interview with Michelle Modesto: YA author and the talent behind those bookish makeup designs that got YA community so excited

I have something really cool for you all today, dear readers! 

It is a very special interview with a fellow YA author who is also an artist and whose stunning designs are making writerly hearts flutter with excitement and joy. 

I'm talking, of course, about Michelle Modesto.

Let's start from the beginning... A few weeks ago I woke up to an amazing surprise - something really cool has happened, and it was book-related. Now, as a humble debut author, any kind of (positive) attention to my darling luminous monster of a book-baby is a BIG DEAL to me, so this thing that happened felt very VERY special:

What kind of stunning sorcery is this, you might ask?

Well, this is what happens what art inspires art. In this case, when a book cover art inspires makeup design.

The creator of the above awesomeness (and of many others) is Michelle Modesto (@elle_modesto on Instagram). Aside from being a published author, she is also a talented makeup artist - and, you guessed it - her makeup designs are inspired by book covers. Specifically, YA book covers.

After Michelle posted her WHAT THE WOODS KEEP inspired makeup creation, I knew I HAD to interview her on my blog. 

When I told my fellow 2018 debut authors - Electric Eighteens - that I was interviewing Michelle, I got forwarded some additional questions to include into this interview, and Michelle was kind to answer them all!

So, here is the interview, illustrated with some of Michelle's beautiful art pieces. And don't forget to check out Michelle's Instagram for more bookish designs.



Without doubt, you’ve made many fellow authors’ day (week, month…!) when you picked their book’s cover art as an inspiration for one of your stunning eye makeup visuals. How did you become interested in the bookish makeup art? What inspired/motivated you?

I’ve had the idea to do book makeup for a long time, but I was always self-conscious about posting the pictures I’d been experimenting with on Instagram. I decided to go for it after getting some encouragement from friends in my critique group who are also really into makeup. 

SEA WITCH (Sarah Henning) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

How do you choose which book covers to base your makeup creations on? Are there particular types of covers, images, patterns or colors that appeal to you?

For the most part I choose books based on what I’m excited to read. I also really wanted to put emphasis on debut authors to give their books a boost if I could. The things I look for when creating makeup looks, are the flourishes the cover designers put in there, like filigree, or shapes, or in the case of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, a feather. 

WHAT THE WOODS KEEP (Katya de Becerra) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

Your fan engagement on Instagram in response to your bookish eye makeup posts increased dramatically over the recent months – what do you think it is that appeals to your followers about book-related art?

I was so surprised to see such an amazing response to the makeup looks, and in such a short amount of time. I’m not sure what exactly it is that draws people to book-related art, but in my case, I develop emotional attachments to my favourite books, and so seeing them in different ways (art forms) is another way to bring me closer to those stories and characters. 

SEE ALL THE STARS (Kit Frick) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

I was absolutely thrilled when you turned my debut’s cover into this stunning piece of art. After I stopped hyperventilating in excitement, my first thought was: I want to try and replicate that. But alas, my makeup skills are at the rudimentary level… Are you considering adding bookish makeup video tutorials to your portfolio?

I’m definitely considering it. I’m not exactly tech savvy, and after watching a Youtuber friend of mine edit her videos, I realize it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to learn the process. It can take up to an hour to edit five minutes worth of video. With my day job and writing projects, I’m not sure when I’ll actually get to it. 

YOUR ONE & ONLY (Adrianne Finlay) makeup design by Michelle Modesto

You’re also an author; your cool YA steampunk western debut REVENGE AND THE WILD was published in 2016. What was your path to publication like?

Like many other authors, I spent years in the slush piles, collecting rejections for various projects. Then I joined Twitter and started seeing agents post specifics about what they were looking for. That led to a lot of full requests and eventually an offer of representation. After a year of edits with my agent, submissions went out to editors and within two weeks I had a book deal. It was one of the best days of my life.

What book influenced you most when you were a child (and why)?

I’ll never forget the first time I read PET SEMATARY as a kid. I think I was in the fifth grade. That book scared the hell out of me, but in the best way possible. Over the years it has influenced my art in all its many forms. 

If you have one, what is your favorite book of all time?

I have so many. At least one in every genre and demographic. But the stand-alone book I recommend most to people is REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS, by Alden Bell. It’s beautifully written and incredibly deep and emotional as well as terrifying—and zombies. The series I recommend most is THE CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pacat. Her character development in those books is phenomenal.

