Commission: “I’ll Be Your Stars”

Mawr (left) and Shaleigh (right) are from Marlena Frank’s novel Stolen.

In 2012, my sister Marlena Frank decided to finally start putting her world-building to the test be writing fiction. I was proud of her, but I knew she had a long road ahead.

Having a Master’s in Art and Professional Writing and having been an English professor and mentor, I know how challenging and often thankless writing life can be. There are years that go into honing the craft, and more years spent writing the book, then even more seeking publication. Many books are never published, and many authors’ voices go unheard. Marlena talked about her long road to publication on her blog, and it’s definitely eye-opening if you’ve never thought about it. Publishing is a complicated system.

When Parliament House Press picked up the Stolen trilogy, we were both so excited for her debut novel. In the months since that publication day, I’ve been her beta reader, sounding board, and PR person helping draw attention to her work at book signings and festivals. And for years, we talked about doing something collaboratively.

Here’s the thing about the arts: people rarely appreciate the time, energy, and dedication they take to reach a professional level. This is even more problematic for writers. My art draws people in, and people can tell pretty much if they want to support it or not from that first glance. But for a novel? The person has to be ready for a time investment. It’s a hard sell, especially at a convention or outdoor festival. You can have all kinds of positive reviews and fans, but festivals mean it’s just you and a table full of your artwork. And waiting. Waiting for someone to take interest and want to know more. It’s brutal in its own way.

I will always believe in you. I’ll be your stars.

Mawr, Stolen by Marlena Frank

I wanted to craft something she could use as a promotional piece, but also something to communicate what her novel is about. The cover art is amazing, but people are used to being misled by book covers: there have been whole articles written about the phenomenon. The fact that Stolen‘s cover is spot-on doesn’t mean much if a person has been burned before.

This is why, ultimately, I created this commissioned piece for Marlena. It’s based on one of my favorite characters in the series: Mawr the stone lion, librarian, and guardian of a ruined library in Aife.

If you enjoy fantasy, Irish mythology, The Fae, diversity, and strong POC female characters, check out Stolen. Book 2, Broken, debuts in April, so there’s time to get caught up. Heaps of research went into this series, and I know you’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

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