Ready to laugh out loud, blush, and feel a strange sense of nostalgia for the fiction series you read in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s? Dominic Moschitti’s imaginary used bookstore Paperback Paradise delivers contemporary takes on paperback series you might remember like the ‘90s young adult thrillers Goosebumps or the ever so innocent Sweet Valley High series from the ‘80s. But rather than rewrite the pages, Paperback Paradise reimagines the contents by riffing on the existing covers with new titles and reimagining the synopses on the backs.
Not for the faint-hearted and not always safe for work, the reinvented titles range from completely crass to PG funny to downright absurd. We connected with Dominic about the origins of his darkly humorous designs, what other uses he deems for paperbacks, his thoughts on bookmarks, creative inspiration, and more after the launch of his Artist Shop.
How did you come up with the idea for Paperback Paradise?
Back in the early 2000s, I was browsing the website Something Awful when I landed on the results of their forum’s weekly Photoshop contest. The community had taken a Choose Your Own Adventure book cover and came up with different titles based on the artwork. For whatever reason, I thought I’d be pretty good at this game, but didn’t try my hand at it until years later. My Photoshop skills were pretty rough, but my friends really enjoyed them.
In 2016, I was unemployed and looking for a new project. Those same friends encouraged me to make more book covers, so I went to a bookshop in Burbank and dug through the dollar bin. I tried my hand at it again and my friends gave them a real positive response. I decided to put them on social under a new account for fun and came up with Paperback Paradise.
What genres did you like reading as a kid or young adult? Any classic series?
I always enjoyed mystery and horror. When I was a kid, we used to watch Creepshow 2 all the time, so when Goosebumps came out I was really excited, but I never really got through any of the actual books.
As an adult I’ve revisited the Goosebumps series for a podcast called Goosebuds that I make with my friends Paul and Chad. We review RL’s classic series and now I understand why I never finished one—they’re so boring! The majority of the books are kids playing bad pranks on each other as a device to leave a chapter on a cliff-hanger with no payoff. I think I’ve liked three or four out of the 40+ we’ve reviewed. Camp Jelly Jam is the best one.
What do you like about designing based on vintage paperbacks? What’s your favorite title you’ve come across so far? What’s your favorite title you’ve created and what was the art paired with it?
I enjoy using vintage paperbacks because they really had to sell you a book based on the cover, so the artists are really trying! Vintage covers usually convey the big moments or deep emotions within the book which make them fun to reinterpret.
My favorite real title I’ve come across is A Circus of Hells, which I think is a book about chess.
My favorite title I’ve come up with might be Do Not Call Jesus a Coward. I think God is really funny because he’s very scary and has been known to come right down and whoop an ass.
What do you look for in the paperbacks you use for your edited versions? Do you actually buy and keep the books?
I look for an emotional exchange or people fighting animals. I do buy the books and I’ve kept most of the ones I’ve used.
Do you use bookmarks when you read? Ever dog-ear the pages instead?
I do use bookmarks because I make them for Paperback Paradise and owning 1,000+ bookmarks makes it easy to grab one. I never dog-ear pages because I have obsessive compulsive disorder and that would bother me.
Other than reading, in your opinion, what are several useful alternative uses for paperbacks?
Weapon. Foot rest. Prayer pillow. Crying sponge. You can do anything with a book.
What was The Soup? How did writing for it influence the work you do now?
The Soup was a clip roundup show where Joel McHale would make fun of the subjects of said clips. I didn’t write for the show, just made filler web content for social. That’s where I first started making book covers. Oddly enough, I used mostly Goosebumps books.
Have you always been a comedian? Were you accused of being the class clown in school?
I have a big family and they’re all very funny, so I was always trying to be funny, but I don’t think I had much success at making people laugh until later in my life. I got in trouble over jokes a few times in school, but the worst was when you were ignored because the joke was so bad. You don’t get in trouble if everyone would rather move on with their day then acknowledge the stupid thing you said.
How do you balance what inspires your art and humor and what you feel drawn to create? What do you do to refresh your artistic passion when you’re not feeling inspired?
I’m always making jokes to myself, so having an outlet like Paperback Paradise is perfect. Sometimes I see a cover that inspires a joke, or I have an old idea in my notebook about birds or something that I’m able to use when the right cover comes along. What I’m drawn to create is film, and it’s something I’m working toward.
Movies and music recharge my creative energy. I love to discover new music and watch movies with my friends. My friends are another source of inspiration. They are the funniest people I know and most of them are doing other things with their lives like making music and other forms of art. Los Angeles is a special place like that.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
Do what excites you and have fun!