Ann Dávila Cardinal’s first solo novel, Five Midnights, is a spooky thriller based on the El Cuco myth set in modern day Puerto Rico. With such a chilling premise, it’s no surprise that the cover has a perfectly eerie look to it. Cardinal, Naomi Romero, the cover artist, and Peter Lutjen, the art director for Tor and Tor Teen, share the story behind this amazing cover.
Ann Dávila Cardinal, Author
“From the first time my mother told me of the legend of El Cuco, I was hooked. “’Best behave or El Cuco is going to get you!”’ is exactly the kind of thing we kids of Puerto Rican mothers hold on to and bring up in therapy years later. And it’s true, El Cuco still haunts me, but as I looked deeper into the myth I found no clear description of what this monster looks like. His appearance changes based on the fears of his victims. Needless to say, this was manna to my horror-loving heart.
“When I heard that Tor Teen was collaborating with Naomi Romero to build a cover out of her illustration ‘Que Viene El Coco,’ I was beyond thrilled. Her wispy interpretation of this classic monster captures the amorphous menace that is the legend. Add a shadowed San Juan skyline and you have the ideal cover for Five Midnights: atmospheric, dark, but rooted in tradition and history. And that Naomi is also half Puerto Rican like me is icing on the cake.
Naomi Romero, Cover Artist
“When I received an email asking for my help with the cover of Five Midnights, I was over the moon. As a horror lover and reader, I couldn’t have asked for a cooler opportunity. Growing up in a Latino household, I was always told of stories about El Cuco to discourage me from doing bad behavior. It worked! After making art my profession, I decided to draw El Cuco in the way I envisioned him. He is a frightening creature! You can imagine how excited I was when asked to have my rendition featured on Five Midnights. The cover looks even more terrifying and I anxiously await the release of the book so I can relieve my childhood fear through the words of an incredible author. It will be an amazing ride!”
Peter Lutjen, Art Director, Tor & Tor Teen
“I was immediately struck by Naomi’s illustration. I came across it early on during my research for the cover of Five Midnights, but at the time we were working on an approach that wouldn’t show the monster so I didn’t focus on it. I didn’t even know who’d done it—the blogger who’d ‘borrowed’ it for a piece on El Coco hadn’t credited Naomi—but it remained in the back of my mind through countless variations and revisions of monster-free cover drafts. When I finally put it out to my colleagues for consideration, I hesitated. I had no idea if I’d be able to track down the artist and was afraid people would fall in love with an unobtainable cover. And of course they did fall in love. Fortunately the magic of reverse image search led me to Naomi, and I was thrilled that she was open to working with us.”