Dan Sauer

[This issue, we sit down with publisher, author, and graphic artist, Dan Sauer. Here, he discusses his work with Jackanapes Press; the art he has created for Jackanapes and other publishers; and his upcoming projects.]

ev0ke: Jackanapes Press is a publisher devoted to “the odd, the antiquarian, and the eldritch.” Could you give us some examples of what you mean by that? What, exactly, is Jackanapes Press looking for?

Dan Sauer: I’ve always been drawn to literature at the intersection of horror, dark fantasy, and folklore — timeless stories steeped in old myths, unconstrained by modern sensibilities. Eldritch is an easy word to overuse — especially with the works of H. P. Lovecraft coming more into the public consciousness each year — but it encapsulates much of what I value in stories and poems: a sense of connection with an older world, simultaneously earthy and ethereal, somewhat inscrutable to the modern mind. I believe the original Scots word denoted a possible kinship with elves — and not the friendly kind from Tolkien. I guess you could say Jackanapes Press is looking to publish materials that seem to exist independently from the modern world, whatever their form or genre — works that stand at right angles to contemporary fiction. More specifically, I think Jackanapes will build a body of work heavily invested with what has come to be known as folk horror, as well as quality Gothic writings, and works that touch upon Halloween.

ev0ke: What are your duties at Jackanapes, and how did you come to work with that press?

DS: At the moment, I am the publisher, editor, art director, lead illustrator, book designer, and shipping clerk. I’ve found that creating books is one of the few occupations that utilizes all the skills I’ve developed during my career as a graphic designer. Jackanapes came about as a sort of lark; my friend, the noted balladeer Adam Bolivar, had inveigled me into helping him put on a marionette show, and I decided to put Adam’s excellent script into a small illustrated chapbook to sell at the show. Adam was favorable to that idea, and he told me he’d always envisioned a hypothetical publishing entity called Jackanapes Press. I loved the name and used it. For a couple of years, that chapbook (Ye Historie of Jack O’Lanthorne, or, The Devil’s Spark) was the only Jackanapes Press title. This year, however, circumstances (and poets) conspired to change that, and things are now progressing rapidly.

ev0ke: You created several of the art pieces for Past the Glad and Sunlit Season by KA Opperman. How did you go about creating them? And what is it like to collaborate with a writer to create such pieces?

DS: The fifteen full-page illustrations I created for Past the Glad and Sunlit Season are all photomontage pieces. I’ve discovered recently that I love working in that mode — my years of experience with Photoshop are paying off in interesting ways. I am somewhat limited by the photographic elements I can find to use as raw materials, and the challenge of that limitation often leads to bursts of insight and wonder. Some of the raw images I use come from public domain image libraries; others I take from my own photographs; and some elements I have completely fabricated within Photoshop.

Collaborating with K. A. Opperman was its own kind of challenge, in that Halloween is his pet obsession. He came to the project with some very specific ideas for the art, in tone and in detail. Some of what he wanted seemed beyond my abilities, and there was admittedly some friction between us at times. But his suggestions more often than not ended up improving each illustration, and I consider many of these works to be true collaborative efforts. And the cover design for Past the Glad and Sunlit Season would certainly not look as it does without Kyle’s input — he definitely helped make it a more memorable cover.

ev0ke: Where can people find your work?

A: My main website, Dan Sauer Design, is (at the moment) geared heavily toward corporate logo design and other such work — when time allows, I plan to change that to reflect my more recent forays into book cover art and design. I have a temporary and rudimentary portfolio here, but much of my cover design work can be seen at Hippocampus Press; I’ve worked on dozens of covers for Hippocampus Press over the last few years. A project with them I’m particularly proud of is Oracles from the Black Pool, a collection of dark fantasy poetry by D. L. Myers, for which I was inspired to complete more than 20 photomontage illustrations. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of fully illustrating the Spring 2020 issue of Vastarien: A Literary Journal, for which I also contributed the cover art. A special publication which I credit for much of my current success is The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy. I’ve co-produced eight issues of this zine thus far with my friend, bookseller Obadiah Baird, who serves as the editor and publisher. My experimentation with collage/montage in its pages is what has led me to the photomontage mode I mainly work in now.

ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?

DS: K. A. Opperman and I will be working on at least one, and possibly two more volumes of his Halloween poetry. The next one will be October Ghosts and Autumn Dreams: More Poems for Halloween, and we hope to release it by fall 2021. But before that, Jackanapes Press will be releasing The Withering, a powerful collection of Gothic verse by Ashley Dioses, who is another spectacularly talented poet. British artist Mutartis Boswell, whose grotesque and energetic work is well-suited to the poems in The Withering, has provided the cover art and interior illustrations. Beyond Jackanapes Press, I am currently working on art for David Barker’s upcoming collection of horror stories, Her Wan Embrace, which will be published in 2021 by Weird House Press. I am also working on numerous book projects for Hippocampus Press, not the least of which is The Laughter of Ghouls, a collection of Gothic horror poetry by none other than K. A. Opperman. It appears I cannot escape this Opperman fellow! He even has a poem in the ninth issue of The Audient Void, which I will also be working on before long.