Interview with Michael O-Artist Behind the Lunar Chronicles Covers+International Giveaway

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)

I think it is safe to say that when the cover of Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer was finally revealed a collective gasp occurred. I love the juxtaposition of ‘Rapunzel’ and all her hair sweeping the bottom of the book—just perfect and breath-taking. After getting over my ooh’s and ah’s I thought, who is the artist behind the cover? The artist is Michael O and book covers are just a small sampling of the artwork he’s done.

Process of creating book covers

I think as a general rule, most people don’t know the process of how an artist is chosen or what information they are given prior to creating art for the covers of books. Can you tell us a little bit about what you went through when creating the artwork for Lunar Chronicles? 
I was chosen for this job in the same way that work usually comes my way.  The publisher, Macmillan, found my portfolio online and asked me to illustrate the covers for this series but there is a twist to this story…  I happened to be hiking to the base camp of Mt Everest at the time, which is an area with limited internet availability and work was the last thing on my mind.  My agent had sent me an email explaining the project but about a week had gone by before I had a chance to read it. The first cover was already behind schedule so luckily my agent had sent a response to the publisher telling them I was ready and available.  The work began the day I got home.

What types of information or reference materials were you given? 
I am usually given the latest draft of the book which can either be complete or close to it.  It is my job to absorb as much information about the character and scenery as possible to create relevant visuals. Because this book centers around a Rapunzel-like character, the obvious choice for us was to illustrate long braided hair.  I created a number of photographic comps for the publisher to choose from and eventually a hair stylist was brought in to create the braid.  My job, as I describe it, is to put the icing on the cake by dressing the original photograph to give it a painted effect.

What other books have you done artwork for? 
I design movie posters as a full time job so I don’t do a lot of other freelance work.  I have also done a few covers for the Tesseracts series by EDGE publishing and I also did a series of covers for James Patterson but they were never used.

Do you ever get to interact directly with the authors about their vision? 
There is always a middle man.  The amount of input I hear from the author is often dependent on how popular their work is.  The more well known the author, the more important their input becomes.

When working on a series do you know it will be multiple books and do you get to plan ahead? 
This series in particular releases a new installment around once a year so typically the next book is barely in production by the time I finish the previous.  I was aware that there would be 4 book in this series.  To me, consistency across the series is important so we decided that the overall tone and dominant red object would continue for each cover throughout the series.

The Lunar Chronicles is very heavy with a science fiction element which works beautifully with a lot of your work. I love the images you’ve created of cyborgs and the beauty and elegance you’ve given them. Are you a big science fiction fan?
I would not call myself a big sci-fi fan.  I am more fascinated by the human body and what modifications it may be capable of in the future.

How did you get started developing artwork for book covers? 
Having a strong portfolio and an online presence is key.  That way companies can find me and get the ball rolling.  They can see that my work is photo manipulation and not painting so that’s makes me suited for different types of work.  A good business sense and experience in dealing with people is important.  Good phone conversational skills and proper grammar in emails can go a long way. If you don’t have these things, you may still get the job but it is likely that the client will not come back.

Some of his gorgeous artwork. Click on the image to see larger


Regarding your process

On your website you go into fascinating detail about your artistic process (even showing the before and after). You explain that you take your own photographs and then convert them using Photoshop to express your vision. When you begin a photo session do you already have the final work in mind or are you inspired by the photos and models themselves? 
When I first started developing my style I used professional photos from other photographers for reference.  At the time I simply chose images online that inspired me but because my technique involves simply painting over a photo, I ran into copyright issues so I had to abandon that method and begin taking my own photographs. I believe my skill in photography still needs to be sharpened but oddly enough, a simplistic photo makes for a more interesting transition into a piece of art. These days I start with a concept before I choose a model and shot.  Since my work is usually focused on strong concepts, I consider this step to be very important.  Ideas can come to me at any time and the only thing I need to do is remember to write them down.

Is there anything in particular you would like the viewers of your work to take away from your art?
There are a many great digital artists around the world so in order to help my work stand out, I try and focus on making more than just a visually interesting image.  I also try and create a unique concept of something that can’t be seen in the real world.  I hope that inspires other artists to create something worth thinking about rather than just something that looks nice.

Find Michael O on Facebook, deviant ART, CG Society, The Untapped Source and his website.

Enter to win one of the Lunar Chronicle books of your choice (International):

 Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. says

    I would choose Timeless Beauty as my favorite because it kind of reminds me of the regency period with fashionable ballgowns and the like. I love it! And there’s also something very appealing about that stretched neck.

  2. Laura says

    On Micheal’s site, I love the photo of the broken stone angel. It looks so strong even though it is being destroyed.

  3. says

    That is so cool! It is great knowing about the process and more about the covers. I LOVE the Lunar Chronicles covers-they are my favorites 🙂

  4. Cali W. says

    Thanks for the giveaway. On Devianart I like the pictures titled Still Standing, Anna in Color, and Northwest Passage.

  5. says

    This is an awesome post! I think so many people look at book covers and fall in love with them but never think of the designers behind it. Love his work!

  6. says

    I didn’t know so much procedure took place in designing a cover. And I loved getting to know the man behind those fascinating covers of Lunar Chronicles. I loved “Millennium Dawn ” photo from the Before and After section out of all the other pics!! Its mind blowing, his work !!

