I think adding a visual aspect to novels helps create a more complete and immersive experience. You’ll notice that art has been important to one extent or another in all of my books. Elantrishad its map and the Aons; Mistborn had its maps and the Steel Alphabet. The Rithmatist, has extensive magic system diagrams with every chapter and I love what illustrations have added to the reissue of the Alcatraz books. I’m a big fan of the sequential art storytelling form as well, so you’ll likely see me do some more completely graphic novels in the future.
Including a map in a fantasy book has become a bit of a cliché ever since Tolkien did it. But if you go back and look at what Tolkien actually did, the map that was in the book was an in-world artifact–it was something the characters carried around with them and used. So I’ve approached the art in my books in a similar manner. Each piece represents something that is made and used by the people in the world of the books. I think that helps give a richer feel to the world I’m creating.
One thing you probably won’t see me doing in future adult novels is including much character art. I generally want to leave exactly how characters look up to the imagination of the reader.
In this age of digital only ebooks, I believe that it’s important to make a physicalbook a thing worth buying and owning. I want the book itself to be a work of art. My staff spends a lot more time paying attention to the paper the book is printed on, the binding, the process for printing images, and so forth than most authors can. The art in my books is so important to me that I even have an in-house art director. Along with creating my maps and other art, he also finds and hires other artists to add variety to the art styles in the books.