Tea Cup Chat with Jada D’Lee Designs

*Raises tea cup of Bollinger to welcome Jada*


Jada DLee Designs teacup

While we wait for movie news from Team Fifty (and with E L James currently in L.A., we hope there is some soon!), we thought it would be fun to spotlight a few people who have had an impact on the Fifty Shades journey. Those of you who have been fans of E L James since her fanfic writing days will be familiar with our first guest, Jada D’Lee. A rose by any other name… ;)

Thanks for joining us, Jada! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, two years ago I was a wife and Stay at Home Mom and now I’m still doing that, but I also design book covers and book trailers/blinkies. Really makes for interesting conversations with other moms at the playground, I’ll tell you that! It’s funny how everyone just suddenly gets quiet when the words “I design book covers for romance & erotic novels” comes out of your mouth. Come to think of it, those words bring silence every time I say them: the bank, the school, the neighbors…*shrugs* I guess it’s not what you expect a mommy in a cardigan sweater to say. LOL!

Long-time fans of Fifty are very familiar with your MotU blinkie, and new fans are being introduced to the FSoG version (currently kicking ass and taking names on our sidebar). How did you first get started doing blinkies for the Twilight fandom?

I became a fan of fanfiction, and it was a wonderful escape for me to get lost in the characters. A friend of mine started writing, and she asked if I could figure out how to make an animated gif, aka blinkie, to advertise her story on fansites. I had no idea how to do that! Luckily, Google is your friend, and before I knew it, I was making these gifs not only for my friends, but for authors whose stories I was crazy about, as well. And it felt good to give back to those authors. It was the least I could do!

What software program do you use, and do you have any tips for people interested in making their own blinkies/gifs?

Animation Shop is a great program for blinkies/gifs because there’s a great amount of effects to play with. If you’re doing a book trailer, it’s good, as well, to use with movie making programs. I do like to make sure that all of the trailers I make are small enough to be in blinkie form as well though. That’s why the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey is as short as it is. It’s a teaser, but at the same time, the blinkie can be displayed anywhere on a site, blog, or Tumblr without killing your computer!

Speaking of the Fifty Shades of Grey teaser trailer, what was the creative process that went into making it?

One of the things I loved about the Fifty Shades book trailer was the fact that it was a scene, not a description of the book. For me, I felt that it would make a much larger impact to spark the reader’s curiosity. It was also a challenge to show the characters, without actually showing them. With the movie being made, we didn’t want to put a face to these characters. However, I still needed to bring in their personalities. Using dialogue was the key. Another challenge was the Red Room of Pain, how to present it along with the shock Ana has when she sees it. At first, we had photos of the actual items in the room, but it lacked the impact you get when reading the book. In the end, we decided that showing activities that could take place in the room worked much better.

I hope I captured the flow and feel of the book. The trailer was a blast to make! Going from the reality of calm black and white, then jumping to the fast paced, rolling reds to show the difference between the two sides of Christian’s world: the one on the outside of that door and the one on the inside of it. (A/N: She captured it perfectly! Watch here.)

Along the way, you developed a friendship with E L James. Can you share a little bit about your friendship? We know it will only serve to confirm that the author hasn’t changed one bit with all of the fame coming her way.

Erika is one heck of a lady! If you go out for a girl’s night with her, you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time full of laughs and great memories. However, when bad news hits, she’s the first person to shoot you an email or phone call to ask if there’s anything she can do. She’s got a big heart and is always right there for her friends and family, no matter how busy her life gets. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be right now if she hadn’t been so encouraging. Every time I voiced an insecurity, she’d boost me right back up. And even though I’m always being silly and teasing her, I hope she knows that I’m very, very proud of her. Erika is an amazing friend, and I’m very glad that we were able to find ways to stay in touch.

Some fans might not know that you even have a cameo in Fifty Shades Darker at the masquerade charity ball. You are one of the “twelve lovely ladies” up for bidding for the first dance auction. When did you find out you got a shout out in the book?

