Shelf Candy – LISA DESIMINI, Cover Artist for the Sookie Stackhouse Series

May 5, 2012 Interviews, Shelf Candy 14

Shelf Candy is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Five Alarm Books.  This meme gives us an opportunity to highlight a cover we love and the artist who created it.  Please click the button above to find out how to participate and to see what other covers are being discussed this week.


Today’s feature is actually a collection of covers…The Sookie Stackhouse covers.  I really don’t think these covers need an introduction.




The Sookie covers are very different from others in the genre.  They are so unique that they have become iconic for those of use who read urban fantasy/paranormal books.  There is a quirkiness and a whimsy to them that I think really mirrors the tone of the stories.  And the fact that these books got me hooked on the urban fantasy/paranormal genre is enough that the stories, and their covers, will always have a special place in my heart.

Cover Artist, Lisa Desimini


The artist responsible for this work is the wonderful Lisa Desimini, an acclaimed author and illustrator of children’s books.  She is also a well-known cover artist for adult fiction, having created the art for the Sookie series in addition to works by Barbara Kingsolver, John Nichols, and Sharon Creech.

Please welcome Lisa Desimini!


SWR:  Can you describe the moment you realized you wanted to make art your life and profession?

I started drawing on my own when I was 10 years old. When I got to high school, I was known as the artist and was asked to work on all the posters and art committees. My classmates said to me, “you should be an artist when you grow up.” I thought that sounded like a great idea. I went to the career advisor and she had index cards describing the different types of artists. As soon as I heard about a career illustrating covers for books and articles in magazines, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I love to read!



SWR:  How did you get involved with cover art, and the Sookie Stackhouse series in particular?

After I graduated, I immediately set out making appointments with art directors at publishing houses. Soon after, I got my first cover, “Reasons to Believe: New Voices in American Fiction” It was sheer heaven for me to read a book then come up with an image for the cover. It still is. In 2000, Judy Murello, the art director at Berkely Publishing, called me about doing a cover for a book called “Dead Until Dark”.



SWR:  Had you read the series prior to creating the art, and, if not, what kind of direction did you get from the art department in creating the first cover?

No one knew how popular the Sookie series would become, but I could not put the book down, so I wasn’t surprised by its success. After reading the manuscript I came up with a couple sketches that I thought had the right mood for the book. The art director chose my favorite image, the one that wound up on the cover, and then I did the finished image on the computer. I scan in photographs, different textures and fabric. Then I can draw and paint using Photoshop on the computer.



SWR:  The covers for the Sookie series are so different from other covers in the genre.  How would you describe your style?

My style is a bit surreal. It can have a whimsical and quirky feel, although I can do a darker mood too. The art director felt that the books were quirky so she thought I was a good match. I just love making sure that the covers I illustrate have the right tone and mood and don’t give too much of the story away.


SWR:  Where do you find your inspiration?

I’m inspired by books, music, nature and all kinds of visual art. I’m a big fan of folk art. I love when something feels like it’s coming straight from someone’s sub-conscious–when there isn’t too much editing coming from the intellectual part of their brain. I love poetry that creates strong visual images and evokes strong emotions.


SWR:  What is the most exciting aspect of creating cover art?  What is the hardest?

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. So it is very exciting that I can be in my pajamas, reading, and it’s part of my work. The idea that my cover is the first thing you see when shopping for a book, is very exciting. Even after all these years, it’s still a challenge to come up with a great cover, but I never get tired of it.


SWR:  You are also a children’s book designer.  Are there particular challenges that are specific to children’s books as opposed to adult books?  And have you done other covers in the Urban Fantasy genre and what challenges are specific to that genre?

Since I’m not a kid anymore, sometimes it’s hard to find the right tone to appeal to a child. I especially like children’s book that have a timeless and universal quality and these are the hardest to write. I have illustrated the covers for the Urban Fantasy short story collections, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner and they were a lot of fun. The challenge is walking the fine line between magical and mysterious but not being silly.


Two examples of Desimini's other cover work.

Finally, if you could be given the opportunity to create the cover for any book ever published, what would that book be and why?

What a great question! It’s exciting just to think about. It would be “A Prayer for Owen Meany” he is the ultimate earnest character and I love Alice Hoffman’s books because they have a magical realism that would conjure up interesting imagery.

The Snowflake Sisters


Anansi Does the Impossible - An Ashanti Tale



Lisa was game enough to try the Pivot quiz and here are her answers:


What is your favorite word?

Nevertheless (3 words put together that mean something entirely different)

What is your least favorite word?


What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?


What turns you off?

A bullshitter

What is your favorite curse word?


What sound or noise do you love?

Hearty laughter

What sound or noise do you hate?

Nail clippers

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Alternative medicine.

What profession would you not like to do?


If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Come on in. The library is over here, your painting studio is over there and you can have dinner every night with whomever you like.”


Special thanks to Lisa for participating in this week’s Shelf Candy!  Please visit Lisa at her site and take a look at her wonderful work.  If you are a true Sookie fan, you will be happy to see prints of the cover art for sale!

Visit Lisa at her favorite spots:


Let’s get to reading!


14 Responses to “Shelf Candy – LISA DESIMINI, Cover Artist for the Sookie Stackhouse Series”

  1. Cambria

    This was a great interview. I have seen these covers everywhere and have always wondered about the designer. I think its great she knew what sje wanted to do at such a young age. I am sure we will see great things from her in the future!

  2. jess@jessy's bookends

    I enjoyed this bookshelf candy. Sookie’s series is one of my favorites, the covers reflect her adventures completely. It surprised me the author works on children books but that explain how quirky and playful the covers look.

  3. Pepca

    Great interview! I love these covers! It’s wonderful to learn more about such a talented artist. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kimberly Cooper

    This is such a wonderful choice! I love the Sookie covers! Awesome interview! I’m going to forward the link to a few friends.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • shewolfreads

      Thanks, Kimberly! I love the covers too. They are just so different from your normal vampire/romance/mystery series. And thanks for forwarding the link!

  5. FABR Steph

    I have always loved these covers! It is great to know about the artist. I love the answer for the first thing to hear when entering Heaven. Thank you for sharing the series of covers and for your informative post.

    • shewolfreads

      I like the worst sound answer! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Maria Behar

    Hi, Lee! What a fascinating, informative interview! Your idea of presenting interviews with book illustrators as part of this weekly feature is a very interesting one. And we always learn great facts about these artists!

    I like these covers much more than the newer ones that took their place. (I especially dislike the new cover for “Dead Until Dark”, where you see a female vampire smacking her lips…ugh! Yes, we know this is a vampire series, but still…) Desimini’s artwork is, instead, whimsical and magical, reminding me to some extent of the work of Marc Chagall. (Check him out, you’ll see what I mean.) So I think your choices are really great!!

    I’ve been meaning to get to this series, since I’ve heard SO much about it! I’m going to start the first book (with the Desimini cover, natch!, and see if I like it. If I do, then of course I’ll go on to the rest!

    Thanks for presenting these covers, as well as for the great interview!! : )

    • shewolfreads

      It’s a fantastic series. Especially the first books. I feel like Harris may have lost Sookie somewhere in the last couple but I am hoping this new one reminds of why I adored this series in the first place.

  7. fishgirl182

    great interview as usual. i have been a big fan of these covers for awhile. i really like the new deadlocked cover. lisa’s work always stands out on the shelves. 🙂

    • shewolfreads

      Thanks, Thuy! Can’t wait to see what you have coming up next!