“Artist” or “Introducing Wilderhark’s Shapes-and-Colorsmith”

Those of you who have received Seven Swans a-Winning prizes from me (which I think is all or most of those who should have, right? I’ve seen some happy photos via Facebook and Twitter ^-^) may have noticed the gorgeous set of bookmarks that came with your goodies. Certainly, you’ve all seen the beautiful cover of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales”, right?

Well, the same talented “one who practices an art; especially, one who creates objects of beauty” is behind all of the above. I came across her lovely gallery on DeviantArt (feast your eyes!), messaged her a pitch about creating my “Wilderhark Tales” art, crossed my fingers and mumbled prayers. Receiving her “yes” was almost as exciting as a contract offer from a publisher (which, thanks to J. Taylor Publishing, is a feeling I’ve come to know). Gazing at the work she’s done for me never fails to put a smile in my heart. And today, I am sooooo happy to present to you… an interview with Yana Naumova!

Yana ID

Me: Introduce yourself to the readers, if you please!

Yana: Hello! My name is Yana Naumova, I’m 25, and I live in the beautiful city of Samara in Russia.

Me: When did you decide you wanted to create art professionally, and how did you get started?

Yana: I was very fond of painting since childhood, and I devoted all my free time to this occupation. I’ve always had a lot of albums and notebooks completely filled with various drawings. I imagined drawing whole books with fantastic stories that consist only of pictures. My parents always encouraged my interest in creativity; they often drew and sculpted with me in the evenings. My father told me various stories about the artists and about the time he went to art school. I think it had a great influence on who I am now.

At the age of ten, my parents sent me to a children’s art school. There I learned the basics of drawing and got an idea what I would be faced with if I chose the artist’s profession. I caught a good teacher who encouraged pupils to experiment. At 16, I entered the Pedagogical University to the fine arts. Getting an art education has become for me a solid foundation in my artistic development, and prepared me to move on to independence.

Me: What is your creative process like?

Yana: My creative process from the external point of view is quite simple – I just sit and draw something, sometimes at my working place, sometimes on my bed. From inside it resembles dreams – I’m trying to grasp suitable forms and lines, to determine the color, to convey feelings and mood, as if you create or unravel the mystery of a series of characters/symbols.

Me: What are your favorite subjects to paint/draw, and why?

Yana: I love to experiment with methods and techniques of drawing, but most of all I like to paint landscapes and fairy scenes; I like to create illustrations for the stories. This process fascinates me!

Me: How would you describe your style?

Yana: This is a hard question. I can only identify the main lines of my work, which were formed under the influence of Art Nouveau and symbolism.

Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.
Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.

Me: ( It was her work’s Art Nouveau-esque qualities that first caught my eye. It’s just what I wanted for depicting Wilderhark!) What has it been like collaborating with me on the “Wilderhark Tales” project? (*sweats bullets awaiting my performance review*)

Yana: Taking part in this project was fun and easy for me. I was really inspired by the characters and story, and we’ve got comfortable and fascinating discussion of the characters. You have created the most favorable conditions for my creative work, and your comments and remarks were very appropriate.

Me: (Hooray! I’m so pleased to hear it. ^-^) Which of the “Swan Prince” characters did you most enjoy bringing to visual life?

Yana: I can’t choose, I think that I loved to draw them all 🙂 I liked to draw Doctor Deere’s face, trying to express his thoughtfulness and calmness. It was fun to work with ‘plumpness’ of characters; at first I somewhat succumbed to the stereotype that all fantasy characters should be skinny and starving 😉 It was quite refreshing to look at corrected/finished picture of Sula.

(MeSula may or may not take that as a compliment. XD But I certainly do!)

Y: One more thing – some days after I drew Sigmund, I entered your gallery and was amused that one of his pictures resembled my work a lot (his pose and appearance). I’m sure that I didn’t see this work before.

Me: (I was tickled by the similarities, too! Click here to compare for yourselfif you like, readers. It’s such a joy to have my characters’ selves shine through in the work of another artist – especially an artist with so much more skill than I’ve got!)

Thank you so much for agreeing to let my readers meet you, Yana! (Double brownie points for answering all my nosy questions in a secondary language; her mad skillz trump mine again, folks!) And while I’ve already thanked you a hundred times for your Wilderhark drawings, prepare to be thanked a hundred times more, from me and my outstandingly-rendered characters, too! After all, we’ve still got five more novellas to go… (:

“Cover” or “If It’s Anything to Judge By, This Book is a Beauty!”

Be honest: You totally judge books by their covers. And if you don’t, congratulations, you’re a less judgmental person than I am.

A sub-par cover by itself may not be enough to turn me off a book completely, any more than a gorgeous, exciting, distinctive cover will guarantee I love the story behind it. But I’ll take the latter over the former, any day!

For the cover of my first fairytale novella, “The Swan Prince”, I had the following criteria:

One, it had to be pretty. Because I like pretty art; and my “Wilderhark Tales” series, while it might occasionally have to deal with some less-than-attractive circumstances, has an overall pretty vibe.

Two, it had to feature at least one main character. Because I judge books by their characters more than I do by their covers. My characters are the stars of this production, and I want to show them off!

Three, it had to stand out from the crowd. Because individuality is a big deal to me. I don’t want book covers that look like a thousand others or follow a trend. I want book covers that say Danielle E. Shipley wrote ‘em. …and not just because they’ll be wearing my name.

And, oh, yeah, four: It had to look better than anything I could put together on my own.

So, with all that in mind, here it is. BEHOLD!

Swan Prince Cover, E-book


What I can’t take credit for: The wow-some art. That was created at my commission by the majorly talented Yana Naumova, known on DeviantArt as yanadhyana. She also drew up a set of fantastic character-themed bookmarks, which you can bet will be finding their way into some giveaways, soon… ^^

What I can take credit for: The insertion of the words, their font, color, and placement chosen with agonizing care. Not as impressive as the scene behind the words, I know…but hey, that scene’s inspired by the story I wrote; that counts for something, right?

In any event, here’s what it says on the back cover:


* * *

Catching her leg in a bear trap proves the least of Sula’s worries.

Haunted by an enchanted monster

from a past she dare not reveal, and hounded by

the perilously perceptive young village doctor, Villem Deere,

the headstrong girl of the woods gambles with fate

by binding hers to that of Sigmund, the captivating orphan boy

with mysterious nightly business of his own.

The Swan Prince

Book One of The Wilderhark Tales

<> ~ <> ~ <>

An enchantress’s curse turns a spoiled royal into a beast;

A princess’s pricked finger places her under a hundred-year spell;

Bales of straw are spun as golden as the singing harp

whisked down a giant beanstalk –

all within sight of Wilderhark, the forest that’s seen it all.

You’ve heard the stories –

of young men scaling rope-like braids to assist

the tower-bound damsel; of gorgeous gowns

appearing just in time for a midnight ball;

of frog princes, and swan princes,

and princes saved from drowning by maidens of the sea.

Tales of magic. Tales of adventure. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew them as fairytales.

Know them now as Wilderhark’s.

* * *

“The Swan Prince” is scheduled to release on May 31st (never mind that I really don’t want to wait that long! XD ), and will be available in paperback and e-book formats. Is anybody else excited? Because I very much am! (If you need an outlet to help contain your zeal, feel free to add “The Swan Prince” to your “to be read” list on Goodreads. Not the same as owning the book now, now, now, I know, but it’s a start!)