Oh, I actually have a story to go with this! The book Fifty Shades Darker came out months before Christmas, which was right before her books started gaining major popularity. However, I had a feeling that my husband was going to give it to me as a gift, so I decided to wait to get it.

The beginning of December comes and life has been so busy for me that I hadn’t had a chance to talk to Erika in months. Around that time, I see a gift wrapped under the tree and I’m pretty sure it’s a copy of Fifty Shades Darker. Suddenly, I get this email from Erika asking how I was, how my kids were, and wondering if I’d seen the second book yet. She starts telling me how she hopes that I liked the part where she added me to the book…and at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to tear open that gift under the tree and see for myself! However, I didn’t want to ruin my husband’s surprise. I was stuck! So I explained to Erika that the book was wrapped, and I couldn’t look. She thought that was hilarious and offered to email a copy to see, but I told her I’d try my hardest to wait it out.

And, yes, I managed to wait until Christmas morning to finally open the book and see my name. But really, I wasn’t surprised that she did that. She has always been one to show her love by adding friends to her stories. When I go through the Trilogy, I see so many mutual friends mentioned, either in the story or in the acknowledgements. It brings a great big smile to my face every time I see a name!

Excerpt from Fifty Shades Darker (Ch. 7, pp. 146-147):

“Now, gentlemen, pray gather around, and take a good look at what could be yours for the first dance. Twelve comely and compliant wenches.”

Jeez! I feel like I’m in a meat market. I watch, horrified, as at least twenty men make their way to the stage area, Christian included, moving with easy grace between the tables and pausing to say a few hellos on the way. Once the bidders are assembled, the MC begins.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in the tradition of the masquerade we shall maintain the mystery behind the masks and stick to first names only. First up we have the lovely Jada.”

Jada is giggling like a schoolgirl, too. Maybe I won’t be so out of place. She’s dressed head to foot in navy taffeta with a matching mask. Two young men step forward expectantly. Lucky Jada.

“Jada speaks fluent Japanese, is a qualified fighter pilot, and an Olympic gymnast . . . hmm.” The MC winks. “Gentlemen, what am I bid?”

Jada gapes, astounded at the MC; obviously, he’s talking complete garbage. She grins shyly back at the two contenders.

“A thousand bucks!” one calls.

Very quickly the bidding escalates to $5,000.

“Going once . . . going twice . . . sold!” the MC declares loudly, “to the gentleman in the mask!” And of course, all the men are wearing masks so there are hoots of laughter, applause, and cheering. Jada beams at her purchaser and quickly exits the stage.

You and I (Lisa) finally got the chance to meet in person at the San Diego Comic-Con last summer. This journey has brought a lot of friendships into our lives…friendships that have taken us in unexpected directions. For you, one of the most unexpected and rewarding has to be designing book covers for Twilight fanfiction authors who are now going the mainstream publishing route. Congratulations on this new chapter in your life, btw!

I know this wasn’t a question, but I just had to throw in that I loved meeting you and hugging you as well! (A/N: Thanks, Jada. I feel the same way!)

As mentioned, you now design book covers. When did that journey begin, and where do you see it taking you?

When S.L. Scott decided to publish her first book Naturally, Charlie about a year ago, she wanted me to make her cover because she was already a fan of my fanfiction artwork. I was beyond honored, being a fan of hers, and it really was a great opportunity for me. I figured that if it didn’t work out, at least I tried. Now, my portfolio just keeps growing and growing, and just when I think it’s going to slow down, it picks right up again! So I’m really grateful to her for believing in me.

I don’t know where this ride will take me, so for now I’m just enjoying it. Hopefully, it will lead to more work, but even if it only leads to great friendships, I’d be happy with that! If I’ve learned one thing in the past 5 years, it’s that there’s some seriously talented women in this world who can write, edit, make artwork, etc., for some incredible stories. I just feel blessed to be a part of it. It’s been amazing.

How can others get in touch with you to use your book cover services?

