Almost exactly a year ago, I was working on a project and was in need of a collaborator. I needed another creative soul to add a little magic to the mix. That’s when the enigmatic A. Ommus put me in contact with Orrin Grey.
After some search engine stalking, I discovered Orrin’s website. More importantly, I discovered his short story for Innsmouth Free Press, “Nature vs. Nurture”.
I read it twice. In one sitting, back to back.
Orrin had me at Lovecraftian fiction. His writing was creepy clean and honest. I knew I had to work with him. So I drafted an introductory email, letting Orrin know why he was getting random email from a stranger. Orrin was kind enough to respond.
We talked about my project. We talked about other projects. We did a lot of talking. Lovecraft. Hellboy. Hammer films. Pulp era heroes. Frog men. Apocalyptic future landscapes. We share a great deal of inspirations and, one year later, we’re still talking. When everything shakes out, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Speaking of warnings…
Somewhere along the way, Orrin mentioned he was working on a collection of his stories, titled Never Bet the Devil and Other Warnings. While we planned our inevitable world domination, I had to get in on the collection in some way or another. I volunteered my artistic services and began illustrating spot illustrations to accompany each of the stories in the collection.
Being a fan of Orrin’s writing, I devoured each tale. It’s easy to get lost in his narrative. Orrin leads you down a road, using human emotion and conviction for breadcrumbs. But then you find yourself in a dark corner of the forest shivering for dear life. Informed by the primal nuances and grisly details of each story, I went on a tear and put brush to paper. When the smoke finally cleared, I created a handful of drawings to compliment Orrin’s prose.
The devil had guts. Now he needed a face.
A book cover is a daunting task to create. On first glance it has to draw attention while suggesting more. It has to make you want to open the book and read. That’s not easy. And being a fan of Orrin’s work, I couldn’t fathom working on the cover for his collection. I didn’t want to be the weak link. The spot illustrations are trimmings. But the cover is, well, the cover.
Evileye Books eventually picked up the collection. They have good taste, considering they’re also publishing my upcoming crime series and a graphic novel. I’m not sure if the conversation happened at gunpoint, and if it did I’m legally bound to say it didn’t, but Ommus convinced me to give the cover a shot. I hesitated. I wavered. Ultimately, the competitor in me reared its ugly head and, once again, I put brush to paper.
A title as rich as Never Bet the Devil and Other Warnings evokes a myriad of ideas. But when you get to the crux of the cautionary assertion, I imagine a desperate soul facing off against Old Scratch himself in a life-changing game of poker. And we both know the poor guy doesn’t have a chance in, ahem, hell.
So the creative wheels did some spinning…
The late nights piled up…
After some editorial back and forth with Evileye, the devil took a pleasing shape…
It was an honor to work on this cover. Orrin is one hell of a storyteller and I’m glad to be a small part of this collection. If the cover acts as the catalyst for someone to discover Orrin’s work, then I did my job. Just don’t blame me when you wake up in a dark corner of the forest shivering for your life.
That’s all Orrin.