  7. says

    I absolutely love this interview!! His artwork is SO amazing! And I love his other pieces (especially those sci-fi ones!!). I haven’t really thought about the artists behind the covers before…so this is seriously interesting. I ADORE the Lunar Chronicles covers. 🙂

  8. says

    I’m so happy to hear that this series will stay consistent. I absolutely love this artist’s works and I am not shocked at all to find out that he did The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’s cover as well because that one was fabulous as well.

    Thanks for sharing! <33

  9. Dinky says

    I like Timeless Beauty, Bonsai and Still Standing. I also like The Lunar Chronicles and The Coldest Girl in Coldtowns. They´re beautiful! 🙂

  10. says

    Wow! Fantastic interview Kristen!
    I’ve loved reading about his process and it’s fantastic that he also made the cover for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, another very interesting cover!
    I love how he goes from photographs to modifying them painting over and have such fantastic finished images!

  11. says

    I’m sadly not interested in any of Michael’s 3D works he does like those small examples you showed. I don’t really connect well with 3D drawings. :l
    I do LOVE the Lunar Chronicles covers though! <3

  12. says

    I love that you decided to interview the artist who designed the covers, Kristen! And you asked some great questions. I really love his artwork, and that page with the before and after images was so cool!! Also, you are awesome for doing this giveaway! I hope the winner loves the book as much as I love this series! 😀

  13. Rachel says

    This was so interesting to hear about the person behind the covers of one of my favourite series! The covers are so gorgeous. I can’t wait to see what Winter’s is! Thanks for hosting the giveaway too! 😀 x

  14. Rachel says

    I just took a look at his site to see more of his work and OMG ‘Destiny’ has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! SO BADASS! xD

  15. BookLady says

    What a fascinating interview! I enjoyed hearing how Michael creates a book cover. My favorite work from his website is Timeless Beauty.

  16. says

    I have not read the books yet but I love the covers! and I love seeing the before and after. the artsit’s works are wonderful & it’s great to see the process, although I would have like to see the before shots for the the book covers.

    have a great day.

  17. says

    Thank you so much for this amazing interview 😀 I loved it! And oh. These covers are some of my favorites. SO GORGEOUS. And best books, of course. Sigh. I cannot wait to see the cover for Winter 😀 Thank you both for sharing. <3 And thank you Kristen for that awesome giveaway 🙂

  18. says

    I love both Play Thing and Under my Skin. Michael is SO talented. I would love to buy his work if not for the price. hehe.

    Thank you so much for this giveaway!
    – Beckie

  19. Trish says

    Thanks so much for the contest!!! As for my favorite work by Michael, I’m torn between Under My Skin and AmalgaMATE. Such breathtaking works!

  20. says

    The image on the broken stone angel is pretty amazing. It makes me think of Angels Vs. Demons and – for some strange reason – Jana Oliver’s book series, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter.

    Very awesome interview! Thanks for an awesome giveaway!

  21. Bube says

    Under My Skin and Stil Standing – amazing artwork! 🙂
    Thanks for the interview and the amazing opportunity! 🙂

  22. Brittany says

    Oh my goodness. How insanely talented. We did it and under my skin are my favorites but they are all STUNNInG!

  23. says

    I am so in love with this artist’s work. I can see the similarities between this series and Coldest Girl now that it’s mentioned, too. Fantastic interview…I love seeing how some of my favorite covers came to be. Also, I love that you tend to focus on the artistic aspect, even with your Lego pieces. I mean, writing is one thing, but conceptualizing a whole book into one piece of art is something else. Thanks for sharing this!

    • says

      You know, before I interviewed him I had no clue that he did the Coldest Girl cover. When I look at them though I can see the similarity too. So happy you enjoyed the interview. Thank you so much for enjoying the artist interviews! I’m with you…to bring about the entire atmosphere of a book would be such a challenge (and so important).

  24. says

    I read this interview earlier in the week, but I didn’t have the chance to leave a comment. I’m fascinated by Michael O’s use of photography to create something completely new. Oh, I really enjoyed this interview! Thank you for including some of his work to go along with the post, Kristen! Picking a favorite is difficult, but “We Did It” stands out to me so much. They’re all beautiful though!

    Marlene @ The Flyleaf Review

  25. says

    Great interview! I really love learning about the artists behind the book covers. And they just never get enough attention, so I truly appreciate that you put the spotlight on Micheal O for his beautiful work on the Lunar Chronicles series.
    I just pinned three of his digital paintings. My favorite was AmalgaMATE (Love Love LOVE this one!!). I also loved and pinned Timeless Beauty and Under My Skin. Michael O is fantastic and simply amazing!! <3
    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity, I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of Cress. 🙂

  26. Breana M. says

    Wow, Michael O has so many unique pieces of artwork, but my favorite has to be Still Standing. Its just amazing, I have no other words to describe it!

  27. says

    I love all of Michael’s android alterations. I was a huge fan of his through finding his art on Pinterest, and it was actually inspiration for a short story of mine! I was excited to find out he is actually the cover artist for one of my fave YA series, so this is very cool!!

  28. Schen says

    I soooo loved the “Still Standing” that he made. I love how his work uses most of monochromatic colors and creates a beautiful artwork out of him.
    Nonetheless, he’s so good… and awesome. Don’t forget that! :’)

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