Earlier this year I made my way through one of the most ambitious and unique fantasy tales I’ve ever read, and Vultures by Luke Tarzian quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2019. Luke recently got in touch asking me to help out with revealing a brand new cover for this incredible book, and I couldn’t be more honored to participate in this special rebranding event. Fun fact: Luke designs all his covers, as well as all the interior elements and layouts. Check out the interview below for more about his process and inspirations.
The new cover for Vultures hits shelves TODAY!
Without further ado, may I present the new cover of
• • •
• • • •
• • • • •
• • • •
• • •
• • •
• • • •
• • • • •
• • • •
• • •
*gasp* Look at that gorgeous thing!
An enemy slain is not a conflict won…
After decades of war the demon Te Mirkvahíl is dead. But its progeny endure, spilling from the Heart of Mirkúr, sowing death across the land of Ariath. If the people are to finally know peace, the Heart must be destroyed. Theailys An believes he can do just that with The Keepers’ Wrath, an infamous power focus wrought in Ariath’s yesteryears–but the weapon first must be reforged.
War spares no one…
Serece never intended to get involved in Ariath’s war. But history and demons have a way of pulling strings. When she learns Theailys An, a man whom she abhors, bears striking similarity to the first creator of The Keepers’ Wrath, Serece departs her mountain world for Ariath to ascertain the truth.
From patience, hope…
For millennia Behtréal has walked the world alone. Rewriting history to resurrect his people is easier said than done. But Ariath holds the key–soon The Keepers’ Wrath will be remade.
Truth from madness…
As paths converge and a shadow falls across Ariath, one thing becomes increasingly and horrifyingly clear–these events have played out many times before.
Fantasy Author. Long Doggo Enthusiast. Snoot Booper. Shouter of Profanities. Drinker of Whiskey. These are all titles. The Khaleesi nobody wanted and the one they certainly didn’t deserve.
Welcome back to Whispers & Wonder, Luke! For those who are not familiar with Vultures, tell us about this story you have created.
Thanks for having me, Justine! Happy to be here! For the unfamiliar, Vultures is a dark psychological fantasy with a surrealist bent. It’s a very twisty story about three very different characters on varying sides of a war that has been raging for the better part of two decades.
What sparked the desire to give Vultures a facelift?
I’m a tinkerer by nature (thank you, clinical OCD). I like seeing myself improve and this is especially true when it comes to my writing and my art. Throughout the course of the year I’ve seen some fantastic covers, a lot of which were/are a part of SPFBO, and it made me want to come up with something that would better reflect the surrealist aspect of Vultures.
As you’ve created these gorgeous covers since the initial publication of Vultures, walk us through your design process.
Glad you’ve enjoyed them! I spend a lot of time really trying to figure out the imagery I want to use before I do anything. It doesn’t have to be absolute, but I need some sort of an idea as to what direction I want to go in. The last several iterations of this cover all have a few things in common—birds, a tree, and an eye—so that’s what I really try to center the design around. Some of the smaller elements are vectors and brushes I’ve made (I use Autodesk Sketchbook and Clip Studio Paint); the larger elements are a lot of photograph manipulation (I do take A LOT of pictures). I hope that all makes sense!
Vultures has a very poetic and lyrical flow, and I’ve always said authors are artists with words. Have you always had an affinity for creative avenues?
Yes. I started drawing classes way back in first grade. I was identified as gifted in art so that’s what I did and enjoyed, though I took a long break around seventh grade. I didn’t start writing until my junior year of high school. I’ve always been an avid reader and eventually I decided I wanted to start creating my own worlds. I didn’t really marry the two until the middle of 2018; thankfully it’s stuck.
Have you pulled any design inspiration from any specific sources?
Nothing specific. I wouldn’t say there is any one artist or style I draw inspiration from (I’m also, ironically, horrible when it comes to art terminology). I try and pay attention to trends in the industry, sure, but I also know what I like and what fits my personality. I suppose the more abstract an image is, the more interesting it is to me.
I’ve read and absolutely love Vultures, especially when it comes to the psychological elements and ramifications for the actions of its highly diverse cast of characters. Do you find your art also touches upon these aspects?
I would like to say so. Every iteration of cover art I’ve gone through for Vultures, I’ve tried to capture an aspect of the story that really sticks out whether its death, isolation, or surrealism. I think with the most current I’ve captured the sense of surrealism in the story as well as its general chaos.
Do you feel this new cover better represents the words and characters that grace the pages within?
