Wednesday, April 30, 2014


When I was sending out invitations to the YA Fantasy Blog Event I stumbled, quite by chance, upon the most amazing storybook illustrations.  It showed the work throughout the artist process, it was spectacular.  Here's what I saw

So I contacted Elisabeth Alba and asked if she would care to join in…timing was off on her end with several large projects in the works, one of which we'll be sharing today, so I quickly asked if she and her cohort would be open to come visit with us here at PLP…and that's how we all arrived here today.  The more I  studied and researched about these two remarkable people, the more I wanted to share with you.  So please do enjoy your introduction to Heidi Bolton and Elisabeth Alba.  Make sure you visit their sites if you would like a real treat as to how an author and an illustrator can share their world.  And for participating in today's special post, I will be happy to
gift a copy of H.B. Bolton's first book, 
The Serpent's Ring, Book One of the Relics of Mysticus, 
to someone who leaves a compelling comment about the 
author and why they would like one…thx for stopping by,
 and as always, leave us a comment so we know you 
were here…enjoy! PLP.



"for "The Last Days of Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly, 
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers"


"The Premiere of Star Wars at the Chinese Theater for 
"I Am George Lucas" by Scholastic"

"The Shadowhunter's Codex" by Cassandra Clare, 
Simon &Schuster"

"The Monster Realm by Nara Duffie -"


 I was hunting through blogs looking for people to invite to our event when I saw this blow by blow of an incredible cover illustration transformation from beginning to end.  I was floored.  The detail and the flow of the work was inspiring to me as an artist and I  instantly wanted to know more about the person behind these terrific paintings.  One thing led to another and now we’re here today with both the Illustrator and the Author of the books the paintings were for.

1.  Elisabeth how the heck did you get this good?  Did you study, or is it something that comes naturally...when did you know you were this talented?

Elisabeth: Years and years of practice doing something I enjoy. I was always drawing when I was little. I just couldn't stop. In middle school and high school I drew a lot of fanart – that is, art based on books/media that I liked. I was really into Japanese animation, so I drew a lot of characters in that style. Before that I was into Tiny Toons, so I drew characters like that. Over time, from constantly drawing and studying art and anatomy, I started to get better – arms stopped being too short, necks stopped being too long, for example – and I started developing my own style that didn't rely on someone else's style.

High school is when I really became interested in fantasy art and 'pretty ladies in pretty gowns.' In college I had to take a lot of 'fine art' classes and learned new paint skills, and in my free time I delved into the Harry Potter fandom and made a lot of artwork based on the books and fanfiction. This has all just been practice to get to where I am now, and I'm still learning! One of the great things about being an illustrator—I'm either learning new things because of researching for projects, or trying out new materials, or just getting better with lighting and anatomy. Being an artist is being a lifelong student!

I am also an avid reader and my favorite books are historical fiction, YA, middle grade books, fantasy and scifi books... so I enjoy drawing the genres that I read, and that is how I got into illustration, the thought that I could illustrate these types of books that I adore so much.

2.  How did you and Heidi find each other?

Elisabeth: A fun story! Heidi was my art teacher throughout high school. She was one of my favorite teachers, and I was in at least 3 classes with her, including AP art. I believe she was in graduate school at the time, so she wasn't one of those ancient stuffy art teachers giving boring assignments. She was one of us! And she let us make work we were passionate about. She is one of the reasons that I kept up with art and made it my career. We lost touch for a while until one of my other favorite HS teachers who I've kept up with, my AP English teacher, messaged me that she had a possible illustration assignment for me. It was for Heidi! So that was in 2012 and the Dragon's Egg is my third book cover for her. It has been a great to reconnect with Heidi and to have this fun middle grade adventure with her!

Heidi: Thanks, Elisabeth I’m happy to hear I wasn’t a “stuffy” art teacher. Elisabeth has always been a talented artist — even in high school. I love the rich colors she uses and the unique perspective she chooses for her drawings. I’m extremely fortunate to have been reconnected with her and even luckier to have such an amazing artist design my covers. 

