We’ve got a special treat for week 1 of FREE book month, gang! To kick things off, we’re giving away Kevin Strange’s runaway hit McHumans on Kindle for the next 5 days! But that’s not all! After the picture below, you’ll find an exclusive SHB interview with the artist responsible for the amazing cover of this bizarro novella, none other than Carrion House himself, Luke Spooner!
Kevin Strange: Luke, it is an honor to interview you for StrangeHouseBooks.com. You are an amazing artist who continues to impress me with each project we collaborate on. Let’s get right into it.
Luke Spooner: That’s very kind of you sir.
KS: You have one of the most distinctive styles as a cover artist in the world of fiction. Care to give us some insight into your process? How does a Carrion House piece come together?
LS: Thanks very much, I’m very aware that being in the artistic field I am means that I am standing shoulder to shoulder with professionals with years of experience and far superior styles so to hear praise for my work, especially from someone like Strange House – is a huge accolade and confidence booster.
A Carrion House piece is usually formed while I’m reading the piece of text. I usually make a point of reading whatever I’m illustrating thus completely immersing myself in it and drawing from whatever decides to reach out to me. There are subtle nuances and ornamentations that you just wouldn’t get from someone sending you JUST a design brief and a deadline. Investing time in the text you draw from is indicative of final quality.
KS: Behind the scenes here at SHB, we’re in awe of the speed with which you’re able to craft your pieces. Some artists take a month or longer to turn in art. You’ve been known to turn in a final piece in less than 48 hours. What’s your secret?
LS: This actually links very well to the previous question as my method of constructing a piece, once I have all the necessary elements and details in mind, was never mentioned. I don’t want to completely reveal what I do because I quite like the romantic idea of illustrators having their own little methods and tricks that are known only to them, but it may surprise you to know that the pieces I produce actually involve watercolour painting. Someone recently asked me how long I’d been a ‘digital artist’ and I couldn’t believe it, the truth is although my work from time to time does have a very ‘finished’ look to it, I only use software and programs as a very final element, just to give it a tweak here and there where necessary. The amount of time I spend covered in paint vastly outweighs the time spent in front of a laptop screen as I believe that hand drawn aesthetic is something that technology just can’t replicate, and therefore keeps my work unique and constantly in flux. Overall though, I think that the speed of my style just comes from practice. I spent three years in University perfecting what I’m doing now so it’d be quite alarming, and a definite sign to stop, if I couldn’t get the pieces done in the speed in which I do them.
KS: Who are your artistic influences?
LS: There are a lot, and not all of them are who you’d expect. I was raised, from a very young age, on a heavy stock of Quentin Blake style illustrations. I think I have my Grandparents to thank for that, along with a natural love of storytelling, as that was our main form of spending time together. But obviously as you grow older you start looking for new thrills, something to replace the sources of addiction that you managed to exhaust and that saw me finding my way to a range of artists, everything from Gustav Dore’s illustrations for Dante’s Inferno all the way through to straight up Studio Ghibli style artwork from the East. I have a very eclectic taste and it’s more about finding artists that move me as opposed to what style they are following. However, there’s always been a thirst in me for the darker artwork, as I’m sure you can imagine, and today I quite enjoy the work of Edward Gorey, David Hughes, David Lupton, Ralph Steadman etcetera, ecetera; the list could go on forever. My influences aren’t limited to just the printed image though, I constantly draw inspiration from cinema and quite often invoke principles seen on screen to set up and arrange my artwork. If you look back at some of my work with the idea of ‘film noir’ in mind you’ll see certain things that might otherwise not be immediately obvious.
KS: You reached out to SHB in early 2013. You said you were looking for something different. Do you think the pieces you’ve worked on for us have fulfilled that desire?
LS: Wow, early 2013? It seems like a lot longer than that, I feel like you guys have been a part of my professional creative career a lot longer… But yes, I’ll admit that I didn’t really know the full spectrum of what I was getting into when I originally got in touch, but I think that McHumans, our first collaboration, was definitely a trial by fire. That was ‘bizarro’ at it’s best, and ultimately set the stage for everything that’s followed. I think the work I’ve put together for you guys has definitely filled my original quota of ‘different,’ but it’s also expanded my appreciation and view of fiction overall. It’s been enlightening to say the least.
KS: How did you first hear about Strangehouse Books? What was your first impression?
LS: I’d heard your name mentioned in a few online circles of authors that I quite liked and after looking into your group a little more found that you kept popping up; in online directories for horror authors looking to get published, in lists of favourite indie publishers – even in recommended purchases on Amazon! So I figured that if a publisher can make this kind of an impression without me even getting in touch then I needed to bite the bullet and bridge the final gap, the Universe clearly wanted me to and who am I to argue with the Universe?
KS: I see that you’ve had the prestigious honour of doing a book cover for a Richard Matheson book. How did this come about?
LS: That was a shock, it really was. I’ve had the chance to work on a few interesting projects for Roy and his crew over at Bad Moon Books but when asked if I was able to read something through and see if I could come up for a cover for it – I had no idea that it’d be Richard Matheson. The book itself is actually an interview with the man himself and one of his writer / lecturer friends; Dennis Etchison, in front of Etchison’s students in a University course he’s teaching. What started as a lecture quickly became one of the most informal, relaxed insights into the life and mind of one of the most influential writers in his particular field of fiction, and it was all written down for us to enjoy and draw meaning from. Not only that – it’s the last interview he did before his unfortunate death this year so it is incredibly significant for anyone who appreciates his work.
KS: Who are some of your favorite authors both inside the horror genre and outside?
LS: Wow, again another expansive list, but I think Stephen King, Edogawa Rampo, Mary Shelley, Aaron Gudmunson, Jeffrey Archer, Bill Willingham, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Edward Gorey are all high up on that list. Again, that is a list that could easily erupt and keep flowing but those are the ones closest to the surface at the moment.
KS: Thanks, Luke! It’s been great talking to you. I can’t wait to collaborate on our next project!
LS: It’s been a pleasure Very much looking forward to adding another Strangehouse piece to my portfolio.
You can find all things Carrion House on the web at: http://www.carrionhouse.com/