Do you listen to music when you write—or when you create your makeup designs? (If yes, what's been on your play-list lately?)

I’m always listening to music. I love all genres, but lately while doing makeup I’ve been listening to a lot Indi stuff from The National, Exit Music, and Lord Huron. My favorite thing to listen to while writing is metal. I adore an aggressive female lead vocal. Right now I have the band Oathbreaker on repeat. 

WRONG IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS (Tiffany Brownlee) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

What comes next? What are you working on at the moment, writing or makeup art wise?

Writing wise I’m working on a supersecret project with one of my favorite YA authors. I’m really excited about it. It’s still in the beginning stages, so there’s not much I can add to that. Makeup wise, I’m going be starting another round of book looks as soon as spring calms the hell down. Having allergies and watery eyes makes for some messy makeup. 

FAT GIRL ON A PLANE (Kelly DeVos) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

Any advice for all the aspiring/emerging writers/artists out there?

I could write a book on advice I’d like to give to new writers, but some of the things I wish I knew going into the whole thing was, never read the reviews—at least not before you’ve finished a new project. Negativity can stifle creativity and set you back. Reading is subjective, not everyone’s opinions should matter to you. Also, make friends with other authors and hold those relationships close. Family and friends don’t always understand what you’re going through, and you need that unique kind of support from people who understand. 

DEVILS UNTO DUST (Emma Berquist ) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

How do you do the fine detail on some of your designs—and what do you use (cosmetics, brushes, liquid vs powder?)

I use a combination of tools and products. For really fine lines I use brushes that are technically supposed to be used for nail art. For tiny little details I’ll use whatever is lying around that gets the job done—usually office supplies. For background I use eyeshadow (my favorite brands are Morphe, BH Cosmetics, and Color Pop because they’re highly pigmented and inexpensive, which helps because I go through a lot of product), and for the detail I like to use body paint instead of eyeliner. I work slow to make sure lines are perfect, which can cause eyeliner to dry out. Plus, with body paint I can mix the colors to look closer to those on the book covers. 

PEOPLE LIKE US (Dana Mele) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

Do you have any specific background in artistic makeup or are you just super talented and self-taught?

I don’t have a background in makeup. It’s just something I began playing with a couple years ago when I wanted to learn how to do my own makeup. I started watching Youtube tutorials and became obsessed. I do have a background in tattooing and pinstriping, though. I’ve definitely applied the techniques I learned from those to use in my makeup looks. 

What kind of camera/lens do you use to get those shots?

I use a Samsung Galaxy camera. It’s pretty old and outdated—I believe it’s the first one they came out with back in the day. But it still takes decent pictures. I use the beauty lens/filter to cut down on skin texture so the makeup stands out. 

THE WICKED DEEP (Shea Ernshaw) & makeup design by Michelle Modesto

Are these your own eyes in the photos?

Most of those photos are of my eyes. I have terrible vision so I have to be right up against a magnified mirror to see what I’m doing. To do makeup on other people, things would have to get up close and personal. There are a couple looks—the ones with the brown eyes and amazing eyebrows—that I did on my daughter when I was first starting.

Bonus questions!

Your dream holiday? 

A cabin in the woods with a lot of snow

In your writing process/routine, are you… a planner, pantser, or…?

I used to be a pantser, but it’s too much work during the editing process, so I’m definitely a planner these days.

Cats or dogs? 

Dogs, for sure. I have an English Mastiff named Legend, and she’s my world. 

Coffee or tea? 

Tea all the way. 

Thank you, Michelle!

More about Michelle Modesto...

Michelle Modesto is a writer, hockey fanatic, lover of most art forms, terrible cook and her social skills aren't that great either. Her debut YA novel, REVENGE AND THE WILD came out from in 2016. 

Learn more about Michelle by vising her website


The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

REVENGE AND THE WILD is available now. 

Check your local bookshop or order your copy online, including here: 

HarperCollins Publishers

Barnes and Noble 

Book Depository




Follow Michelle Modesto on Instagram for amazing book cover inspired makeup designs!
Michelle is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Add the featured books on Goodreads

Find more 2018 YA debuts at the Electric Eighteens site


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