3.  What’s it like to interpret someone else’s idea?  Are you a strong voice in what the cover eventually becomes?

Elisabeth: It can be challenging at times but I've found with most of my clients that it becomes a really fun brainstorming process. As an illustrator that has studied book covers and the publishing industry, and has been working in it for some time, I'd say I have a lot of knowledge about what makes a better book cover, the kind that would attract viewers. Many times an author gives me an idea of theirs that has way too many characters or too much going on and it needs more focus. Heidi has always been great about just giving me simple ideas and letting me roll with them. There are specific things I need to follow such as costumes, objects, locations, and colors, but overall she is open to my thoughts on the composition.

Heidi: Elisabeth seems to have an innate understanding of what I’m looking for without my having to over-explain an idea to her. It’s easy to work with her, and we’re definitely on the same page.   

4.  Heidi, this one is for you.  I think you lucked out tremendously having Elisabeth design your covers, they are so appealing it makes you want to look closer, so, well done you.  However, you are not without merit on your own standing.  You have two Award Finalist titles for your series, Relics of Mysticus, which is aimed at higher middle grade-young adult readers.  The first book, The Serpent’s Ring, dives into some mythology and the gods there of, is this something you studied or were simply attracted too?

Heidi: I wanted to major in Humanities when I began college. I studied most of the time periods and have always been fascinated with mythology. After taking a few art studio courses, I decided to switch my major to art education. Mythology is prevalent throughout art history and says so much about each culture.   

As a child, I would dive into fantasy stories such as Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and so many others. As an adult, I still feel the thrill and enchantment of such stories. C.S. Lewis once said, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” My love for adventure inspired me to create my own story, my idea of what a hero should be, and my vision of other realms. 

I wanted to include a quest where an average kid could encounter supernatural creatures, trinkets, and foods. I considered how to tie multiple books and multiple adventures together. That was when the idea of visiting a land where all of the great myths existed came to me. My characters would be able to visit multiple realms of mythology where they would be able to have many exciting escapades.

In The Serpent’s Ring, Evan and Claire travel — via the “rainbow bridge” — to Asgard and encounter their first goddess, Vor (she knows literally everything). I chose Norse mythology because of my family’s heritage — my father’s name is Thor (short for Torval). I’ve always felt connected with Norway and needed to start there. 

5.  I also find in the second book, The Trickster’s Totem, you explore the Native American philosophy with the coyote who represents the trickster, and you delve a bit into other animals who are part of their Spirit world. You even mention why dragons are present.  I find this super interesting and exciting and I’m looking forward to reading your books to see how you actually incorporate this idea into a ya fantasy.  So it appears you are a student of to expand?

Heidi: I appreciate that you find it interesting. I enjoy trying to wrap my mind around different beliefs and ideas. Philosophy intrigues me. In fact, my first novel was based off an idea I found on the TV show Star Trek: The New Generation. In one episode, an alien space probe linked itself to the captain’s mind. He lived an entire lifetime in the span of a few minutes. He even learned how to play a musical instrument. 

I imagined what it would be like to live in someone else’s memory, and voila, the premise for Glimmers was created. In the book, the lead character has the ability to touch an object that once belonged to someone else and become pulled into one of her memories. Just to relieve any confusion, this book’s written under my middle name, Barbara Brooke.      

6.  And finally in the third book, The Dragon’s Egg you touch on the mystical land of Atlantis.  It sounds like you are taking your young characters on a very magical journey through different worlds of thought, all while keeping it set in adventure and fantasy, not in a preachy or in your face made these ideas fun.  I wonder where your characters will head to next, maybe another planet?

Heidi: Maybe one day I’ll write a series based on another planet. I like the sound of it. My next series will have to do with alien abduction, so it could work. For now, there are so many different realms of mythology and legends that my characters could visit. It’s difficult to choose where to send them next. The Dragon’s Egg explores the realms of Medieval Legends, Avalon, and Atlantis, so it is rather mystical. The fourth book, The Mummy’s Amulet, will take my characters through Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, and Mayan mythological realms.  

7.  Typically my last question is always related to the dedication of the author’s book...however, since we are not doing a typical interview here I’d like to point out a couple more things for you both to comment on.

First I'd like to acknowledge that Elisabeth just recently worked on some map designs for Bill O'Reilly's new book about Jesus, for kids.  Now maps…that's an interesting thing to me because nothing takes the fantasy a step further than a cool map of the world we are exploring in an author's story.  Your maps are spectacular!  I so wish I could do this, it's really a gift.  What is it about maps that you love doing so much, and what does it take to get the details so right on?

