June 25, 2012

New Media for Authors: Cherif Fortin, Lynn Sanders

Angelique, a new medium for authors.
Welcome back, Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders.  I'm excited to feature the new ebook/app you've illustrated, Angelique. I think this represents a true turning point for authors and multimedia.
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"Are you back, Angelique?” He waits in his library, alone, drawing back curtains on memories of love so many years lost. Reports of dead men, bloodless, all eerily similar, tell Vincent the tale. Stalking in shadows, she seeks him. Will she have him still?
Told first in Helen A Rosburg’s poem “Angelique,” the story of Angelique and Vincent’s undying love now comes to resplendent life in this novelette illustrated by Cherif Fortin and Lynn Sanders and offered in animated-book format. With its beautiful prose and breathtaking images, this instant classic vampire story will haunt and delight readers for eternity.
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Cherif Fortin is a freelance photographer, illustrator, and writer living in Chicago, Illinois. At one time he has worked as a professional stuntman, as a full-time firefighter, and as one of the country’s leading romance cover models. Cherif’s artwork has been featured on the covers of hundreds of books in dozens of countries, and on calendars and collectibles. He runs the successful Fortin & Sanders Studio along with partner, Lynn Sanders, producing commercial art and photography for leading clients internationally. He lives with his wife, Dawn, and their three children: Kira, Kai, and Lara.
Lynn Sanders is an artist, photographer, and writer of romance fiction and children’s books. She is co-owner of Fortin & Sanders Studio, which produces cover art for some of the top publishers in the world. Her paintings have been exhibited at Epcot Center and are owned by private collectors such as Hugh Hefner and Fabio. She has three adult children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. She lives in northern Illinois with Ce Ce, her faithful Cirneco dell Etna.
Welcome to Romance Lives Forever! Your artwork has been an inspiration to us at RLF for a long time, and we're thrilled to have you here. Let's get started on a few questions about you as individuals, then as partners, and spend the rest of the time talking about Angelique.

Questions For Lynn

You pioneered a technique using oil-glazing and photography to create rich new images. How did you adapt this technique to digital media?
I’ve been working in the image business since the 60’s. In the early 90’s I never thought I would be so tied to this thing called a computer. I guess I was drug kicking and screaming to the digital illustrating process. We still hand glaze a lot for our portrait work but for illustrations we can simulate the look in the computer so much faster. When we want to do display pieces we do a lot more hand work on the image. It gives a nice texture to the piece.
What are the drawbacks of working with a partner who is not located near you? How hard is it to collaborate long distance?
 We travel back and forth quite a bit but the computer and the telephone make looking and discussing projects very easy. When I was younger I wouldn’t think twice in jumping into a car and going to the Chicago studio. Cherif would come out three to four days a week to the Rockford studio.
We hear that a certain Cirneco dell Etna is part of your life. Will you tell us more about this special relationship?
She was my dear little rescue dog Che Che. She just passed recently. I had her for 11 years. She was around 4 when I got her from Helen Rosburg who had originally rescued her. Che Che was a one woman dog from the beginning. She could run like a deer and practically would turn herself inside out with glee when I came home from a trip. Bless her little heart, like all of us she got old and was having seizures and the vet said we had to put her to sleep. I now have two hungry, ornery cats named Boo and Dusty.
Do you think keeping secrets is good or bad?
I try to keep my wild, crazy sex life a secret. Seriously, I always found anytime you think you can keep a secret, invariably it gets out.
What song would best describe your life?
 If I Can Dream. Elvis Presley and My Way.
If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?
I would be an artist brush. People would use me to paint the world happy, caring and romantic.
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
Be true to yourself. Take some chances and create something beautiful.
What is the most important thing you do for your career?
I work at it almost every day. I take images and play with them. I try to keep my radar up for new avenues of exposure, i.e. blogs!
How are the children’s books coming, Lynn?
Well, thank you for asking. They are ready for a publisher to give them a home. I have 9 of them. Che Che modeled in one along with Cherif’s son Kai. There’s another featuring a dragon with Cherif and his daughter Kira. Little Lara, Cherif’s youngest daughter, is my model for one called Pickles and Peas. I just love them.

Questions For Cherif

Is it true that at one time, you were a fireman, a stuntman, and worked in a medieval-based theme park?
Yes. Currently I enjoy two careers: I am a full-time firefighter for a busy suburban department near Chicago and also a freelance illustrator/photographer. I've been a fireman for 9 years and an artist since, well, forever. Prior to working as a firefighter, I worked as a stunt performer for a medieval-themed dinner show company called Medieval Times. This lasted 12 years and my duties included sword fighting, horseback riding, and training of both horses and stuntmen. In 1993, Lynn Sanders and I started a commercial art and photography studio which has been in business ever since. We're known as Fortin and Sanders and we provide a variety of services including book cover illustration, design, high end portraiture and event photography.
In what way did these jobs prepare you for creating artwork using photography and illustrations?
Passion's Blood
I think having a variety of experiences broadens your horizons, which is always helpful. I've met many talented professionals across various fields, and I always try to learn something from them. A big part of being a freelance artist is developing your entrepreneurial skills and small business acumen. I meet people all the time that might be doing something totally different from me but in a way that makes me think, "hey, this could really help me be better". I try to emulate those people. Working at Medieval Times certainly helped refine my eye for medieval subjects, period costumes, horses, etc.
What do you enjoy most about life?
Spending time with my friends and family. I am lucky to have very kind, loving and interesting people in my life.
How do you balance life with deadlines and work?
One thing that is increasingly difficult as I add commitments to my life is finding time. I have two full-time careers, three growing kids, a wife, a book in the works, several artistic projects, friends, hobbies and a new Doberman puppy to manage. It can get pretty crazy and sometimes overwhelming. My touchstone is making time with my family on a daily basis. Regardless of what's going on with work, having fun with the wife and kids is my antidote for stress.
What is the craziest thing you did as a kid?
This one time, at band camp... ;)
How do you respond to negative people?
I try not to! Negativity attracts negativity, so I just steer clear.
If you could give the younger version of yourself advice what would it be?
There is no point in wasting time worrying. What will be, will be. The key to life is not in finding happiness, but making it.
What is the most important thing you do for your career?
You know, I'm still trying to figure that out! If I had to pick one single thing, I would have to say networking. Meeting others and interacting with them has opened many unexpected doors for me and led me in directions I couldn't have come up with on my own.
What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?
The answer is 42, of course (for the Douglas Adams fans out there).

