I’ve taken a long break from blogging and promoting over the holidays, instead immersing myself in the writing of Book II; however, I think tonight is the perfect time to get back into the swing of things.
And no better way to do that then installment two of “Paying It Forward”, my posts where I return the favor to those who have been kind enough to lend their talents and skills to helping me in some way with THE GIRL.
Tonight’s edition focuses on the incredibly talented, super sweet, totally awesome, visionary mind behind the cover art for THE GIRL: Michele Mason Holmberg.*
This is the artist
And this is the thing of beauty she created for me
She was nice enough to sit down and let me interview her about a range of topics, from her beginnings in design to her future goals to her vitamin preferences. Hey, I can’t help it, sometimes the nonsensical questions lead to the best answers. Anyway, without wasting more of your time, let me stop typing and give you Michele:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Senior Level Art Director who works for a global customer experience agency in New York City. I am also mom to an amazing and hilarious 7 year old boy named Jack, stepmom to 19 year old Max, and the wife to a sporty Swede named Par. We live in Jersey City Heights. Oh, I’m 37 years old whatever that should mean if anything!
When did you start exploring graphic arts and design?
I got my Bachelors of Arts degree from Fordham University, where I was a philosophy major. By the time my senior year rolled around I was completely over reading, learning, and thinking about BEING. So I took a graphic design class and was totally hooked… although, it was too late! My BA was nearly finished and it was time to get a job.
Thankfully, one of the first jobs I landed was at Grey Advertising (the stars really aligned for me somehow) and met my mentor, Kurt Haiman, who ran the design group at Grey. I started working as his admin but after about a year he asked what I really wanted to do. I said, “I want to be a designer.” He seemed hesitant but asked me to bring in a portfolio of any creative work I’ve ever done. So, with the help of my friend and artist extraordinaire Jenny Drumgoole, I put together a portfolio of photographs, art projects and design work that I had played around with throughout the years.
Nervously, I showed my work to Kurt who said, “You have talent.” It was one of the greatest moments in my life because at the time, I did not believe in my artistic ability at all. With that, he got Grey to pick up the tab for design classes at the School of Visual Arts and the rest is history.
Do you call yourself /consider yourself a graphic designer? Artist?
At work my title is Art Director but I do work as a graphic designer. The lines get blurry there. Ultimately I just consider myself a creative person. I realized a while ago that I am happiest when I am creating something. Whether it’s a home improvement project, a design job, or cooking. It’s just what makes me feel right.
Does your day job allow for much creativity? If so, how?
My job allows for a lot of creativity. This past year I worked on several video projects, one in particular that used stop motion animation and I also got to go on my first TV commercial shoot. At my agency, Rapp, our team is always striving to come up with new and exciting solutions to our clients needs. It’s definitely rewarding although sometimes it can be extremely challenging (think sleepless nights, weekend work, etc)
Would you like to remain in your current industry or one day branch out and do something else?
I would love to be an Art Director for film or TV. The commercial shoot I went on over the summer solidified that for me. I really enjoyed collaborating with the director, looking at casting, checking out locations. It was such a rush! And then to see the beautiful footage we got and how everything came together to create this 30 second spot so perfectly really was great. Also, at the end of the day, I would love to do work that had more meaning or was helping to make the world a better place in one way or another. I’ve been fortunate to never have to hock any harmful products for advertising but sometimes I think it would really be great to do more for the world or at least entertain people in a more substantial way.
Have you done much book design prior to your experience with The Sanctum and The Girl? If not, why did this project interest you?
I have done a few book cover designs for clients through my jobs, but I’ve never done a design for a fiction piece.
Madhuri gave me a brief description of the book while our kids played together at the playground one day (keepin’ it real) and I really thought the story had legs. And she was so excited about it! I kept wondering how as a fulltime lawyer and fulltime mom she could actually write a book. Writing is really hard for me. Then I read the first few chapters and was completely hooked. I found the characters to be so exciting and I thought… this thing could be huge!
The cover you designed for The Girl is gorgeous and has been mentioned in quite a few of the reviews of the book. What was your inspiration for the design? What was the design process like for that cover?
Thank you so much. The positive feedback has really made me feel great.
I kept thinking about Dev’s power and her sexuality but also her aloneness. Plus, when I design, I always think, would I want that as a poster or a t-shirt? That is my litmus test. And when I finished the cover, I thought “Yeah”!
The initial design I came up with was very different from where it ended up. It featured a knife and a sword on a large old book with New York City in the background. Although it was cool, it didn’t really speak to the title “The Girl” as much as it did to the series “The Sanctum”. So, I went back to the drawing board and the current cover was born. I am really happy because I think it will extend nicely to the next books.
What’s next for your cover designs for The Sanctum?
I am excited to get started on “The Boy.” The overall look and feel will be very similar to “The Girl” but the color will change and of course the silhouette will be of Wyatt (or one of his body parts ;))
Would you be interested in designing book covers for others?
It depends on the project. Currently I do work a lot of hours at my fulltime gig so if something did come along it would really have to speak to me.
Tell me about yourself: Favorite childhood memory?
Dancing in the basement to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album with my sisters.
Random bit of info most folks don’t know?
I did Habitat for Humanity my sophomore year of college in Mexico and had a spiritual awakening while I was there.
Five items you must have on a deserted island?
computer with wi-fi (???)
Beer or liquor? liquor Mornings or nights? nights Dogs or cats? neither Summer or winter? summer Mac or PC? Mac (do some people actually say PC?) Gummy vitamins or chewables? Gummy (ha! You are crazy) Soup or sandwich? Soup (braces do that to you) Dance or hold up the wall? Dance, Dance, Dance!
Describe your ideal five-course meal?
Oh god. This is hard for me. Although I like to eat, I’m not really a foodie. Plus, I don’t think I’ve had many five-course meals. But if I did, it would be similar to the Italian food described in “Eat, Pray, Love”
Name ten people you would invite to dine with you.
I can go so many different ways with this one. Like, putting together a group of ego maniacs and watching them go at it. That could be fun. Or I could pick a bunch of really smart scientists and historians and grill them on my questions of the world. “Why was it called the Dark Ages?” “Does the moon rotate?” “ Do fish feel pain?” etc.
But ultimately Par, my husband, would have to be there so we can discuss the event again at length whenever I wanted to. He’s the most important guest.
Funny as it sounds, but as I’m sitting here thinking of it, I can’t really think of anyone famous that I want to eat with. Instead I’m putting together groups of my friends and family that I don’t get to spend enough time with and I can’t narrow it down to only 9!
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I really think The Sanctum can become a big time series like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. That is my wish for Madhuri Blaylock.
[Girl, I hope you’re right!]
To get a little more Michele in your life, feel free to reach out to her here (http://lnkd.in/bxbexrR) or follow her here (https://twitter.com/kitteninjc)
*Full disclosure: she’s my neighbor (JC Heights in the house…what!), she’s my friend and I kind of love her.