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Inside the Creative Mind of Willsin Rowe

Lightning_320KD: It’s my pleasure to have cover designer and erotic author Willsin Rowe on my site today to talk about designing book covers.  Welcome, Willsin! I’m so excited to have you here on A Hopeful Romantic, especially since I know you are going to be shedding light on that greatest of all mysteries which plagues both writers and readers. THE BOOK COVER! Could you start by telling us a bit about the multi-talented Willsin Rowe and how you got into book cover design.

WR: I first took a stab at writing erotica in late 2005. I entered a contest from a small publisher called Aphrodite Unlaced, and was fortunate enough to win. That publisher folded in early 2008, but I well and truly had “the bug” by then! I managed to turn out a couple of stories that were picked up at Excessica, which was still a pretty new endeavour. At that time, Excessica ran as an “author collective”, meaning any extra skills authors could bring to the table were well appreciated. I’d been working in graphic design and page layout for about 20 years at that time, so I put my hand up to try cover art, and I seemed to have some measure of ability at it. (shown throughout this post are some of Willsin’s favourite covers that he has designed)

KD: A question I know readers and writers all want to know the answer to is who actually chooses the book cover designs? How much input does the writer get if any?

WR: I work both as a “solo artist” and also with a publisher, Novel Concept Publishing. I’ve also made covers for Red Phoenix and for Secret Cravings (in both cases it was for anthologies to which I was contributing a story). For the solo stuff, the author always has final approval since it’s their baby, and I’m in their employ for the duration of the work. I certainly make suggestions and point out difficulties where I see them, but in all cases the author gives the final approval. In the work I do with publishers, the author has a large measure of input, but the editorial team also guide the process (and do a dandy job of it, I must say!)

SoulstoneKD: How much do you have to know about a book before you design the cover? Do you actually read every book?

WR: Oh, no…I’m such a slow reader. I have never been able to allow myself to skip sections, or even to skim, so I read every word. For that reason I couldn’t afford the time to read every book I make a cover for. Essentially, I work from a book blurb if one is available. I do have a form that I send to clients, which covers both tangible and intangible elements. Character descriptions and time period, for instance, as well as mood and feel. From the information within, I often get a clear “story” for a cover. And sometimes authors have a strong and clear vision going into the project. It’s not always a workable vision, of course, because of the inherent limitations of stock imagery. We’ll find, say, the perfect model but not the right pose, or completely unsuitable clothing. Some elements can be worked around, such as hair colour, skin tone, eye colour. I’ve adjusted clothing at times, too. I once added a bra between a pair of naked breasts and the hands that were cupping them!

KD: Where do you get your inspiration for your fabulous cover designs?

WR: Mostly from the words; the descriptions which the authors provide. Words were my first love, after all! I think creatively in words and music far more than in pictures, and then kind of translate the words into imagery. I don’t actually consider myself particularly creative in a visual sense. I can draw very well in pencil on paper, but only if I’m reproducing an image I’m looking at. For example, here’s a drawing I created in 1986 of my favourite band, Big Country.


I was very strong in Technical Drawing at high school, and have a strong sense of what I call physical correctness. I strive to keep lighting and toning consistent when combining imagery. If the background scene is lit from the left, then any people or objects I cut out and place in there need to be lit from the left, too. I feel I do false shadows very well. And skin tones. I’ve received many compliments for my skin tones, such as on Selena Kitt’s “Taken” and on my own co-written title, “In The Dark”.



KD: Do you have any contact with the writer during the design process?

WR: A lot of contact. Possibly to an annoying level for the writer! I’ll get them to check out models before I put virtual pen to paper, for example. And we discuss what kind of scenes might work. Covers aren’t always literal, of course. But when they are, they often need to encapsulate large chunks oftime into a single moment.

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KD: Could you talk us through the process? How long does it take from start to finish?

WR: Oh, there’s no one answer to that! My record was something like 9 months! That was at the author’s request, and I wasn’t working constantly on it all the time. There was an enormous gap between finalising the e-book cover and then adapting it to print. Other times, there have been long and complex stories which the author and I have managed to condense to a clear and simple cover in basically a single step. Sommer Marsden is a great one for that kind of cover. She likes them simple, and is far keener on overall feel than intricate details. Selena Kitt also champions feel over fact. That being said, it often happens that a cover which looks simple can have untold intricacies within it. A good example of this would be the Wanderlust cover I made for Sommer Marsden.

We start with the base image:


It’s a nice image, and a great starting point. The very light sepia tinge is nice, but it wasn’t strong enough to suit the story. So I squeezed in a hint of burnt orange.


I also added some darkness at the bottom of the image to accommodate the titles. But there’s a problem with this image…she has those pesky shoes in her hand. Thanks to the wonderful trickery of Photoshop and its handy cloning tool, hey presto and they’re gone!


