Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Interview With Paul Suntup of Suntup Editions

I've got some exciting stuff to share with y'all today.  As you may know, I've got some real love for a lot of the cover art for Stephen King's books.  I've been saying for years that somebody ought to market posters of the art to those covers, and doggone if somebody hasn't come along and started doing exactly that.  Who has done the King-fan community that service?
Suntup Editions, that's who.  They've got a lot more going for them than that, though; they also have a gorgeous portfolio of David Palladini's art for The Eyes of the Dragon available for sale.  The company's owner, Paul Suntup, was turned into a King fan by that very novel. 
At age nineteen – 19!!! – Paul Suntup wandered into a bookstore and discovered The Eyes of the Dragon.  This led him to become a massive Stephen King fan, which in turn led him to become a dedicated collector of King books.  Suntup lived in South Africa, which made this a bit more difficult than it would have been for an American or British Constant Reader, but his persistence eventually paid off.

He fell out of collecting King for a while, but had his love for it awoken around the time Doctor Sleep came out.  He eventually discovered that he had a desire to become a publisher, and this led him to an ambitious project: a custom-rebound edition of The Eyes of the Dragon.  It was a success, and led to an even more ambitious rebinding project that did wonderful things with Firestarter.
This, in turn, led to a project on which Suntup collaborated with David Palladini, the illustrator of the original Viking edition of The Eyes of the Dragon: a portfolio showcasing Palladini's exquisite art for the novel.  (Suntup discussed this in episode #70 of The Stephen King Podcast in March, and I recommend giving that a listen; his enthusiasm shines through, and it's a lot of fun to hear how a project like that portfolio comes together.)
The Lettered and Numbered editions with a 1st trade edition for perspective.  More images can be found at
All of that is exciting, but Suntup's next venture was the one that got me excited: The Covers Collection, a series of fine-art prints (and posters) celebrating the cover art of King novels such as The Shining, Pet Sematary, and Misery.  There is a monthly subscription service that sounds wonderful, and single-print options are also available to customers.

For now, though, the posters are where it's going to be at for me.  Let's have a look at those:
art by Dave Christensen

art by Linda Fennimore

art by Bob Giusti

art by Bob Giusti
art by Ned Dameron

art by Tony Mauro

art by Tony Mauro
I ordered the Misery poster earlier today; and rest assured, I will be getting all the others, as well.  I especially want Pet Sematary, and The Shining.  And It.  And The Dark Tower ones.  I'm sure there will be others in the future that I'm going to want as well, and this is going to require some serious rethinking of the wall space in my apartment.  I'm happy to do that (re)thinking, too!
The posters can be ordered here, and I think you all owe it to yourselves to get one or two or five of them.  You deserve it!

