Shelf Candy – Interview with Artist Tony Mauro

March 24, 2012 General, Interviews, Shelf Candy 10


Today I am happy to participate in the meme Shelf Candy Saturday, hosted by Five Alarm Books, in which the cover art of a book is highlighted and celebrated along with its artist.


The cover I am showcasing today is Delilah S. Dawson’s Wicked as They Come, cover designed by artist Tony Mauro.



Tony Mauro did a fantastic job with this cover.  I love it for two reasons – the mystery of it and its typographical treatment.  The featured character is Criminy Stain, a magical ringmaster of a traveling circus and a Bludman, a vampire-like being.  I love that Criminy is covered in shadow, that his face is somewhat obscured so that you have to look closely to make out his features.  This treatment suits his character perfectly because he himself is a bit of a mystery – at once gentle and attentive to Tish, the heroine of the story, while at the same time hinting at his capacity for violence.

I also adore the type treatment – mainly how the “W” in “Wicked” doubles as blood splattered fangs.  Lest you forget this is the tale of a Bludman, that “W” reminds you.



I am excited to share with you an interview I did with Tony on his work for this featured cover.  Tony is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and, after moving to Los Angeles from Buffalo in 1994, has become a celebrated illustrator focusing on movie posters, book covers, and video game box art.  His past projects range from posters for The X-Files and Pirates of the Caribbean, to book covers for Chicagoland Vampires, Guild Hunters, and Sunshine (some of my favorite works).  He recently moved back to Buffalo in order to concentrate more on his fantasy art.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Tony.


SWR:  You have worked extensively on both movie posters and book cover art.  For films you usually have an actor or actress to base your piece on but for a book you really only have the text.  What is your process for taking that text and bringing the characters to life in your art?

My advantage here is that most authors go to great lengths to be as descriptive as possible when they introduce their characters so that certainly helps. My first step and always the best case scenario is to read the book before I do anything. Unfortunately, because of my workload, I don’t always have time to read the whole book but the first few chapters are usually the most descriptive because that’s when the author is introducing the characters and setting the tone and environment for the story. I’m also given a synopsis from the publisher at the beginning of the project which will detail the setting and character that they are interested in seeing portrayed on the cover.


SWR:  How much collaboration exists between the cover artist, the author, and the publisher in designing a book cover?

Most people would be surprised that there is no contact between the author and the cover artist at all. The publisher will often coordinate with the author and discuss the cover concepts before they contact me. All of my communication is with the in-house art director at the publishing house. In most cases they already have a good idea of what they are looking for before they contract me. A lot of these are series books so I’ve already established the style and look for the series on the past covers so our only task is to present a new scenario for our hero.


SWR:  Does most of your work happen on the computer or with traditional sketching and painting?

I was a traditional airbrush illustrator for the first 5-7 years of my career before crossing over to the computer. In the beginning I still did a lot of sketching and would even traditionally paint certain elements of the piece and then scan them in to finish up the details on the computer.  Nowadays I do everything from beginning to end on the computer and photography has become a huge part of what I do.


SWR:  Can you tell me specifically about how you created the cover for Wicked As They Come?  What was your process and inspiration?

My only direction on this one was to focus on the main character and to keep him mysterious. Obviously in this case the clothing and personal style of Criminy Stain play a huge role in defining the character. I was told to think “freak show ring master” which I thought was a great visual to play with. His tailcoat was described in a few passages from the book so I found a jacket online that fit the bill and got that ordered in time for the shoot. I’m building quite a collection of steampunk style clothing in my photo studio.  I experimented with a few different lighting set-ups that would cast some interesting shadows over him and once I picked the shot I liked I started working it up in the layout and experimenting with different settings to place him in that would define the genre as well as create some depth.


SWR:  I love the mysteriousness and danger hinted at on the cover of Wicked As They Come.  What is the one characteristic of Criminy Stain that you wanted to make sure translated from the page to your design?

His personal style was the thing that was most important to try and get across. When you’re dealing with one single image to present a character the only thing you can really play with to define who they are is how they’re dressed and whatever subtle expression they will have on their face. The determination and intensity in his eyes as well as the shadow falling across his face are what gave him the edge that he needed to give him that dangerous and mysterious quality.


SWR:  Since this is the first of a trilogy, was there an overall concept you created that would follow through to the other books in the series?

The biggest carry through for this series will be the style of the type treatment I used. We usually try and tackle each title in a series individually because even though we want them to look similar enough to be viewed as a series when they’re together, it’s very important that each book stand on its own.


SWR:  Who are artists that inspire your work?

There are several people that inspire me for different reasons. I’ve always been a huge Norman Rockwell fan, stylistically my work is completely different than his but I admire his ability to tell a story with one singular image.  Of the contemporary artists out there I really love Brom’s work and often look to his stuff for inspiration.


SWR:  If you could create a cover for any one book what book would that be and why?

I’m a huge James Patterson fan so I’ve always said I’d love to work on his Alex Cross series books. I’ve read all of them so I definitely have a connection to his characters as well as the tone of his books.


SWR:  You’ve created some of my favorite covers – Chicagoland Vampires, Sunshine, the last two Guild Hunter covers, and now, Wicked As They Come – can you give us any hints about your upcoming cover work?

I do have lots of things coming down the pipeline but I really shouldn’t discuss them until they are released. Confidentiality is very important in such a competitive marketplace. I’m working with several different competing publishers and loose lips sink ships 😉 I can tell you that I’ve done several survivalist books recently that will be hitting shelves soon. That category as well as the steampunk category are really blowing up.


Take a look at some of Tony’s cool fantasy work, some of which has not yet been posted on his site.


You can see more of Tony’s work at his website:


Special thanks to Tony Mauro for joining me here on She-Wolf Reads!


Please stop by tomorrow for my Wicked As They Come review!

10 Responses to “Shelf Candy – Interview with Artist Tony Mauro”

  1. delilahsdawson

    That was fascinating! I love Wicked’s cover and hope I’ll get to work with Tony for the next two books in the series. =) Great interview!

    • shewolfreads

      Delilah, thanks so much for taking the time to comment on the interview! The cover is great and I am enjoying the book! Criminy is a very cool character and the cover art reflects that.

  2. Abby

    One of my favorite things about this cover is the way that Tony worked in little steampunk hints–the gears on Criminy’s lapel, the device over the type, and the hint of an engine that makes up the background. It leaves an impression without beating the reader over the head with it.

  3. Steph (@FABR_Steph)

    This cover is hot! I am excited to have read the interview. Thanks for including it. While I was aware of some of Tony Mauro’s work, I was not aware of a couple of his covers mentioned here. I would love to see what he could do to an Alex Cross cover. Fantastic post.

  4. kimberly c

    This is awesome! What a great find! I cannot wait to read this book. I’m going to put it on my TBR list right now. I didn’t know about this artist at all but I’m totally intrigued now!
    Wonderful pick!

  5. Claire

    Wow! That is a gorgeous cover and the interview is amazing. Plus I didn’t realise he is the guy behind the Archangel’s Consort cover or Chicagoland Vampires. I was a fan and didn’t even know it 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by Project to be Read 🙂