So I’ve coloured the image, created some workable space for text, and stolen her shoes. The next step is to start introducing the titles.


We wanted to go for a font which reflected solidity and fragility at the same time. I loved this font instantly, because it has an inherent strength and crispness, much like Helvetica has. But it has all that subtle and wondrous distressing on it…as if it’s been weathered by time. I loved the visual metaphor of that, considering Really, the female lead in the story, comes from money but feels broken and lost. Sommer herself always – and I mean always – likes to keep her name small. She’s all about the story. So I made her name a little weathered, a little wraith-like…and, of course, little.


Then I added a graphic element to help indicate movement, travel, direction…all that stuff! I went for arrows to suggest compass points and motion, and I weathered them to keep with the theme.


Then there was the all-important tag line. Again, following the theme of weathered and wraith-like. Plus the break in the middle where I split the level just adds to the feel of displacement. But while the titles are nice and weathered, the image is still quite clean and crisp. Best we do something about that! And this is what we did…


This image of old textured paper was the answer. I took that and overlaid it on the image, which resulted in this:


Finished, right? Well, almost… The only issue to address now is the fact that the young woman just doesn’t quite leap out at us the way she should. And we got around that by adding darkness to the trees. Like so:


So there you have it! The story of a relatively simple cover. If memory serves, that took about three days from go to whoa. Of course, part of that was the fact that I’m in Australia and Sommer’s in the USA. Time zone issues obviously mean that there are plenty of waking hours for me that are sleeping hours for her…and vice versa. In total I think it was about four hours work.


KD: How has the fact that you are also a fiction writer affected your work asa cover designer? How has the fact you’re a cover designer affected your writing?

WR: Being a writer allows me to see “the other side”. I believe I tread quite gently with cover art, and that I listen quite well (for a man!) And it truly helps me to create visual metaphors, and to see a story in a static image. As for how designing affects writing? Well, one way is that being a cover artist means I have less time for writing. That’s not a major factor, though, since I don’t have an Evil Day Job any more. And the positive effect of cover creation is that it pokes parts of my brain which writing doesn’t, and it creates mental links which might otherwise not be there. Like the old “pat your head and rub your tummy” exercise. It makes my brain more flexible, and open to unusual ideas. (Plus I get to scan stock sites for hot chicks and call it “work”!)

KD: Tell us a little bit about Willsin Rowe, the writer. What are you working on now?

Submission Therapy_320WR: I’m in the early stages of breaking in a new pen name for some stories which just don’t suit Willsin Rowe. I’ve been co-writing with a friend in the US, Katie Salidas, for nigh on a year. We have a three-part series called “Consummate Therapy”, which has taken the idea of Billionaire BDSM and given it a small but interesting twist – we have a female billionaire who needs to learn the art of submission! (By the way, book one in the series, “Submission Therapy” is FREE!)

We also have a series of ménage stories we’re currently working on. Katie also writes a lot of vampire fiction, both erotic and urban fantasy and she’s inspired me to take the plunge in that field as well. So I’m also putting the finishing touches to my first ever vampire erotica. Well, it’s more an erotic romance, truly.

KD: And what is Willsin Rowe, the cover designer working on now?

WR: Oh, I generally have anything from 4-10 covers going at any one time. I recently finished a set of nine Selena Kitt covers, for her upcoming Modern Wicked Fairy Tales. I’ve also done a stack of covers for Jason Halstead, whose work rolls easily between sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and adventure. Jason’s the best kind of problem client, too…he packs an enormous amount of action into each story, so it becomes quite difficult to narrow down exactly what we’ll put on his cover! That’s a nice problem for a cover designer. And currently I’m putting all the little finishing touches on a cover for a relatively new Aussie author, Lotta Bangs. She’s written so many stories, though, that she actually has two artists creating covers for her! While her covers often look reasonably simple, they actually push me pretty hard.

Lost Girls Half Size NewerKD: What’s the best part about being a cover designer? The worst?

WR: It’s a bit soppy, I suppose, but the best part is the networking. I’ve met so many folk through cover art and I strongly doubt I’d have met most of them otherwise. It’s made me some friends, given me contacts and allowed me to expand my global empire! The worst part…well, it’s something that happens only on odd occasions. It’s when a cover just refuses to come together. Sometimes I come up with a concept that I’m sure will work, but I just can’t find imagery to suit it. Other times, it’s almost the opposite: I’ll have the right woman, the right man, the right background…and they just don’t fit together. Making a cover that ends up completely wrong actually takes just as much time as getting it right!

KD: What does Willsin Rowe do for entertainment when not designing covers or writing hot fiction?

