The Evolution of Artist to Author ( Part 2)

Cover art by Don Dixon; Layout by Pati NagleLast week I posted part of an interview with artist and writer Don Dixon, whose artwork graced the covers of my Warner editions of the Nuala books.  His art will also be seen on the E-books of the same titles.  (Yes, that’s a different Dixon painting for Hidden Fires.  Do you recognize it?)  Today the interview continues as we talk about his second book idea and current interest, the detective thriller sub-genre.

Where did the second idea come from, the detective thriller?
I love the detective characters created by Robert Crais, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen Cannell, and Gregg Hurwitz because they are as much at war with themselves as with their criminal adversaries. I thought it might be fun to develop a character who doesn’t really want to be a cop, but feels he has no choice.

When Greg Barlow’s father is killed by a random gunshot from a freeway overpass, Barlow abandons his dream of becoming an artist and joins the LAPD, eventually becoming a detective. He has a desperate need to protect others from suffering as he did. His adversaries tend to be extremely smart: software engineers, scientists and the like.

In the first novel, Cerberus,  Barlow is ready to dismiss the brutal murder of a young programmer as a routine drug related crime, but a midnight phone call from the victim’s sister ensnares him in a deadly game of cat and mouse that leads from the heart of the animation industry to a remote mountaintop observatory.  The sister – brilliant, beautiful, reclusive software magnate Berenice Gaudette – seems completely paranoid, but she knows things only the murderer should know.  She’s hiding something but her deductions are usually right and her clues put Barlow on the trail of a ruthless killer determined to guard a secret.

As Barlow closes in, he realizes Berenice’s reckless quest for revenge could endanger everything. He must protect her, even if she doesn’t seem to care whether she lives or dies, because if she is killed, a world-shaking discovery will die with her.

Have you ever used your ability to draw as a way to help prime images in your stories, like priming a pump?

My animation background helps me think in cinematic terms. When writing, I first envision the environment, then the action. It’s amusing how often, after I write a scene, I have to go back and “re-dress the set” so the action makes sense. To paraphrase Chekhov, you have to make sure the rifle is already hanging over the mantlepiece if someone is going to fire it in the third act.

What are you writing at this minute?

A Darker Shade of Green is the second Barlow book. As Barlow investigates the murder of a college student who was working for a climatologist, he explores the surprisingly dangerous world of radical environmentalism and peer-reviewed science. I’m about halfway through the first draft.

Have you tried creating a great cover for the book, and selling the book with a boost from a painting?

My alpha readers hate reading traditional manuscripts, so for both Alexandria and Cerberus I designed covers and printed two quite nice paperback copies through  The covers were pretty good, I think. The cover for Alexandria can be viewed here.

The Cerberus cover is here.

I haven’t put up a website for Cerberus yet.  Although the paperback manuscript makes alpha-reading much easier, creating cover art doesn’t seem to be a particularly useful marketing tactic; editors only care about pictures when you’re shopping a picture book.

If I write another Nuala story, have you got a great image stashed somewhere for the cover?

Dozens. Hundreds. Feel free to browse my site and see what inspires. I wouldn’t mind taking a second look at some of the original sketches that weren’t picked; those are often my favorites.


About Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Cat Kimbriel is working on a a contemporary fantasy about curses, ecological change, and very different ways of looking at the twilight worlds. She's still working on a short Nuala piece and mulling over a new Alfreda novel. You can find her fantasy & science fiction, including free samples, at her Book View Café bookshelf. These books can also be found at major online booksellers. Her personal blog is here, and you will find her on whatever social media currently interests her. Cat builds worlds that contain compassion and justice -- come join the journey.


The Evolution of Artist to Author ( Part 2) — 2 Comments

  1. Wow, that Alexandria cover looks totally like a book by the big publishers – a sideline in book design should be open ^^. But Mr. Dixon hopefully is able to live of his painting.

    Also, the whole idea of the Alexandria book is interesting so please keep us up-to-date if it gets published.

    Also, I am in favour of more Nuala stories, with or without great covers. But a great cover is a nice bonus ^^.

  2. Don clearly is an articulate man with some fascinating ideas. And who doesn’t have a button or bumper sticker that says: “They got the library at Alexandria — they’re not getting mine”? I’d certainly read both of these books, so I’ll keep an ear out on whether it gets picked up!

    (People SHOULD have that bumper sticker or button, I say!)