I have a Facebook page (here) and if anyone is interested in working with me, feel free to contact me there. I really don’t have a certain ‘style’ of covers, so I’m pretty open to all ideas!

Which of your most recent book covers turned out even better than you expected?

The cover for Animate Me by Ruth Clampett was the one I was the most nervous about. I made so many mock-ups of that cover! But each time, I’d look at the hands and the cup with the design, and it just didn’t look right. It wasn’t until I just dropped back down to the basics and simply put the title on the cup that it all came together. Even then, I was nervous because it was so different. But in the end? I’ve received more compliments over that cover than I could ever imagine! It was a great surprise and looking back, it was worth the risk. Plus, Ruth and I had a lot of fun working on it, and I think that shows as well!

The author, Ruth, was kind enough to talk to us about working with Jada and to share her reaction to the cover.

When I first started seeing Jada’s work with other writers, I dreamed of working with her. I’ve been an art director for years, and I’ve always loved her design sense. But her talent goes beyond that for me. She has a true love of stories and characters that is reflected in her work. Her approach is always sensitive to the writer and the work itself, not just putting her own design stamp on everything. She listens and works with the author while still bringing her talent and special touch to every project. She also supports and encourages us with our writing and promoting efforts long after her work is done. Jada and I work really well together. She’s not just extremely creative, but enthusiastic as well, which brings a special energy to the process. I came to her with a pretty clear idea for what I wanted with the Animate Me cover, but she kept pushing to make it better. The final graphics of the title ended up being the biggest challenge, and she wouldn’t give up until we had it right. I’ll never forget the moment she came up with the final solution and sent it to me. I opened up the jpeg and fell in love…then cried tears of joy. Through it all Jada has become not just a valued designer to me, but a dear friend as well. (A/N: The cover is adorable, as is the story!)

What is one of your all-time favorite book covers that inspires you when you are designing?

I gotta be honest. What inspires me the most when doing covers are movie posters for romantic comedies! I think it’s because in the back of my mind, I’m hoping all these books get made into movies someday, because they’re all so darn good! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?! I think so…*smiles* (A/N: We couldn’t agree more!)

Social Media Links for Jada D’Lee Designs

Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

We’re so happy Jada agreed to join us and thrilled to be able to highlight not only her love for the Fifty Shades Trilogy but also what, by all accounts, seems to be her own success story of how being a fan, friend, and supporter of authors has led her to new adventures in life. And we hope that just about (in a pretty design kind of way) covers it!

What’s in a Name?

There will be many upcoming interviews with Ms. James. In addition to GOOD MORNING AMERICA and ABC 20/20, the TODAY show is also advertising an upcoming interview. There is so much to ask the author regarding the books, both about the story and their success, as well as her hopes for the movie. We are looking forward to all of it!

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to ask Ms. James a question about her story, and I wanted to share her answers with you here.

As has already been said (to near exhaustion), the story began as a Twilight fanfiction, so when Ms. James decided to publish the story, she had to assign new names to her characters. The nickname of ‘Fifty’ was already well established, but I was curious about what inspired her choices of ‘Christian’ and ‘Ana.’

Ms. James graced me with this response:

“Christian is the name of the character from the first novel I wrote after I read the Twilight series. I just love the name. I did my dissertation at university on the fall of the Tsar in Russia – and since then have always loved the name Anastasia… “


Ms. James’ explanation of ‘Anastasia’ didn’t surprise me in the least. From the first time I heard the name, I had immediately thought of the famous story of the Russian family. Okay, and maybe Disney’s spin on it.

I love how strong the name Christian is for Fifty, and yet I admit that I easily likened Fifty to Dr. Christian Troy from the FX show “Nip/Tuck” because much like Fifty, he was quite confident in his sexual escapades! That show was as addictive as reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” wasn’t it? There was definitely a lot of anticipation of what antics would be tried next. Dr. Troy is probably kicking himself for not having a Red Room of Pain ;)

Do you like the names Christian and Ana?