I recently had the opportunity to ask Paul Suntup some questions via email, and he was gracious enough to agree to answer them for me.  Here they come: 
Bryant Burnette:  Tell me what you remember about walking into that bookstore and discovering The Eyes of the Dragon.  What was it that drew you to THAT book, as opposed to the hundreds of others that might have taken its place?
Paul Suntup:  I have attempted to relive that moment several times, but it's all a little foggy.  I remember the bookstore and the book.  It was a store that I did not usually frequent, and was much further away from where I lived than the bookstore I would go to more often.  I remember walking up to the shelf where it was in the new releases section.  It was a wall of books, and I was drawn to that one.  I don't know why.  Maybe the cover?  Also, it was the UK edition because in that part of the world, we received UK editions and not the US editions.  In fact, I had not seen any of the US book covers until I started collecting them. 
the UK 1st hardback
BB:  Was it a case of becoming a King fan instantly, or did it take another novel or two for you to realize that you wanted to read everything he'd written?
PSI was a fan right after reading that first book.  I think the collecting thing really took hold soon after that, when I discovered a list of all his other books and I started going after each one, trying to find them all. And as I acquired one, I was hot on the trails of the next one, and it was really the 1st editions at the time that I was after. I tell you, it took almost 30 years to assemble a complete collection of all of the 1st trade editions, both US and U.K. I mean there were interruptions in between, but the original goal that I started back them, finally came to fruition all those years later.
BB:  Is The Eyes of the Dragon your favorite King novel?
PS:  It's one of my favorites, and of course, there is a lot of emotion attached to it because of how it changed my life back then.  Choosing a favorite King book is not easy.  Some that are up there for me are 11/22/63, Blaze, Roadwork, The Dead Zone, Cujo, the Dark Tower series, I could go on.
BB:  During your early King-reading days, what was the most difficult of his books for you to find a copy of?
PS:  I would say Carrie.  I did eventually find a 1st UK edition of Carrie over there for a few dollars.  All of the US editions were impossible to find, because they were not distributed in that part of the world.  So I had to reach out to specialty dealers in the US for that.  I bought a copy of the 1st US edition of Carrie from a dealer in California.  It was a perfect, unread copy that I still have to this day.
BB:  As a collector, what remains your Holy Grail of King collecting?
PS:  If I were to remove all mental blocks about what might be achievable and what won't, I'd love a 1st state 'salem's Lot jacket, primarily because of its scarcity.  Outside of that, a set of The Plant, a lettered Regulators, a lettered Skeleton Crew, a red lettered The Eyes of the Dragon, a roman numeral 'salem's.  The early proofs.  I could go on.  Too many grails!
BB:  I got the impression from listening to the interview you did with Hans and Lou [for The Stephen King Podcast] that as much as you love the rebinding projects, you probably look at them more as practice than as the beginning of your actual publishing venture.  And if I'm wrong about that, by all means, correct me; but if so, would you say it was valuable practice?  What did you learn from it?
PS:  That's a good question.  In hindsight, maybe they were practice, but at the time, I didn't approach them like that.  When I started rebinding those books, I had no plans of getting into publishing.  As I went through the process, coming up with ideas, working with a bookbinder, I began to realize that this had some similarities to publishing, and it struck me that this path was leading me to become a publisher.  I also realized that although I had creative control over the covers of the book, since this was a rebind of the 1st edition page block, I had no say as to the design of the interior pages, what paper was used, the printing process, things like that.
BB:  Was it gratifying to be able to work directly with David Palladini on the portfolio?
PS:  The whole Palladini experience is inexplicable to me.  One of those serendipitous moments that don't happen very often, in my experience.  I talk about this in more detail in my introduction to the art portfolio, but yes, working with David has been a tremendous inspiration and very gratifying.  He is a great artist, a deep thinker, a widely read and traveled individual, and meeting him has enriched my life.  There are so many works of art that Palladini has created in his long career, and in the biography that I am publishing, I have included reproductions of more than 70 of his illustrations.  It's a great book to have because you can learn more about David's life and see all this other artwork.  It was written by Mark Strong, and is included free with the Eyes of the Dragon Art Portfolios.
BB:  What has the process of launching The Covers Collection been like?  Where did that idea come from?
PS:  Ah, The Covers Collection.  Where to begin?  Launching this series of art prints has been a labor of love.  This idea came out of the custom bound books.  Firestarter to be specific.  When I was coming up with ideas for that one, I thought it would be nice to include a small 6 x 9 print of the cover art, and have it signed by Steven Stroud, the artist who created that cover.  So I had them printed, shipped to him, he signed and sent back, and it is included with the rebound book.
As I was going through that process, I decided to look up other artists, and do the same with them for future custom bound books.  At some point it struck me how great these would look in a larger size, and that was the origin of the idea.  The project really began to take on a life of its own.  Right now, I have 20 covers planned for the series.
I think something that a lot of people don't realize, and I didn't realize myself, is that even though we know these covers so well, we actually don't know them.  What I mean by that is, as I was working on this project, I had the opportunity to see high quality scans of the original paintings, and I was knocked out by what I discovered.  In some cases, part of the images were cropped to fit the proportions of the book cover, tone or color were altered, and of course, we have the cover text placed over parts of the image for title and author.  Until you see the art as it was originally created, you cannot fully appreciate how beautiful these pieces are.  And this has never been seen by the public until now.
There was even a case where the original art that was created for the cover was never used, and a modified version is what ended up being published.  I'm referring to IT.  In almost every case, there is an interesting story behind the artwork, and how it ended up the way it did.
BB:  What have the responses from collectors to the prints and portfolio been like so far?
PS:  Collectors have a lot of passion for what they collect.  Stephen King collectors have an elevated level of excitement for collecting his works.  I know, because I'm one of them!  I like to call it a mad obsession.  So when I started doing the custom bound books, I was struck by how enthusiastic people were about these books.  Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.  Everything I have done so far has been met with an overwhelming sense of wonder and excitement, and that is very gratifying.  You can read the product reviews, knowing these prints are loved the way they are is one of the things that fuels me to keep it going.
BB:  What has being a King fan meant to your life?
PS:  On the one hand, I have made some good friends as a result of reading and collecting King.  I have been able to find a place in this community that feels like a little piece of home.  And it has also taken me down this road, which is working with books, with paper, with craftspeople, and artisans who create beautiful things by hand, and I love that.  And then, in another way, he has written some incredible stories.  I think non-King fans don't realize what a great writer he is.  A great storyteller, and so much of his writing contains these wonderful, poetic images.  I see poetry in a lot of his writing.  So in that sense, it has enriched my life through the simple pleasure of reading a good book.  And he is one of those constants.  I have always felt that I have not lead a consistent life, but I have seen and observed people who have, and I admire that.  With King, he is one of those people who has played some sort of role in my life for 30 years now.  He has been doing what he does for a long time, and is still doing it.  There is something to be admired with that.
BB:  Where do you hope to see Suntup Editions go from here?
PS:  Well, it is important that your first project as a small press publisher doesn't become your last project.  I learned some good lessons with my first publication, which will help with future publications.  Where to from here, well I plan on publishing good old fashioned books.  Up to this point, I have done an art portfolio, and this series of prints.  So for the future, I will [focus on] publishing limited edition books. 
Many thanks to Paul for taking part in that interview!  He's doing excellent work with Suntup Editions, and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.


