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Chasing Graves by Ben Galley – Cover Reveal & Guest Blog

Ben GalleyI’m a firm believer that cover art is part and parcel of the book – conjoined twins impossible to separate. The cover plays an important role. It represents the words inside a book, communicates genre, indicates quality, and is ultimately responsible for attracting the eye of the reader. It’s got a vital job, and although it’s a challenge, I relish it, and get rather excited every time I reach the artwork stage of the publishing process.

I’m a huge fan of SFF artwork. I regularly shuffle through ArtStation and DeviantArt gawping at artwork I could never hope to create myself. As I’m no artist, I normally stick to the words and the maps and leave it to professionals to create my cover art. I’ve worked with some fantastic artists since publishing my debut The Written in 2010, and for my newest book, Chasing Graves, I knew I had to not only pull out the stops, but throw them on the floor and stamp on them.

The first step is to figure out the cover’s concept. I did this back in May, and I did so in my usual fashion: a beer in hand to lubricate the imagination, spooling off random ideas until I settled on ones I liked. While working with an artist is a symbiotic relationship, each bringing their own ideas to the table, I like to approach the process with at least one solid brief. For Chasing Graves, that was my main character, Caltro Basalt—all-round scoundrel and master thief. In the Egyptian-esque world within the trilogy, the murdered are bound after death as slaves for the rich and powerful. Caltro finds himself in precisely this position on his first night in the grand city of Araxes. Here’s what I originally wrote as a brief:

• The process for enslaving a ghost is immersing them in Nyxwater – a dark, oily water used for binding the dead as ghosts. I’d like to capture this moment of binding on the cover.

• My concept is Caltro rearing up from dark water, only head and shoulders showing, with half his face still human and in anguish. This should fill up the bulk of the front cover, leaving room for titles at the bottom.

• The other half of his face should look as if the skin has been removed by the water, showing a ghostly blue skull beneath, formed of blue vapour.

The brief, along with a truly terrible sketch I rustled up, was enough to start working with an artist. That role fell to Chris Cold, an artist whose ArtStation portfolio absolutely stunned me the first time I saw it. Within a day of emailing, Chris began work transforming my rough words and even rougher sketch into art.

Chasing Graves (cover reveal 1)

The process took barely a few weeks and before I knew it, Chris had produced something that was far better than I had even imagined. He had captured the Nyxwater and the transformation from body to ghost perfectly. Caltro’s anguish and outrage was also excellently depicted.

Chasing Graves (cover reveal 2)

Chasing Graves (cover reveal 3)

Chasing Graves (cover reveal 4)

After a pinch of feedback, Chris came back with this final piece, and once again I was stunned. The character I had been working with for the last year and a half, who had been confined to my imagination until now, was finally right there in front of me. It’s a brilliant and enigmatic feeling.

Chasing Graves (cover reveal 5)

The next stage for Chris’ artwork was to have it typography added by the inimitable Shawn T. King, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with twice before. He was on board immediately and, as usual, produced some outstanding typography that excellently suits the dark tone of the artwork. It was the proverbial cherry on top.

Chasing Graves (cover)

It’s a fantastic feeling to see the book you’ve been toiling away on for over a year become something visual and tangible. Despite the word or page count, it somehow still doesn’t feel like an actual object until there’s a cover wrapped around it. Now that I’m at this point where it feels almost a finished product, I’m ecstatic, and I’m itching for the December release. I would like to say a massive thank you to both Chris Cold and Shawn King for their superb work and professionalism. They’ve brought Chasing Graves to life, and without them, I’d be revealing one awful blue and red sketch here today.

Big thanks also to Marc, Jennie and the rest of the Fantasy-Faction team for helping me reveal the Chasing Graves cover, and letting me chat about its creation. I hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading.

Chasing Graves (cover)Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to rule is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is only the beginning.

Chasing Graves is due out December 7, 2018 in ebook and paperback, but you can preorder it today! To learn more about Chasing Graves and Ben’s many other works, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Comments

  1. Summer says:

    A nice, linear breakdown of the editing process of the front cover. Awesome article and awesome cover.

  2. Just an awesome cover and I love the way the creation was laid out in this post. Such an original way to present the whole thing. Best of luck Ben, it really is a fantastic-looking cover!

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