Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: Art of The Vampire Noctuaries

Today, my guest author is Eric Muss-Barnes. You may know him from his vampire novels The Vampire Noctuaries. If you haven't discovered Eric's Gothic fiction yet, here's your chance as he talks about the artwork that helped him promote his books.

One of the aspects of my duology The Vampire Noctuaries I have always been most proud of is the artwork.

Back when I wrote the first book in the series, The Gothic Rainbow, I knew I wanted to create some cool fliers and images to go along with it. Although the sequel, Annwn's Maelstrom Festival: Concluding Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries was published in 2013, keep in mind, The Gothic Rainbow came out in 1997 and the Internet was just getting started. There was no such thing as social media yet. No job boards. No dating sites. Certainly no video streaming when everyone still had 56K modems. There was nothing. Therefore, if you wanted to market and promote something creative, you were still just going to coffeeshops on college campuses and posting fliers.

My three main resources for promoting my novel would be goth clubs, independent record stores, and punkrock clothing boutiques. Since my book was a dark and eerie vampire novel, set in the counterculture of the gothic/industrial nightclub scene, those locations contained my audience. Even in terms of printed promotions and reviews, I focused on things like underground and alternative music magazines, not literary ones.

All along, I knew this would mean I'd need really cool fliers.

The purpose behind the imagery wouldn't be to depict actual scenes in my novel, rather they would be created to elicit an emotional response - to give the same feel as the book; To put people in the correct mindset of the dreamy and surreal nightmare which are The Vampire Noctuaries.

Months before my novel was released, I started calling all my gorgeous punkrock and gothic friends from our club scene and began asking them to model for my Gothic Rainbow fliers. We were all just a bunch of kids, ranging from about 18 years old to 22 years old. We shot pictures in spooky cemeteries, and in makeshift livingrooms, and basements, and wherever else we could. All captured on film, of course. No digital cameras yet either. Then, I'd scan the 4x6 prints with a flatbed scanner and start playing around with them in Photoshop. All the digital manipulation was painstaking work, as computers were so wimpy back then, and a 20MB file could bring a system to its knees. Sadly, as a result, I don't have layered versions of any original fliers because I simply didn't have enough memory or storage space to save them. I'd have to work on an image in a few layers, flatten it, work on it more, flatten it again. That was the only way I could get anything done without the whole system crashing on me.

Not only did I composite these cool gothic images to use on fliers and postcards, but I also made some fliers that were pure text. White fonts on a black background. They were all written in second-person and had very poetic and dismal descriptions of why you need to read The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries and why it appeals directly to the kind of person you are.

All of this worked better than I could have imagined.

Word got around town about these fliers and this book. When I started doing my initial promotions, before the book was released, I had a booth set up at a goth music festival and kids were coming up to me, asking me for extra copies of the fliers to autograph them. Several teenagers told me they had them hung up in their bedrooms as posters. I was stunned. At first, I figured they were pulling my chain. I thought they were ridiculing me. Slowly, I began to realize, they were completely serious. You want my autograph, on a flier, for a book that hasn't even been released yet? Really?

One kid even said he wanted to get a tattoo of the logo from the front cover of The Gothic Rainbow. Don't know if he ever did that, but the fact he even thought about it was mindblowing to me.

A local fantasy artist whom I really respect, Joe Vargo, complimented me on my "artwork", telling me how talented I was. In fact, when Joe first met me, he didn't even know I was a novelist. He assumed the fliers and the images were the art I was promoting! He didn't realize they were nothing but advertisements for a book.

To everyone else, these weren't just ads.

This was art. What? Artwork? These are nothing but fliers! That's how I saw them. This wasn't "art"... was it?

That was the first time I began to take the artwork a lot more seriously. Maybe I had something here. Maybe the creation of these images was more than just promotions for my book. The fliers-deemed-artwork had taken on a life of their own and were resonating with people in a way I never expected.

Therefore, I made a last-minute decision, before The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries went to press, I'd put copies of all the images in the back of the book and allow people to buy them as posters, if they were so inclined.

As it turned out, some of that artwork resulted in a bigger financial success than the book itself. Back in 2002, a very large national company stole some of my Gothic Rainbow artwork and started printing it in a "vampire journal" and were selling it in retail stores all across the county. We settled out of court and the funds from their copyright infringement allowed me the financial freedom to pick up and move to California in 2003. 

When the time came to release the sequel, Annwn's Maelstrom Festival: Concluding Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries, obviously, I needed to create a new set of images, to match the flavor of the first book. Although I shot a large amount of new portraits, I also went back and occasionally picked up a number of old photographs which had remained unused from The Gothic Rainbow: Beginning Volume of the Vampire Noctuaries publication.

Today, you can still download copies of the original text fliers for free or purchase copies of all the posters and fliers in full-color in almost any size you can imagine, from little postcards up to giant movie posters.

Not only did the images gain a great acceptance and a fanbase independent of the novel, but when artist Joe Vargo opened his own art gallery, he requested my images from The Gothic Rainbow be part of the grand opening show.

The artwork of The Vampire Noctuaries changed my life and raised the bar of everything I thought my novels could become. Being featured in art galleries wasn't a thought that ever crossed my mind when I began shooting those images. Just goes to show, when you put in the work and effort to make your dreams a reality, you never know what other unexpected and fun opportunities will end up coming your way.


To find Eric Muss-Barnes's unique vampire novels, you can buy them on Amazon. 

The Gothic Rainbow -

Annwn's Maelstrom Festival

Also, check out Eric's website -

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for posting this! I'm flattered to be a part of your site.