Interview with Nathalie Grey – Artist

Who are some artists and/or illustrators who have influenced your work? How and why?

Dan dos Santos, for sure. I remember back a few years at a convention someone was looking at the cover for My Life as a White Trash Zombie and exclaimed that was the ugliest cover they’d ever seen. I was flabbergasted. And quite pissed. I mean, look at it! It’s gorgeous and so outside the box. That crooked cigarette?! I’m in love. All he does is magic as far as I’m concerned. Other artists are Yayoi Kusama (so bold!) and Tommy Arnold (the Sacred Throne series makes my inner Chihuahua chase her tail with savage glee). Anne Cain is a long-time favorite of mine. Too many to name, alas.

Do you think any media are better, or can shape, how speculative elements are depicted in a work? How do you find it impacts the different genre cover illustrations?

I don’t believe any media is better at shaping what goes or not for book covers. But I love that The Computer (and increasingly more people are adept at producing art thanks to it) is able to facilitate blending different media. I remember back in the olden times of dinosaurs how you had to photocopy things and make layers and gah. Do not miss that time. To come back to good ol’ Photoshop, it’s really opened doors for folks. You don’t have to dedicate an entire room for all your art crap, or even have a window in the room. A computer, a graphic tablet, and Bob’s your uncle. I’m hearing purists say, “But it’s not art, Nat, you’re a fool and an impostor!” To which I’d reply, meh.

How has the field been changing in the past ten years?

I see trends come and go. There used to be wall-to-wall black covers with red elements. Then we moved into magenta and teal, those inseparable lovers. And now I’m seeing a lot—and I mean, a LOT—of those close-up covers with the floral elements intertwined with the typography. And a lot more authors are creating their own covers now, which is amazing. I say go for it! There were very few authors who did this when I started back in the dial-up period. It’s liberating, just like self-publishing has been.

What have been some challenges for you as a working artist? What have been some of your triumphs and joys?

This is not my first career, frankly, but it’s the one I enjoy the most. There are days where I’m not feeling it and drag my feet (hello procrastination, old friend!). But those are overwhelmed by days where I email back and forth with an author about their ideas and concepts for their cover, and this, THIS is where the gold is. I mean, to have someone say to you, “What about some magic? Maybe floating bits? I dunno, you go for it.” That trust in me for a project that I personally know takes months, sometimes years, and blood and tears and coffee and midnight frustration-walks in the living room, and that bitch Muse who won’t talk. For my authors to trust me with their story is the best feeling in the world. Truly.

One thing I’d wish for: that we could pry open genre doors. It seems there’s this expectation of what will go on a cover based on genre. I mean, sure, you want the busy reader to know exactly what she’s looking at. But! But. I wish we could include more “left field” concepts sometimes, and not follow conventions right off a cliff. Give me ducks on a sci-fi cover. Give me a plate of metal and a rusty rivet for romance. A cover is not a CV for what’s inside. It’s an image to sell the book. To get the reader’s attention. Let us play, dammit!

What is some advice you could pass along to people just starting out in the field? How can we work to support each other?

My one and only bit of advice is to not ever take advice from someone unrelated to your project. For sure, do listen to opinions, form your own, drop the rest. And I wish we had more contract revision services out there.

Nathalie Gray

Kanaxa is the alter ego of Nathalie Gray, author of over thirty novels of speculative fiction ranging from science fiction, steampunk to fantasy. Her work, both written and visual, has won numerous prizes, including RT for Best Science Fiction novel and multiple covers of the year awards. Her work has been featured in The Independent (UK), Men's Fitness (Australia), RT Book Reviews and Realms of Fantasy magazines (US), USA Today (US), and other publications. Over the years, Nat’s input has been sought as part of panels during genre conventions and as judge for contests. A veteran and avid runner, Nat makes her home in an impregnable fortress beneath the Nordic ice sheets, where she plots to one day take over the world. See more of her work at