  1. Nice interview. Man, those posters and prints look so fantastic. Great project. I hope for its continued success.

    1. Yes indeed. I ordered the Misery poster yesterday just before I began editing the post, and it had shipped before I was finished! So they've got quick-on-the-trigger customer service, too.

  2. This whole project is amazing to me, it's kind of like a wish come true. Since I collect art (prints mostly) way more than books, I have to be careful, because I could end up spending way more money than I have because I love this so much, it could become an obsession so I'm just waiting for my favorite covers to come out and buy those. Needful Things, The Stand and Nightmares and Dreamscapes are in the top 3 so I would have to get those.

    What covers will you goes hope make it to the printer?


    1. The ones you mention, plus:

      Duma Key
      Under the Dome
      Dolores Claiborne
      Four Past Midnight
      Everything's Eventual
      The Bachman Books (paperback)
      Danse Macabre (paperback)

      Those are the ones that come to mind!

  3. Replies
    1. That'd be cool.

      Today, they announced Salem's Lot:

      It wouldn't have been one of the ones that came to mind for me, but looking at it, I definitely want one.

  4. Mr. Burnette:
    Looks like you're going to need a bigger apartment.
    Thanks for the good interview.

    1. I swear, I really COULD use a bigger apartment, primarily so as to better display by Stephen King crap. You nailed me on that one and right quick!

  5. Our friend Paul Suntup recently did a Facebook live video with artist Stephen Gervais:

    I think it's awesome that he's shining a light on these artists, who are a grossly-undersung element of King's books.

    1. And here's another one: with Bob Giusti.

  6. Suntup Editions announced yesterday that they would be publishing a limited edition of "Misery," with signed-by-King editions ranging from $525 to $3950.


    1. It's weird. On one hand I begrudge no one making money, even if it seems like cashing in on/ exploiting a sub-market. Though, is it? I mean if you offer a product people want and are able to pay, are you obligated to mass produce it or to lower costs so everyone can get it? I don't think you are.

      BUT. When one's fandom is intense and when one discovers something like this, it can't help but gall a little bit!! I don't know if such a thing should be illegal or not, but it is at the very least extremely annoying.

      Then again, there are watches I love and want to buy and will never be able to afford. I'm not sure what the answer is.

    2. It certainly shouldn't be illegal, and more power to anyone who can afford to manufacture and/or buy such things. I take no issue with the notion that books can be worth that much money.

      But when you design a book with the thought in mind of making it that expensive, I just think there's something off about that. I can't even articulate exactly why I feel that way. Maybe this is a case of me having a fundamentally irrational response for no apparent good reason.

      But then again, maybe not. I consider myself to be a collector, but I own literally nothing that I wouldn't want everyone who is a Stephen King fan -- or a James Bond fan, or a Star Trek fan, etc. -- to also be able to own. High-end book collecting of this type is seemingly popular among the tiny people who engage in it due to the manner in which it allows them to separate themselves from the rest of the collectors. "I'm one of only 26 people in the entire WORLD who has this."

      There are always going to be rare books. Let's face it, not many people own a first edition of "Moby-Dick" or whatever. But I doubt that whoever published the first edition of "Moby-Dick" did so with the intention of making it available to only a tiny number of people; it's just ended up over time that relatively few copies exist, so the price it presumably commands is commensurate with its scarcity.

      THIS is engineered scarcity, and it's that aspect of it that troubles me. It also continues to trouble me a bit that noted man of the people Stephen King endorses this sort of thing, and supports it by signing the books.

      I dunno, maybe I'm out on a limb on this one. It's not like I feel an urge to own the book -- even the cheaper copies -- and am angry at not being able to afford it. I certainly can't afford the signed editions, but that's fine; I just don't like being not invited to a party, even if it's a party I didn't much want to go to in the first place.

    3. You raise some very sensible points. I hear you on King's motivation seeming a little curious. I always think he's trying to share the wealth with these partners, the sales from his exclusive stuff going to keep the publishers going for other ventures. And yet... like you sketch out, there, the whole process/ context leaves me feeling a bit cold.

    4. I do think a certain amount of it represents King in generous do-something-for-the-small-presses mode. I also think some of it may be a sort of subliminal fuck-you to high-end collectors. Sort of a "Well, okay, if you really want some exclusive shit with my signature on it, here it is and it's gonna cost you BIG."

      I could make myself cheerful over that, in theory.