WR: My main entertainment pursuit is actually the third string to my bow. I play bass in a swampy blues/rock/folk/country band called The Medicine Show. I use another alias for that project, though: Burnin’ Log Dawkins. I also design most of our posters and CD artwork, and I created a few music videos for us as well. We had a couple of songs on iTunes in 2011-12, but circumstances with our distributor changed and we felt the need to step back from all of that. We’re in the process of building ourselves up in a new direction, including a travelling show that harks back to the old days of Vaudeville.

KD: What are some of your favourite covers you’ve created?

WR: There are so many! I’m closing in on 250 covers created. But for various reasons (sometimes simplicity, sometimes complexity, sometimes just the “secret cover artists’ business” that makes intricacy look simple), these are an assortment of my favourites. (also see above)

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About Willsin Rowe

Willsin Rowe falls in love with a scent, a playful expression or an act of casual intimacy more easily than with physical beauty. When confronted by any combination of those elements he is a lost cause. He has done many things over and over, done even more things only once, and half-done more things than he cares to admit. He loves to sing and doesn’t let his voice get in the way. He is intelligent but not sensible. He is passionate but fearful. He is not scruffy enough or stylish enough to be cool.

Blog: http://willsinrowe.blogspot.com.au/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willsin.rowe




Katie Salidas & Willsin Rowe Share the Story Behind their Consummate Therapy Series

I’m very excited to welcome Katie Salidas and Willsin Rowe  on their virgin visit to a Hopeful Romantic to share with us the story behind their very intriguing Consummate Therapy Series.

Willsin: Let’s see…billionaire? Check! BDSM? Check! Just like seven thousand other titles out there? Well, let’s just wait a minute, shall we?

Those elements are probably the main ones people will notice if they happen across the books in the Consummate Therapy series. We have a billionaire, we’re employing BDSM, and it’s a romantic and erotic experience. Where we veer away from the current trend is by making our billionaire female. And making her the submissive.

Katie: Willsin, dear, we should probably add the caveat, we try to make her submissive. Natasha isn’t one to just submit easily. Where would the fun be in that? I mean, face it. If she was a billionaire just deciding to submit then we would be falling into another stereotype. Where Natasha really differs is that she is so resistant to the idea. “I have underlings for that,” she says. She feels that everyone is beneath her. Though she’s a tough egg to crack, she really and truly needs to be broken. And that’s exactly why Dr. Benson prescribes her “Radical Therapy.”

Willsin: Absolutely right, Katie. Without drama, a story is really just a bunch of words about people breathing. It’s Natasha’s resistance, and indeed her volatility, that makes her such a vital character. She’s a woman who readers will probably take a little while to warm up to. It may even take until the second book.

So anyway, we’ve bucked the trend to a certain degree, which probably doesn’t make great commercial sense. But what we’re doing here is to tell a believable story that has an element of gritty reality without shying away from the romantic elements.

Katie: And I think that extra “grit” as you say, is what makes the romantic elements  that much more believable. There is no sugar coating the relationship between Natasha and the Master. She’s given hard lessons to learn and only in that learning, and doing what Master demands of her can she hope to overcome her own issues and maybe even find real love, if there is such a thing?

Willsin: Well, we’ll have to wait until book 3 to find out, won’t we? (Is this the time for a judicious “muahahahaaaa”?) Another motivating factor for this series was as a response to the misapprehensions some people seem to have formed about the BDSM lifestyle. It’s not, as some may think, a viable outlet for cruelty or cold sadism. It’s not a place for disrespect, and it’s certainly not something to be tackled in earnest without a great deal of trust.

Katie: I have to chime in here yet again. Willsin is so right! The lifestyle is so misunderstood by the general populace. I’m not in that lifestyle, but in researching for our book, I learned how wrong I was about what really happens. It’s not just about spanking, or public humiliation. The root of it is trust. The master may test the limits of their sub, but in a safe, sane and consensual way, with the ultimate goal being mutual gratification. And that was what we wanted to do with Natasha. She needed her limits to be tested but the “Therapy” would only work if she could let her guard down and trust in the Master to not push her beyond her boundaries. It is a delicate line they walk, with the end result being a healthier outlook and a deeper understanding of each other.

Willsin: Sing it, sister. We were adamant about including those elements, and the beauty was that we each came to this story independently with those factors in mind: trust, respect and understanding. Wherever we have physical punishments, we have object lessons attached to them. This is no game for either Natasha or the Master. This is serious therapy and He is as determined for her to succeed as she is. That being said, though, it certainly does end up being a lot of fun.

Katie: And let me tell you, writing this series was totally fun! Willsin and I work very well together. We both saw the same vision and the story took shape before our very eyes!

