George Cotronis' compelling work speaks for itself.
Since he lives across the Atlantic and I hate leaving my house, I’ve never met George Cotronis. And though I’ve been his Facebook pal for several years, he remains an enigmatic social media presence to me. He always speaks his mind, and his mind can be either brutally blunt or sardonically sharp, depending on the topic or perhaps just his mood at the moment.
George’s professional profile reveals an independent, uniquely visionary spirit, encompassing several fields of creative endeavor, because his eclectic artful appetites can’t be easily contained.
You wear a lot of hats, artistically speaking, making your living as a book cover designer, but also writing your own fiction while publishing others under your imprint. In terms of artistic satisfaction and sublimation, do you have a preference among these creative expressions?
Illustration comes extremely easy and has a kind of immediate positive feedback loop because I can turn those into money in my pocket real quick. The same cannot be said about publishing someone’s novel or writing my own fiction. I do put a lot more value on writing and publishing my own work, maybe because it’s the toughest.
As a Greek residing in Sweden, you approach classic American pop culture from a unique (foreign) perspective. Is this something you’re conscious of when you work, in any field, and do you feel it lends you a certain objectivity?
I’m just a kid that grew up with American books and movies. Most of my writing is a kind of an American cargo cult. Cultural osmosis mostly. If I’m any good at it, it’s mostly because I’m good at capturing some of the details that can fool a reader, instead of focusing on any kind of real research.
I don’t know about being objective. I think unless you’re some kind of true believer in American exceptionalism, you’re probably not that taken with American pop culture to begin with. Sometimes I play up the sappy kind of little town Americana vibes, sometimes I go for the edgy “death of the American dream” vibes.
Your art is incredibly evocative, richly capturing a nightmarishly beautiful aesthetic. Is this reflective of a poetic if nihilistic worldview, and if so, does that also inform your fiction?
Poetic nihilistic worldview sounds a lot more complicated and interesting than what it probably is. My interest in the horror genre (if we define that loosely enough to encompass everything weird and spooky) is probably based on an early fascination with death and what, if anything, comes after. So yeah, everything I do artistically and with my writing revolves around this fascination.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
I’m a Stephen King boy, through and through. It’s pointless to deny that most of my thoughts about writing and how to write derive from his work and how he thinks about the act of writing. Other than that, I don’t know if it comes through in my work at all, but I also read a lot of early classic writers of the field, because the rights where cheap to purchase for translation in my native Greece. So writers like Fritz Leiber, Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Robert Bloch and so on. I’d like to believe they’ve informed aspects of my writing.
What’s next for you?
I hope to be a little more consistent with publishing books on my small press, Kraken. We have a Lovecraftian novel coming out that will kick some teeth in (The Innsmouth Ladies’ Book of Household Management by L.T. Partridge) and Keith McCleary’s Circus + The Skin is really fantastic. Both coming out this year. I’m planning an Indiegogo campaign to try and pre-sell a bunch of book covers (thirty, to be exact) in a month. Last, I’d like to put out a collection of my writing, once I have enough stories that I feel would fit well together. Writing across a bunch of genres hasn’t been very helpful in this regard.
It helps us understand and appreciate a brilliant brain, George. Cheers.
George Cotronis lives in the wilderness of Northern Sweden. He makes a living designing book covers. He sometimes writes. His stories have appeared in XIII, Big Pulp, and Vignettes from the End of the World.