Interview with book illustrator, Joanne Renaud

We want to give a huge book pusher welcome to Joanne Renaud. Joanne is a book illustrator that has worked with numerous publishers — some include: Simon and Schuster, Harcourt Inc, and Random House. Joanne is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Joanne is also the creator of our bootiful logo and header. Too see some of her work, please visit her portfolio: CLICK HERE

Bookpushers: Thank you sooo much for your logo & header! What draws you to the romance genre as an illustrator?

Joanne: I’ve been reading romance novels as long as I can remember– I’ve always loved romantic, sweeping historical drama, so digging romance seemed natural. I especially liked the cover art back in the ’70s and ’80s– Sanjulian, Pino Daeni and Allan Kass all did fantastic covers that captured my imagination.

Bookpushers: How much research time do you put into each project?

Joanne: It depends. Unless it’s something that is completely beyond my frame of reference, it will usually not take that long. I have a large collection of research books– and when that fails, there’s always the local library.

Bookpushers: How would you describe your style?

Joanne: Detail-oriented, organic, ornate, soft, atmospheric, well-researched… and definitely costumey!

Bookpushers:  You have a very strong romantic element to your designs. What do you love most about the genre?

Joanne: Hmmm, I like how unabashedly emotional, sensual and melodramatic it is. A good romance is like drinking a really good, rich, hot cup of spicy hot chocolate on a winter day. It’s somewhat decadent, but very satisfying.

Of course, a bad romance is like drinking stale quik-e cocoa mix with water heated up in a hotpot, but hey, you can’t have Jacques Torres all the time.

Bookpushers: To illustrate a book, do you have to read the whole book to get the feel of it or do you get sent a particular scene/abstract from a book?

Joanne: Most of the time I’m told very specifically what to illustrate, which is fine with me. The only times I’ve been given carte blanche to illustrate what I want is when I worked for the Astonishing Adventures and Dark Valentine ‘zines– that was awesome, but sometimes too much freedom is scary (especially when you’re on a deadline).

Bookpushers: Do you work off of pictures, live models, or just from scratch?

Joanne: All of the above. Depending on the pose, sometimes I can draw the figures out of my head– other times, I have to use photo ref. A few times I have to get people to pose for me and take pictures, which can be both fun, hilarious and aggravating.

Bookpushers: What is your dream project to illustrate for?

Joanne: I would love to paint a volume of grown-up fairy tales– something like Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber,” or Tanith Lee’s “Tales from the Sisters Grimmer.” Last year I wrote and illustrated “The Ash-Slave,” a version of Cinderella set in ancient Persia– it was my tribute to Tanith Lee. It was originally published by Dark Valentine, and I just put it up on Amazon for 99 cents. You can get it here:

Someday I’d like to write an entire book filled with illustrated fairy tales for grown-ups. Hopefully soon!

Bookpushers: How did you get started as an illustrator, and can you tell us what has been some of your favourite romantic works?

Joanne: Well I used to be a graphic designer, but I discovered that this wasn’t something I wanted to do full-time, so I went back to college for illustrate. I went to Art Center since my old graphic design prof spoke very highly of it. My favorite romantic paintings– other than Daeni, Kass, and Kinuko Craft illustrations I would see in books and magazines growing up– were many of the pre-Raphaelite paintings, like ones done by John Williams Waterhouse. I still enjoy looking at those a great deal.

Bookpushers: Who are some of your favorite illustrators? Your inspirational illustrators?

Joanne: Rebecca Guay is one of my favorite artists– I’ve actually met her in person several times, and she’s really gracious and wonderful to talk to. (Her paintings also look amazing when you see them in person.) The late Trina Schart Hyman is another favorite artist; I also love Valerie Valusek, Donato, Kinuko Craft, and Owen Smith.

For inspiration, I often like to go to the used book store and poke around, to see what I can find. I love it when I can find old DAW paperbacks, with cover art by George Barr or Gervasio Gallardo. They sure don’t make covers like that anymore, which is a shame.

Bookpushers: How long have you been reading romances for, and what genre to you love?

Joanne: I’ve been reading romances since forever, probably since I was 9 or 10 or so– I remember reading Marion Chesney back in the day, and being so uninterested in the sex that I just skimmed over them. A few years later I would reread the same books, and I would think, “OMG there’s sex in these books? How could I not remember?” And then of course I would reread the scenes avidly. Ah, adolescence.

