As a kid, I used to love ‘playing history.’ For Christmas one year, I got the Jane West doll along with her Palomino horse, Thunderbolt. When I got the wagon for my birthday, I was in heaven. Then my brother and cousins got Johnny West dolls (the boys called them action figures 🙂 ) and we added more horses and accessories from saddle bags to campfire frying pans. I spent HOURS creating an imaginary world, a life before cars, computers, and phones.
I’m often asked why I write about the American Revolution. A big part of the reason goes back to my grandpa. Grandpa served in the South Pacific during World War II. He was 26-years-old, married, a father to three toddler-aged girls, and a welder by trade when he entered the navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Years later, I spent many hours at his dining room table listening to stories about this time in his life. It was crazy hard for him to be away from his young family, to wonder if he’d ever return home. He learned to play one mean game of checkers during long hours aboard his ship. Side note: I never beat him in over a hundred games, so we finally switched to cribbage. For one of my birthdays, he carved a cribbage board for me, which I treasure.
Through hearing about those war years, the incredible heat in the engine room where he was assigned, the fear and dedication of those sailors, I learned to have enormous respect for the sacrifices that were made to give me the freedom I enjoy as an American. I hope to never take that for granted and to share some of America’s history with future generations, as my grandpa shared history with me.
My second book, SARATOGA, comes out April, 2023 and I was delighted to work once again with the talented Ricky Gunawan. In the interview below, you get a sense of his work as an artist.
Question: Describe how art is important to society.
For me, art in general is very important not only for the current society we lived in but to the entire world culture. As an example, imagine the history that happened hundreds of years ago. There are civilizations that fall and rise again, there are inventions and discoveries, mistakes and improvements. We can have all of that knowledge, learn about all of them through arts such as literature, illustration, motion pictures, documentaries or video games nowadays.
Question: What motivates you to create?
As an illustration artist, I really love to see and learn something new. I’m Indonesian and when I worked on the covers of ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE and KEP WESTGUARD REBEL SPY I learned about American history, the people behind the revolution, and the route they had to take to achieve their goal. For ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE, I even drew the map of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride and that was exciting.
Question: How do you define success as an artist?
Success as an artist is very subjective and personal for every individual. As for me, it’s more simple. It might not be a definitive definition of success, but right now I’m pretty satisfied that I can make a living as a fulltime artist.
Question: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a professional artist?
My favorite part is finding out or learning something new every time I’m working on something. The least favorite part is AI drawing. Currently AI drawing is threatening the art world itself. It’s not considered art because they generate an image by mixing up stolen artworks all over the net.
Like many historic fiction writers, I love the hunt, the research that pays off in details that allow readers to learn about our country’s past.
When the reviews came in for the first book in my Revolutionary War time-travel series, ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE, I was delighted when readers noted the historic accuracy.
Schnabel pays attention in the book to details particular to that period, such as equipment, weapons, and even personal details like hygiene and dressing which indicates in depth research while making sure not to take away from the fictional component of the novel.
I’m currently working on book two, SARATOGA, and once again on the hunt. I thought I’d share with you the process as it unfolds for one of a hundred details that will make their way into this story.
My main character meets with British General Burgoyne at his headquarters at Saratoga just before the battle. To make this scene as accurate as possible, I’ve been on a quest for clues to his living quarters during October, 1777.
Lots of research. No results. But like the Continental army, I persevered.
Then one day I came across an old map at the British Library.
BY JOVE, I THINK I’VE FOUND IT!!!
Burgoyne stayed at Swords’ House! BIG PROGRESS!
Who were the Swords? What kind of house?
Which led me to the SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK historic records.
Turns out, Thomas Swords’ family, logically enough, were loyalists with their own curious history.
This family may make a cameo in SARATOGA, but in the meantime, I wanted to make sure I had my house – a.k.a. British headquarters. So I contacted the fabulous rangers at Saratoga National Historical Park to confirm Burgoyne was headquartered at the Swords home in October:
Houston we have a problem – did you notice those dates?
September 1777 NOT October 1777.
I STILL needed to know where he was during the Second Battle of Saratoga – in October, 1777. Jumping ahead a few steps, the rangers at Saratoga National Historic Park said General Burgoyne would have been headquartered in a tent during this period. And it would have been a tent similar to what American General George Washington would have used.
But what kind of tent did Washington use? It turns out I wasn’t the only one curious about this.
Late one night last spring, Philip Mead, the chief historian at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, was browsing auction listings online when he spotted one for a panoramic watercolor of the Continental Army encamped in the Hudson Valley.
“There was a marquee tent up on a hillside,” he recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘Could it be…?’”