Blurb Submission Therapy:

Billionaire CEO of Blakely Incorporated, Natasha runs her empire with an eagle eye for every detail. She’s an obsessive, compulsive, micromanaging hard-ass, consumed by the need to control every aspect of her life and her business.

But underneath that seemingly strong façade, Natasha is a swirling mess of anger, anxiety and sexual addiction. Only her therapist, Dr. Benson, knows how close she is to burning out…or exploding. He insists on a radical form of treatment – Submission Therapy – knowing that it’s her only hope.

Skeptical but intrigued, Natasha agrees to attend the first session. What she finds there is an erotically-charged environment that will forgive none of her habitual bad behavior. And a steely-eyed man who seems to read her every desire – even the ones she won’t admit to herself.

Will Natasha learn what it means to submit? Or will she allow her brittle pride to rob her of what she truly needs?

Excerpt Submission Therapy:

Master Sweet rested his hand back in my hair. “Natasha, it’s time to begin.”

He fisted that hand again, reigniting the heat in my scalp, while his other swept down my calf and stopped at my red-black two-toned peek-a-boo toe Louboutin pumps.

“What size do you wear, Natasha?” He drew the shoes off one at a time.


“Yet you have size eight feet.”

“Guys exaggerate their dicks, girls shrink their feet.”

He turned his already-tight fist, pulling a sharp breath into my lungs. “That kind of language is a privilege. One you’ve not earned.”

I couldn’t speak through the tension in my body, and I couldn’t nod without risking searing pain. Thankfully Master Sweet eased his grip just enough to allow my voice back.


“You will address me as Master Sweet, or simply Master.”

“Yes, simply Master.” I tensed up, ready for him to squeeze again. Instead he shocked me by pushing forward, overbalancing me until I was on hands and knees, my cheek buried in the carpet. His pelvis nudged up against my ass, and he was definitely packing something hard in there.

He took a long, deep breath in. “I do so enjoy these early stages.”

“Yes, Master,” said the toadying redhead.

He brought his free hand back down to my feet. He appeared to still be addressing his off-sider. “Look at the deep lines her shoes have carved. The rich redness of constriction.”

“Yes, Master.”

His breath seemed to falter for a moment. “It will be exquisite to see this all over her body.”

All over my body? What exactly was that supposed to mean? I should have known better. Never agree to a deal without the terms being spelled out in a contract. Business 101. “Listen, Mister Sweets. Unconventional sex therapy is one thing, but no one is putting any kind of marks on my body. Are we clear?” I threw his condescending words back at him.

“Do you understand what it means to submit?”

His callous tone caught me off guard, but I quickly recovered.

“I have underlings for that.”

“So you see submission as a form of weakness.”

“Absolutely. I bow to no one.”

“You do now. “ The finality of his words was chilling.

Need more therapy?

Occupational Therapy blurb:

Natasha’s experience at the hands of Master Sweet has left her both drained and enlightened. Wanting nothing more than to curl up against him for as long as she can, she is dismayed when he sends her home to dwell on all she’s learned.

But being a creature of habit, Natasha’s stubborn and rebellious nature leads her back into her old patterns, threatening to undo all her progress. When her symptoms return in full force, she begins to doubt not only the effectiveness of Submission Therapy, but also the motivations of her Master.

Learning of her disobedience, Master Sweet brings forward Natasha’s next session. But recognizing her behavior for what it is – a cry for attention – leads Him to change His approach dramatically. If Natasha thought her first lesson was hard…she’s in for a real eye-opener.

Does the embattled billionaire have the internal strength to earn back her Master’s trust? And how will she handle it when his intentions suddenly become even more serious?

Buy Submission Therapy here:



Buy Occupational Therapy here:



About Katie Salidas:

Katie Salidas is a Super Woman! Endowed with special powers and abilities, beyond those of mortal women, She can get the munchkins off to gymnastics, cheerleading, Girl Scouts, and swim lessons.  She can put hot food on the table for dinner while assisting with homework, baths, and bedtime… And, She still finds the time to keep the hubby happy (nudge nudge wink wink). She can do all of this and still have time to write.

And if you can believe all of those lies, there is some beautiful swamp land in Florida for sale…

Katie Salidas resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mother, wife, and author, she does try to do it all, often causing sleep deprivation and many nights passed out at the computer. Writing books is her passion, and she hopes that her passion will bring you hours of entertainment.





About Willsin Rowe:

Willsin Rowe falls in love with a scent, a playful expression or an act of casual intimacy more easily than with physical beauty. When confronted by any combination of those elements he is a lost cause. He has done many things over and over, done even more things only once, and half-done more things than he cares to admit. He loves to sing and doesn’t let his voice get in the way. He is intelligent but not sensible. He is passionate but fearful. He is not scruffy enough or stylish enough to be cool.






© 2018 K D Grace
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