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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cover Reveal: Chasing Graves – Book One of the Chasing Graves Trilogy By Ben Galley

(Desert digital art by Daniel Kvasznicza)

One of my favourite parts of the book publishing process is reaching the cover design stage. I find that even though you can stare at a humongous Word document for months on end, even though you’re well aware you have a book, it somehow doesn’t feel tangible until it has a cover. It’s part film poster, part packaging, and it’s why I thoroughly enjoy getting to this stage. And so, back in May, when my calendar politely reminded me it was time to organise the cover for Chasing Graves, I may have performed a small jig around my writing cave.

The genesis of the Chasing Graves cover concept came from the story itself. Wherever possible, I always like to feature a character on my book covers. In the new trilogy, the main protagonist is a fellow by the name Caltro Basalt. He’s a master thief, somewhat of a bastard, and finds himself ostensibly dead on his first night in the city of Araxes. In the world of Chasing Graves, bodies can be bound so that their ghosts become slaves for the rich. The process involves submerging a body in the black water of the River Nyx, and I decided that Caltro’s moment of passing into the ghost realm would be perfect for the front cover, showing his tumultuous transformation from human to ghost. My hopes were that through colour and content it would be eye-catching, almost horror-esque without leaving the fantasy genre behind.

The next step was to transfer what I had in my mind’s eye onto paper and reality. Now, I’m not an artist, as you’ll see from my rough sketch below, and that’s why I’ve always relied on professionals to create my covers. Chasing Graves was no exception. Initially I looked to the fantastic covers we’re blessed with in the fantasy market, and the amazing artists behind them. I also trawled ArtStation and DeviantArt to find creators that were producing art similar to the style I wanted. After a few weeks of chatting to various artists, discussing briefs and timescales, I decided to go with an artist called Chris Cold.


I came across Chris on ArtStation and was immediately transfixed by the array of otherworldly, haunting, and incredibly detailed artwork in his portfolio. The tone of his artwork was gothic in places, colourful where it needed to be, and to be honest, exactly the style I’d had in mind. Chris got back to me within a day and within no time at all, the brief was sent over and the artwork for the entire trilogy was commissioned.

I always try—emphasis on try—to give a detailed brief. Writing a brief is very similar to writing a blurb. I can create a world and spin multiple yarns, but ask me to condense an idea into succinct sentences in my head and I fall to pieces. With the help of a few examples—such as the scene in Watchmen where Jon Osterman/Dr Manhattan is ripped apart by the field generator—and one terrible sketch, Chris started work in early August.


First we confirmed composition and colours, working on details such as the fact ghosts in my world are bright blue and that Caltro has a darker skin-colouring, as most of the trilogy is based in a North African world.


After that stage, the initial cover popped into my inbox. I would prefer not to say I squealed, and recall it as a barbarian’s roar, but there was definitely some excitement.


I wanted more ghost in Caltro’s face, and after I confirmed my feedback with a few fellow authors and long-time fans, Chris went straight to work on the final artwork. And here it is: 


If I could have hooked my brain up to a printer and generated the image I had in my mind’s eye back in May, scribbling ideas down over a pint, this would have pretty much been it, except it didn’t look anywhere near as good. I think Chris has absolutely nailed the brief and perfectly encapsulated Caltro being torn from mortality. The detail and colour against the black strike me in just the way I wanted, and he also incorporated a feather for the detail on the back cover, which is the symbol of the bound dead in Chasing Graves.

Next up was the typography and the very final cover design, which came down to the inimitable Shawn King. Shawn and I worked together on my standalone novel The Heart Of Stone and its short story prequel Shards, and he did such a brilliant job with those that he was my first choice for adding text to Chris’ art. Needless to say, Shawn smashed it as always. For me, the font choice backs up the grungy nature of the art and the decay of the world Chasing Graves is set in, while adding dynamism to the whole design.


Overall, I’m thrilled with how both Chris and Shawn took my humble imagination and turned it into something not only tangible and real, but something that I’m incredibly proud to slap on the front of my book. They’ve done a fantastic job, and if Chasing Graves is anything to go by, I’m straining at the bit to see what they produce for books two and three…

Thanks for reading, and a big thank you to Mihir and the rest of the Fantasy Book Critic crew for letting me ramble on. I hope you like the cover and enjoyed the story!

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Official Author Website, Facebook & Twitter

Release Date: December 7th 2018 (eBook & Paperback)

Pre-order link: Amazon US & Amazon UK


Official Book Blurb: 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.

NOTE: Environment: Dune digital art by Daniel Kvasznicza.

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