I had my Regency phase in junior high, where I read piles of Heyer, Chesney and Veryan, and then I got into historical romances– the more unusual setting the better. In high school, I remember burying myself in Book World (a great, late used bookstore in Kent, WA) where I looked for every bodice-ripper with an ancient world setting. I found some great books (for example, “The Lady Serena” by Jeanne Duval aka Virginia Coffman) and a lot of really terrible ones.

Bookpushers: Do you ever get the desire to sketch out what you think a hero or heroine should look
like from the descriptions in the book?

Joanne: Hmmm, sometimes. It doesn’t happen that often.

Bookpushers: If you could name some romance authors you would love to illustrate for, who would they be and why?

Joanne: Unfortunately, there’s not a big call for illustrative romance covers any more, but if I could do covers for certain authors, I’d choose Stephanie Dray (aka Stephanie Draven) and Lauren Willig (her hero Turnip, from “The Mystery of the Mistletoe,” is too adorable). I would love to do covers for Anne Herries too– I really enjoyed her English Civil War trilogy.

Bookpushers: Can you tell us who your favourite romance authors are?

Joanne: I especially adore Tanith Lee and Gillian Bradshaw– they’re not genre-specific authors, but almost all of their books are centered on a love story. My favorite authors in the romance genre include the spectacularly talented (but sadly obscure) Sylvia Baumgarten (who wrote as Sylvia Rawlings and Sylvia Halliday), the amazing Gothic/romance/horror author Virginia Coffman, the much-loved Georgette Heyer, and newer contemporary paranormal authors like Christine Pope and Stephanie Draven. I also find Lauren Willig, Lynne Connolly, Laurie Viera Rigler and Michelle Styles to be really consistently enjoyable. But many of my favorite books are done by pretty obscure authors, many who published once and who were never heard from again. Here’s a list of my top eight favorite romance authors, which I originally wrote up on my old blog, and has been transferred to my new WordPress site:

Bookpushers: You have just been contracted for your debut novella romance. Can you tell us a little about it?

Joanne: It’s called “A Question of Time”– it’s a time travel romance, which I named after a Depeche Mode song. I was getting pretty hung up on all these complex historical epics I’ve been trying to write for years, so I decided to write something short and simple, which would not require a ton of research. I love time travel stories– so, I thought, why not write a time travel story where the heroine revisits her childhood? Which, in my case, would be the late 1980s. Here’s a brief synopsis:

“Successful author Celia Cavalotti is still mourning the death of her favorite teacher, who died in a car crash in 1989. But when a car crash of her own hurtles her back in time to the week of his death, she finally has a chance to set things right.

“Finding herself in the 1980s is a shock to the extremely modern Celia– but even more shocking is seeing her dead English teacher, Alan Forrest, alive before her very eyes. Alan is far more handsome than she remembers, and she can’t resist the urge to flirt. After all, they have so much in common, like writing and a shared love of science fiction. Celia knows she’s falling in love with him– but can she use this opportunity to prevent his tragic death? What is happening to her? And why can’t she seem to stay in one place and time?”

Bookpushers: What was your reaction when you got the call that your submission had been accepted?

Joanne: I jumped up and down and squealed like I’d won the lottery– then I told my cats that they were now going to be author cats. After all, isn’t that the dream of every cat?

Bookpushers: What plans do you have in the future for future books? What genres will you be writing in?

Joanne: I would like to write more time travel stories– I actually have a series planned. There’s one story set during the Great Depression, and another one after that set during WW2 France– and I have a few paranormal stories planned too. There will be more info on my new blog, so keep checking in:

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

2 thoughts on “Interview with book illustrator, Joanne Renaud”

  1. Pingback: I’m interviewed by the Book Pushers

  2. Sylvia Baumgarten

    What a delightful surprise to find Joanne’s kind comments here! I had pretty much stopped writing after 1997 (having dumped my husband and needing steadier work), but I’ve recently found an agent who is determined to “revive” my career, and Joanne’s remarks (especially on her linked 8 Favorites), was just the encouragement I needed to convince me I was on the right track!

    Sylvia Baumgarten (Louisa Rawlings, Sylvia Halliday)

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