignment.

Does the artwork begin as a photograph? If so are you ever there for any of the photo shoots or are you sent the finished shots to work from?

Before it gets to photography there are artistic decisions to be made. We usually start with a sketch or a concept. Then, I need to book a photo shoot, cast models to match the characters, and secure the wardrobe.I have an extensive collection of wardrobe and props, anything from cowboy apparel to ball gowns. For this assignment (Her One And Only Valentine) I already had the wardrobe in my collection, If I didn't have it I would probably shop for it or call a stylist, but I have resorted to rifling through my wife or daughters closets or calling family and friends that I remembered had a certain garment or prop that I might need.

Before I arrive at my photographers, I formulate a game plan for achieving the look in the sketch in a one hour photo shoot. The important thing is getting a feeling of the moment - the couple are in love and having fun - and more than likely the two models have never met. So somehow we have to capture a chemistry. But besides that, I'm anticipating an issue with this particular shoot; for one, I'm hoping to have it appear spontaneous but the models will need to be in this back breaking position for an hour - what will that do to her expression? With that in mind, I soon decided that in order to get the body language in the beginning of the shoot it would be easier to put her on a stool to concentrate on the happy mood between our couple.

If it starts out as a photograph how does it become the beautiful work we see on the covers?

After consulting with the Art Director we decide on a pose or in this case a combination of poses and a background setting that will be used as reference to creating the final book cover. While I am trained as a classical oil painter, today most in the book cover industry create on the computer - drawing and painting with a stylist (a kind of pen) on a pressure sensitive tablet.

Does the complete piece make it to the cover or just a portion of it?

I provide what in the industry is called a bleed, which means the final art is larger than the image you see on the cover.

The US Covers also have a landscape piece on the back cover do you do these as well?

Yes I do. When I was an art student I was fortunate enough to study landscape painting in France and I find doing those little landscapes very enjoyable.

Have you a favourite piece that you've worked on?

I'm my harshest critic. Never being satisfied with your work makes you constantly strive to do better....that said, it's always the one you're working on or the one you're looking forward to starting.

Can you tell me anything you remember about the creation of the cover for Her One And Only Valentine? (you honestly wouldn't believe the number of comments I've had about this cover gang. It truly is BEAUTIFUL) Were you aware it was for a Valentine title?

Thank you for the kind words. I remember this piece very well. It sometimes seems I spend half my waking hours looking for my keys or where I left my wallet, but I have a very good memory for paintings I've created - and for some reason, cartoon theme songs...

I remember in the beginning stages of this piece making this very elaborate marble floor design. it was a lot of work because I made the initial design then repeated it hundreds of times and placed it into proper perspective under our hero and heroine and then gradated the light across the floor. When I sent the sketch to the Art Director, she said it was too busy and to simplify the marble. She is a great Art Director who knows the product and has a wonderful sense of style and taste. Sometimes you get too close to the work and it's good to have someone view it with a fresh eye. If you're not open to change, then you're limiting yourself and not taking advantage of a very valuable resourse. Of course she was right and the piece is better off that the attention is focused on our couple.

If you had one artist living or dead you could have worked with who would it have been?

John Singer Sargent

I'd just like to thank Larry for taking the time out from his busy schedule to answer all my questions and for getting in contact! It's been an absolute THRILL see how the cover came to be and I'm sure you'll all agree that there are many elements of Larry's working life that mirror those of a writer.

So there you go - if you ever wondered how a book cover is created then now you know! I'm just stunned that such beautiful work was created with the help of computer technology! Working the program must be an art unto itself!!!

Trish's book Her One And Only Valentine is available RIGHT NOW in the USA, Canada, Ireland and the UK. To find out more you can visit her Website or her Blog.

And as a special VALENTINE'S DAY TREAT for all of you visiting us here at the Pink Heart Society we invite you to pop over to eharlequin where you can pick up your FREE download of the eBook mini “Valentine's Wedding Dress” by bestselling author Sherryl Woods!!!



  1. Thanks Trish and THANKS LARRY!

    I had to even bring my hubby over to have a read of this as he's always wondered how our covers are made.

    Love the sketch and photos and final cover evolution.

    Thanks for coming to play with us Larry! And I hope one day you get to do one of my book covers too as these are just lovely.


  2. Trish and Larry, thanks from me too! I love knowing the behind-the-scenes stuff and find it all completely fascinating. Now I really, really want to know about this art-on-coomputer process.

    And those covers: gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!!


  3. Hey, Trish and Larry, what an awesome post. I feel I've always been blessed by the cover Gods and now I know just how much so. Thank you Larry for a wonderful window on exactly what goes on behind creating our fabulous covers.

  4. Hi Trish and Larry,

    What a great post. Absolutely fascinating - and inspiring too, especially for Valentine's Day. I really feel the romance in the air this morning. So thanks.


  5. Fascinating post. Thanks, Trish, and thanks Larry, for creating such lovely covers.


  6. Hi,

    Thanks for the kind words. It's gratifying to know that I've pleased the author of a book, because I know it's your baby.. what a nice treat for Valentines Day.

    Actually, I have already, "Billionaire On Her Doorstep"


  7. ...and Jennie, "To Love and Cherish"

    small world

  8. Trish asked me to look in and babysit her post for her but it seems you're all doing fine without her. She's done the two radio interviews now and is about to go into make-up for the tv one. Apparently they've promised to make her look like Claudia Schiffer. :)

  9. Larry has done at least one of mine too - My debut, Hired By The Cowboy. :-) He does GORGEOUS work. You should go to his website and see the pics from 9/11. STUNNING.

  10. seems my work has graced the cover of almost all of today's participants.,,,there's also Natasha's Millionaire Dad, Wife Needed.

    Keep on writing, I've got one in college and another starting next year.

  11. Larry, can you post your website links to people can visit?

    And lol at our Trish, the media darling. :-)

  12. Thanks for your interest.
    ...or, simply click on my name directly above where it says "Larry says"

  13. Ooooooooh did you, Larry? Millionaire Dad: Wife Needed was the first of my books to hit the Waldenbooks Bestsellers List. Thanks for that!

    Trish is all done on TV now - and I missed it. Flippin' thing wouldn't stream for me. Now she just gets to brave the Belfast traffic and return home to 'do the horses'. :)

  14. seems my work has graced the cover of almost all of today's participants.,,,

    Yes, I see one of mine from 05 on your website and hope there are more in the future...which brings me to a question (if you're still checking in, Larry.) Do you still work on lots of different lines for Harlequin/Silhouette?


  15. Bronwyn,
    I'm freelance, so I wouldn't want to be presumptuous about what I will be called upon to do, but I have been very fortunate to have been called upon for a number of lines.... as each line has a different look, it keeps things interesting.

  16. I've always wanted to know how the covers are created. Thanks so much, Larry, for such in interesting interview. Having a look at my recent books, I reckon "Break Up to Make Up" might have been one of yours (don't shoot me if I'm wrong!).

    And I'm with you on John Singer Sargent. One of my favourite paintings is 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose'. I even managed to give it a mention in a recent book. And if I turn round right now I can see the print I own of it on my wall.

  17. It is a beautiful cover. I particularly like the Romance covers over some of the other Harlequin lines.

    Thanks for such an interesting post!

  18. Larry, I have to say, 'To Love and To Cherish' is one of my favourite covers to date. I'm thrilled to have a chance to 'meet' the man who created that artwork.

    Best wishes,