Elisabeth: I had no idea that I would enjoy making maps so much. I did a commission in early 2012 that involved making a map on top of other more usual paintings/drawings. I was a bit nervous about it at first since I'd never drawn one before. But I have always loved a good map at the beginning of a book, and looking at maps that come with video games that I've played. So I did that one map (this one: and it has led to all my other map work! And I love them! It is a refreshing change from working on a big painting. It's like working on a puzzle (and I love putting puzzles together). And I like being able to help authors visualize their worlds.

If the map is for a fantasy world, I usually have the author give me a rough sketch of where they think everything should go. It's too difficult to describe that in words. I then give them my own rough sketch with everything in place and we discuss what needs moved around, if anything is missing, etc. Sometimes I notice things that the author hasn't realized was needed. For example, once I had to include a water mill in the map. It was an important location. But there was no description for a stream or river! So the author realized she had to put a river next to the mill.

In the case of the maps of Jerusalem for the Bill O'Reilly book, this was less imagination and more trying to nail everything accurately. I had to look at satellite images and make sure everything was to scale, and figure out how to highlight certain buildings and make them stand out in a cluttered city.

Also, both of you have AMAZING websites!  Seriously, Heidi, yours is so unique and engaging, it really introduces your books so perfectly.  Not too much, no fuss, just a magical little parchment that explains it all.  How did you come up with your design?  How is it going with your promotion of your work, because it looks to me as you should be selling like crazy?  Your story’s synopsis grabs your immediate attention and you just want to read them all.  To me if you can write a good blurb, that’s a pretty good indication that you probably can write a good book, so again, well done you!  Anything you’d like to add?

Heidi: Wow, thanks. Truthfully, I’ve only just started down my literary path, but have been happy with the positive feedback on my books. I’ve visited many schools and enjoy seeing the student’s faces light up with excitement over my stories. It’s the best part of my journey. 

As far as my website, I liked the idea of having it look like it was hand drawn. I wanted to build/design my own webpage and discovered Wix. I learned how to navigate the site and have been piecing together my webpages ever since.    

And Elisabeth, when I first went to your website I was blown away!  That piece with the girl with the flowing red hair, it’s truly perfection.  Your choice in color and tone really set you apart from other artists...especially with your maps...I LOVE LOVE LOVE the muted greens and blues...when I attempted this it just simply did not gel for me, it’s frustrating to say the least...I’m a bit of a fan in case you haven’t guessed.  I’m assuming you put your website together yourself, it’s beautiful.  So what’s in the queue for you?

Elisabeth: Thank you! I've been making my own website for years, and I try to keep it pretty simple to make, update, and peruse. I learned some HTML codes and use Dreamweaver. Another reason for making a simple website, which also doesn't have too many colors or graphics, is because I want the art to be easier to see on its own. No distractions!

I have a few projects lined up. I just finished illustrating chapter headers, a map, and a book cover for an awesome young author, Nara Duffie ( I am about to start working on a map for a lodge in the Catskills in New York. I am also designing a psychedelic 1960s style poster for a family friend's rock band. I am making work for upcoming conventions where I sell original paintings and drawings and prints – Gen Con in Indianapolis mid August and IlluXCon in Allentown, PA, mid September. I have a day job at the moment so I try not to take on too much at once!

You can find Elisabeth Alba at:




You can find H.B. Bolton at


  1. It Is so beautiful I just <3 It.

    1. I thought of you went I put this reminded me of your site with all your favorite illustrations..maybe you'll find a couple here to add..thx for following, I really appreciate it!

  2. Thanks for inviting Elisabeth and me to be a part of your blog. You put a lot of thought into your questions, and I enjoyed answering them :)

  3. Thank you, June! I'd love to see more interviews between the author and illustrator, especially for book covers. Many times, it's all through the publisher and the artist and author don't even get to speak together!

    1. I'm so glad I could do this for you both…you're truly talented individuals who found a home with each other…good luck!
      thx again June

  4. Wow...wowww...seriously. I'm blown away! The books look great and I'm truly amazed by the art. I wish I could find something like that for a picture book I wrote years ago!
    I'll definitely be checking out the books though and sharing them with my sister. I think her kids will love them :).

    1. Yeah, amazing huh? Go check out Heidi's website, first off it's totally original and so cool for a Fantasy author, and it gives a really great blurb about the book…I want to read it! thx for stopping by!