Apparently, it was. And now, six months after that “Where’s Waldo?” moment, the museum is announcing that it has acquired what it believes is the only known wartime depiction of Washington’s tent by an eyewitness.“
Bookwatch, January 2020 One If By Land, Two If By Submarine
Synopsis: When Paul Revere is kidnapped by a time traveler who is determined to change the outcome of the American Revolution, thirteen-year-old Kep Westguard is sent back in time to Boston, 1775, to take Revere’s place on that famous midnight ride.
Kep’s four-person team has twenty-four hours to light the famous lanterns at Old North Church, warn Lexington and Concord that the British are coming, and rescue John Hancock and Samuel Adams from hanging as traitors to the crown. As the clock ticks, one teammate is arrested as a runaway slave, a British watchman stops another from lighting the lanterns, and Kep nearly drowns when he attempts to cross the Charles River in a Patriot inventor’s prototype wooden, hand-crank submarine.
When Hancock and Adams ask Kep to sneak a trunk of critical papers out from under the eyes of the British Army during the Battle of Lexington, Kep has to decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for his country. If he fails, there will be no America to return to!
Critique: A deftly crafted and simply riveting read from first page to last, Eileen Schnabel’s “One If By Land, Two If By Submarine” is an extraordinary science fiction story by an author with a genuine flair for originality and a remarkably effective narrative storytelling style. All the more impressive when considering that “One If By Land, Two If By Submarine” is Schnabel’s debut as a novelist, this first volume of a planned series is especially and unreservedly recommended for both school and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for young readers. It should be noted for the personal reading list of all dedicated science fiction fans that “One If By Land, Two If By Submarine” is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).
People really DO judge books by their covers. They must find something in the artwork that speaks to them as readers, that evokes emotions and hints at a story they’d want to read. Ricky Gunawan, the cover artist for ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SUBMARINE, recently won Cover Wars from authorshout.com and kindly took the time to answer some questions about his work as an artist.
1. What challenges do you face as a cover artist?*
The challenge so far is to maintain the quality of my illustrations and to create distinct covers for each client that help to evoke their unique stories.
2. Where do you get ideas from?
Mostly I get the ideas from a lot of media: films, comics, photographs, movie posters or other artists’ illustrations. But some of the great ideas come from the writers themselves.
3. What is your working process? Do you work at cafes or need to work in a quiet environment?*
My working process is very simple. I do some sketching based on the ideas we’re brainstorming then show it to clients. And once they approve the sketch, I begin to paint. I do the entire process in my home. I’d rather work in my own place than at the cafe, so yeah, it needs to be a quiet environment.
4. How long does it usually take to complete a book cover?
Usually less than a month. Two weeks on the fastest.
5. Who are some of your favorite artists?
I don’t want to sound like an apathetic person, but I really don’t have a favorite artist. There is artwork I adore, but I don’t know the artists’ names, though I really love my wife’s father’s photographic works. I regret that he passed away several years ago, but I learned a lot from him.
6. What book covers currently are some of your favorites?
My favorite covers from my portfolio? I have several (see attachment). As for other artists, I really like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather cover art and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both the book cover and the movie poster. It’s very iconic and with only minimalist design, they pierced the message in to my brain.
7. What role do you feel artists have in society?
Artists are the foundation of human culture whether they are visual or audio artists, they are shaping how the world is running. You will see works of art in every part of our surroundings. Book cover art is not only for entertainment, it pulls a reader into a story. It’s very important.
8. How did you get started in drawing?
I drew as a hobbyist since my childhood. And started drawing professionally ten years ago when I realized I needed to make money from my hobby. I made the covers for a children’s book series as starter.
9. What advice do you have for people who would like to become cover artists?
There are a lot of amazing book cover artists out there and there are a lot who have even better skills than I do, but somehow I can survive. I’m still in the process of doing it. I’d recommend the following: try to be different, stay focused, be yourself and learn from other artists but stop idolizing them. When you idolize someone, you will try to be like them and maybe in several years you can copy their styles, but then you realize that you’re not alone. There are others like you doing exactly the same things as you. So it’s better to just find your own style and be persistent.
“In some ways, reading this book reminds me of reading the first book of the Harry Potter series as the main characters of this book are also strong-willed kids with different personalities and skills who are not afraid of taking on challenges. ” Goodreads Review
“For me it was an intriguing page-turner that sucked me in to reading in three sittings over three days. The intermixing of time travel, history, adventure and morality kept me guessing when and how the next twist would surface.” Goodreads Review
“So many twists, I couldn’t wait to discover what lay ahead for the main characters with every turn of the page. It’s a great novel for kids and adults alike, and I look forward to seeing (and reading!) more works by this author in the years to come. ” Goodreads review