The Artists That Make the Book

Writing novels always seems to be a work in progress, seasoned with research, numerous revisions, candid reviews, formatting, and proofreading.  Yet, the centerpiece of a book is the cover.   If done well, the cover art sets the ‘mind space’ of the writing within the pages for the reader.  To familiarize you with the creative effort that transforms a bundle of typeset paper into a bound book, I have introduced the artists who put this together. They are listed in the order of the steps needed to finish the book.

Paulette Thenhaus

The cover of Prometheus Scorned was photographed from the original painting  Barn Burning,  acrylic on paper,  by Paulette Thenhaus, who resides in Galesburg, Illinois. I was first aware of Paulette’s work through her sister, Rose, who is a close friend of my wife, Tina. We have acquired numerous paintings from her, especially those that depict ‘cow themes’. What intrigued me about Paulette’s subjects for painting is that she often uses photographs from USDA Extension bulletins from the depression era. She reinterprets black and white photos of rural life in the 1930s with color and style. Such was her inspiration for Barn Burning. A blazing barn with cows scattered through a pasture is obviously a compelling image to recreate. She told me, “I started with the flames and the angry swirls of smoke, rising above the barn. When I asked, “But what of the purple cows?” She replied, “I always liked the ‘Purple Cow’ poem, so the cows became purple.”

Here’s an image of  Paulette’s original painting, Barn Burning.   To further enjoy her wonderful expression of color, I suggest you visit her website, you will not be disappointed.   Thenhaus Art


I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one
— Gelett Burgess

Mark Siragusa

Mark has been my best friend for over 50 years (yes, we go back a ways and there are many fabled songs and stories).  Despite my bias, he is a tremendous photographer.  An intrepid traveler, who with his wife, Adriana, has traveled widely throughout the globe and has captured people, cultures, and places that most of us can only dream about seeing and seem somewhat mystical. My personal favorites were taken while they were in Morocco.

Mark has an exceptional sense of transforming the ordinary into the remarkable. Farmers, street merchants and musicians, Buddhist monks, and Berber families are all empowered as relevant members of the human condition in his view. His photos of what we may perceive as a nondescript barn or a derelict car were the subjects for the cover of my first book, Casting Demons Into Swine. He also photographed and applied his technical skill to digitalize a Giclee print copied from the original of Paulette’s painting for further formatting into the cover of Prometheus Scorned.

To see more of Mark’s photography portfolio, visit his website: Mark Siragusa Photography

Chris Herron

I first met Chris as the escort for my daughter, Megan, on the day I wed Tina, ten years ago. As a side note—this was the first beau of Megan’s that had graced our home since she was in high school nearly ten years before—but that is another story. Chris is a graphic artist in Chicago who excels in design, especially that related to brands and emblems. He was the one who, during a discussion over convivial libations, in which I described the concept of electricity in earth, aka stray voltage, came up with the idea of the lightning in a bottle icon for Stray Voltage Press, and hence the namesake of my books. Chris picks up where the photography of Mark leaves off, taking the photos, book title, back cover info, and melding all into the cover, front and back. You could have a thirty minute discussion with him about fonts. I tasked Chris with trying to capture the dark themes (rabies outbreaks, serial barn arsonist, third book TBD) of the plots and settings, and he has brought it all together very well. If you want to explore just how far his vision can go, visit his website: Chris Herron Design

Hannah Gregus

The final synthesis of all the parts to make the cover a reality is performed by Hannah, the graphic designer at the local Lansing, Michigan, print shop, Minuteman Press. Hannah, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, has the cumbersome task of setting my Word files into print-ready format, advising me which fonts that she believes work best, then taking the files from Chris and aligning and trimming the cover. Additionally, to give the author’s copy version of my novels a bit of flair, Hannah designed and added individual sketches embedded within the text to help break the books into sections — this helps the reader pause and gives notice of a change in season, time, or sequence of events—but also adds a sense of place.   Like the artists before her, she has integrated the plot and setting of each book into her drawings.

I humbly thank Paulette, Mark, Chris, and Hannah, who have helped develop my novels beyond the literature, with visual insight that expresses my writing.