Oh my god, absolutely. I feel like it’s the image I’ve had in mind since I started doing cover design, but it just took me a while to be able to create it. As with anything, you have to work hard if you want to level up. Like I mentioned above, I really feel as if I’ve depicted the chaos and the abstract nature of the Vultures.
Do you have any advice for authors that may also want to produce their own covers?
—Obviously, if you’re going the digital route it’s imperative you learn the software you’re going to be working with. It varies from artist to artist, but some programs can be a bit overwhelming.
—Learn the terminology. Learn about cover size. Learn about cover resolution (DPI).
—Pay attention to what other artists are doing. Borrow techniques. Watch videos on YouTube.
—PRACTICE! Experiment with different styles and techniques.
—Have fun. I would say this is equally as important, if not more so than practicing. If you’re not having fun with what you’re doing, then it’s probably not for you. Cover design can be frustrating at times.
—Take my advice with a grain of salt. What works for me may not work for you (also, I’m not a professional).
Ok, let’s get to know you a bit more. What about the dark fantasy subgenre appeals to you most?
I’ve always gravitated toward dark things. I think I was reading Poe in middle school, haha. From a reader standpoint, I think dark fantasy is where some of the best character writing is being done. From an author standpoint, I think my best work comes when I’m dealing with subject matter that isn’t super bright. I’ve always been fascinated with the gloomier side of things, I’ve also dealt with my fair share of mental illness this last year, and so I look at dark fantasy as a way to explore and reconcile with a lot of what I’m going through personally.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
Characters. Always (for me, at least). If I can’t connect with the people the story is about then it’s not worth writing or reading. If the characters are strong, I can stomach a generic plot. If not…
How much world building takes place before you start writing?
A decent amount. Maybe 50 percent. Part of the fun for me is learning about my world when I’m writing it, and I’m sure I’m not in the minority. At the very least I like to have an idea about the tone of the world and its locations. I think in color palettes and that informs the world for me. For example, when I wrote Vultures, I saw a lot of blues and grays, whites and blacks. To me that translates to a generally dark world with hints of light.
As far as magic goes, I try not to obsess over it too much, which was something I used to do. I think there should be ramifications and rules, but I don’t think they should be as rigid as some people think. Magic with a bit of mystery is fun. I think it adds to a story’s mystique. For me personally, I like magic that ties into the mental health of my characters, which is what you see going on in Vultures.
Tell us about your self-publishing journey.
It’s certainly been a thing, that’s for sure. It’s been equal parts exciting, terrifying, and stressful, though I think it’s fair to say that about any route to publication. My reasons for self-publishing Vultures had nothing to do with the story being rejected by agents. They were personal. My mom passed away a few months before I finished writing Vultures. She was always my biggest fan and I wanted her to be able to hold a physical copy of my work, which, luckily, she was able to do. Beyond that, the story itself is very personal and I had a very specific vision for it visually (cover design, interior design and formatting, etc.).
Publication day is a weird thing. It was exciting, sure, but it wasn’t a huge thing emotionally. The excitement, the fear, and stress sort of came before and after—it still continues to this day, which is normal. I would say my journey for the most part has been a pretty solid learning experience. I’m a much better marketer than I was when I started, which is saying a lot because I’m still pretty bad at it; I think I’m a lot more knowledgeable about how self-publishing works; I’ve rediscovered my love of art; and I’ve made a lot of great friends because of it. I’ve said it before, but the indie fantasy community is filled with some of the friendliest people I have ever met. In a way it’s like a huge, extended family.
Oh—and I’ve seen my book in actual bookstores! I’ve also been fortunate enough to do book signings with traditionally published authors whom I look up to and consider friends. As an indie author trying to make it, I can’t tell you how validating that feels (shout out to Dave Butler, Christopher Husberg, and Christopher Ruocchio!).
Yeah…I’d say my half year of self-publishing has had its ups and downs, but for the most part it’s been super fun! I would absolutely encourage people to pursue self-publishing, but I would also remind them it’s not a race, it’s a marathon. If you’re able to keep that mindset and if you’re able to make friends, it’s going to make the journey a lot easier.
Thank you again for taking the time to have a chat, Luke. What’s on the horizon for you in 2020?
Thanks again for having me! 2020 is going to be an interesting year. My wife and I are welcoming identical twins girls in February so I’m obviously going to be extremely busy, but I’ve got at least two releases planned: Dark Ends with the fantastic Angela Boord, Krystle Matar, Clayton Snyder, and D.P. Wooliscroft, and another project I’ll be talking more about soon called Lost Chapters. I had originally been hoping to have the sequel to Vultures out in late fall, early winter but that remains to be seen. I am working on it though!