As announced, Tor is releasing the Wheel of Time ebooks—one a month, starting today. Each book will feature new cover art by a different artist while utilizing a continuing design template to unify the series. Why? Mainly because we thought it would be fun. I suppose there should have been a better corporate reason to start-out with but, really, it just came about as a conversation over coffee about cool stuff we could do on the site. The original idea was to simply commission twelve Wheel of Time paintings as a kind of “WoT of the Month Club.” As the ebook program evolved it became a natural fit to slide the idea over there.
Right away the idea was to hire different artists, with very different styles, and have them address the source material in their own voice. I wanted to pick illustrators that were known to fantasy fans and others we do not typically think of as genre artists—giving us fourteen new interpretations of Robert Jordan’s world.
I was a bit nervous approaching Harriet McDougal with the idea—I didn't want the idea of “playing” with Robert Jordan’s work to come off as disrespectful—so I drew up a wish-list of a dozen artists that I respect, and am personally excited by, to send along with the initial pitch. Harriet immediately supported the idea and I was thrilled to see that among the many whose work she admired, David Grove was at the top of the list.
David Grove, an Illustrators’ Hall of Famer, is a statesmen in the field whose work has remained fresh and vibrant over four decades and counting. Harriet liked that his ethereal and elegant style would reflect a sense of dignity and history in the book. It seemed a natural to start the series with a portrait of a young Rand beginning an epic journey, the scope of which he could perhaps sense but not truly grasp. David’s luminescent paint lights Rand from within. In a way, it seems to be a portrait of Rand best seen at this time, when readers know so much about what lies ahead of him.
The design template itself is meant to let Robert Jordan’s name read easily at the typically small sizes of the various ebook retailer browsers. Separating the type from the art also allows us a lot more freedom with the art—we don’t have to worry about the values within the paintings competing with the text and it gives the artists the full canvas to compose within.
Hope you enjoy this first edition. This is just the beginning, many more artists and stylistic approaches to come. Next up, Kekai Kotaki on The Great Hunt, November 17th.
Irene Gallo is the art director for Tor, Forge, and Starscape books and Tor.com.