The Public Can Find Cherif Here

Questions For Lynn and Cherif Together

What new project are you working on now?
Lynn: We are always working on stories and illustrations. We also do fine art portraiture for private clients, painting everything from pets, to children, brides and corporate execs. We are still illustrating book covers for a variety of clients and we hope to keep doing that for many more years to come.
On a personal level, I just finished a series of paintings for a group of silk-flyer acrobats. I'm also working on illustrating some kids books which I'd like to see published one day, and I'm doing a lot of portraits of Elvis, which I sometimes put up for sale on eBay.
Cherif: We're spending a lot of time promoting Passion's Blood and Angelique these days, doing signings and appearances. We're also finishing production on some artwork for the Gordie Brown Live! Show at the Golden Nugget Casino, which you can see on 8 billboards throughout Las Vegas.
My personal projects lately include doing family portraits as well as some paintings exploring fantastic and mythological themes. I'm putting the finishing touches on a new book which features art techniques for professional photographers; I'm hoping to have that ready by the end of the year.
How do you come up with ideas?
Cherif: Ideas have never been a problem, it's the execution that can be tricky! For me, ideas come from everywhere: literature, art, movies, comics, video games, magazines, conversations with friends, etc. I try to stay inspired by keeping in touch with other artists online, visiting art blogs and forums, and I keep an "inspiration" folder on my pc in which I put works that for one reason or another catch my eye. It's at well over 2 gigs in size currently, and I add to it nearly every day. If I find I'm blocked for new ideas I just rummage through that folder a little and in no time my juices start flowing.
Cherif Fortin in Passion's Blood
Where do you see your partnership going in the next ten years?
Cherif: I'm really excited by the interactive apps we've been working on for the iPad available through iTunes. I hope we can grow in this area and do projects that take advantage of technology in cool new ways. I'd also like to take on a role mentoring other photographers and artists, perhaps through seminars or tours.
What advice do you have for cover models today?
Don't go into book cover modeling expecting it to be your main thing: it's a niche opportunity at best. Diversify your portfolio and work where you can get it.
What advice do you have for photographers in the book cover industry?
Same as above.

Questions about Angelique

Angelique is "at the intersection of movies and traditional printed books" (Cherif to Kathleen Pickering at Romantic Times Convention). It's an eBook as well as an interactive app for iPad. It's also a form of multimedia which can be used as an audio book read by the author, and allows the reader to interact with the illustrations. The information we've seen at RLF shows us that readers can touch areas of the illustrations to bring them to life.
Please tell us more about this amazing product.
It's an illustrated book for the new century! The story is a gothic horror-romance set in turn of the century Paris. I dont want to reveal too much about it to readers, other than to say I am very proud of the work authors Helen Rosburg and Ali DeGray did: it's at turns touching and horrifying, inspiring and chilling, and the end is truly bittersweet and memorable. We couldnt have asked for a better story to illustrate. The app takes advantage of today's technology by augmenting the reading experience with multimedia: sound, movement, etc. All the illustrations are animated to bring the scenes to life, and there's (optional) voiceover narration by the author, for those who want the audio book experience. We think it is at the ground floor of what books will become in the digital age.
What gave you the idea for creating Angelique?
Helen Rosburg wrote Angelique. We were inspired by her words and she asked us to illustrate it.
How hard was it to find someone who could make your ideas a reality?
We were lucky to be working with Medallion Press on this project. We have a long history of working with them, doing cover art and other illustrated books, and we know the people there and have developed great relationships. They are pioneering a lot of digital publishing strategies and are fully behind the idea of interactive books. There's really no one better we could be partnering with for a project like this.
Scene from Angelique
In what way is this a step forward from your previous, similar app, Passion's Blood?
Every time you do a new project you refine your old techniques and discover new ones. Passion's Blood was sort of a proof-of-concept project, to see if the idea of an interactive book was even possible for us. Angelique was an opportunity to refine our work, and we really got into painting specifically for multimedia, sometimes doing multiple versions of each illustration to make the animations come together.
Do you plan additional apps of this type? Will there be a sequel to either of the current books?
We have beautiful images for a sequel to Passion’s Blood. Patrick Lambke (“The Black Knight" from a recent Nat Geo documentary series) and Cherif will model for the main characters again. The female lead is modeled by Stacy Walker. We're waiting to see how all this comes together.
The illustrations were all done digitally. How different was that from using photography as your medium?
We used photography mainly as reference in Angelique, to help us keep the likenesses consistent and make sure our figures and lighting were correct. The approach is different, but we can work effectively using either digital or traditional techniques.
What do unique products like Angelique and Passion's Blood cost?
There's a great special going on right now. You can download the apps from iTunes for only 99 cents.
Where can readers pick up copies of these apps?
Both are available through the iPad or on iTunes.

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