Q & A with Salini Perera

For authors, book covers can be a wee bit stressful. It’s one aspect of your work that you don’t control and you’re relying on someone, usually a designer and sometimes an illustrator, to visually convey something that took you 70,000 words. Give or take.

Add to that the input of your publisher, bookstores, readers, etc., and you can be left wondering how much people really do judge a book by its cover.

Lucky for me that my editor, Suzanne Sutherland, approached illustrator Salini Perera to create the cover visual for my upcoming book, Break in Case of Emergency. Salini is a multitalented artist who covers a lot of ground. From ceramics to window displays, she has a distinct, playful style that comes shining through. 

Here are some of her early renderings for my book’s cover.

Some of Salini’s early cover renderings.

Not only did Salini create a fantastic illustration for my book, she also incorporated key elements from the book into her work. What more could a writer ask for? 

I checked in with Salini to talk a bit about her process, her work and, of course, pie crusts. 

BF: As an author, seeing how someone visually interprets your work is always an interesting experience. How stressful is it for you to capture a book in a single illustration? And how do you start that process?

SP: It can be a little daunting at the outset. I had an opportunity to read your book early on in the process (which I loved!). Working from compelling source material makes my job that much easier. To begin with, I might highlight passages or jot down visuals (sometimes objects or particular moments in the story that jump out at me) and start generating thumbnail sketches. It’s also very much a group effort. As an illustrator, you work very closely with art directors and editors. I got a lot of great guidance and feedback from the team at HarperCollins.

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BF: You’re pretty versatile in terms of your illustration: Editorial, digital, ceramics, window displays. How important is that versatility for illustrators working today?

SP: I’ve always collected hobbies; I love to work with my hands and learn new techniques. Necessity is often the mother of versatility. It’s been very useful for me, if only to keep me from getting bored by being boxed in to one style/medium. 

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BF: Writers sometimes struggle to find words to express things that are important to them. What are you trying to express through your illustrations?

 SP: Whenever I make a card for a loved one, I’ll spend a lot of time drawing or painting it and never know what to write inside. Expressing myself has always come easier when drawing. I tend to agonize over any kind of written assignment, even sending emails, and I put them off as much as possible. I think my artwork is more eloquent than I am. 

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BF: I learned from your website that you’re not a fan of the Dufferin Bus. What’s up with that?  

SP: I live in the East end, and don’t often have to ride the Dufferin Bus, but every time I do it is a horror show.

BF: Maybe we need to collaborate on a horror graphic novel called Riding the Dufferin Bus. I also learned that you’re a pie baker. Any tips you can share for a flaky crust?

SP: I only use butter for crust. I don’t mess with shortening. Also, don’t over-mix and keep your dough cold. 

As a guy who’s made a few pies in my day, I can vouch for the buttah. Don’t screw with the shortening, folks. Thanks to Salini for taking the time to answer my questions. Check out her website and her Instagram account.