The following is syndicated from two posts by Raphyel: this one and this one. Both are posted here with permission.
As we near the reveal to Prossia's new cover, why don't we take a look down memory lane? I figured we could start with the image that inspired the original one. :)
So, here I was, months away from graduation, with a manuscript to this sci-fi novel I wanted to publish. I don't think the word, "busy" could describe the numerous undergoings I had back in '09. Still, it's a pretty common tale for most authors. When it comes to this line of work, if one isn't hunkered down with something, he/she probably isn't trying hard enough.
Up to this point, I hadn't told a single soul about my future writing goals after I graduated. I guess I didn't want to have people coming back to me and pointing out my failure if I didn't publish. Then I realized accountability might very well be the best thing for me. So, I decided to announce Prossia at my senior show. I mean hey, if you tell over a hundred people that you're going to have a book out within such and such, I don't think I'll have much of a choice beyond following through!
The first draft of Prossia had been on my numerous backup files for a while by this point, so I had plenty of time to reminisce on the feelings and emotions I hoped this coming-of-age story. I wanted to present those feelings when I presented the upcoming book to my family, friends, classmates, and other guests at the show. I also found my tagline for the book, the very one you'll see at the header of the new cover: where were you when you had to grow up?
An eerie picture displaying what appears to be a young humanoid creature looking down at a sword, with that question being asked over her head, probably raised a lot of questions. What type of creature is that? Why does she look so sad? Did she just kill someone with that weapon? Is that how she grew up?
I called the title to this early illustration of Aly "A Soldier's Burden." When I finished it, I felt that the simplicity of the image bore a lot of weight. When I approached the subject matter again, I'd come back with some more confidence when it came to drawing on the computer, as this was the foundation to Prossia's first book cover.
Ah, yes. The original. After learning a few Photoshop tricks here and there, thanks to numerous DeviantArt tutorials, I did a newer version of "A Soldier's Burden," months before I was ready to publish Prossia for the first time. I always knew I wanted to return to that subject and use it as the "gateway" to the book, but I had a few items I wanted to change from the original.
For one, Aly's eyes were constantly mentioned in the novel, and I felt it would be a little unfair not to let the viewers have a real look at them. The one word which was constantly used to describe their brilliance was "piercing," so, in that regard, I wanted to make sure they were the focal point of the cover.
The next item I wanted to address was the planet at the bottom. I did a teaser trailer not long after "A Soldier's Burden" with Aly overlooking a planet, as if she was keeping watch over it. I wanted to give a similar sort of vibe on the cover. I only had one little problem, though. I'd never illustrated a planet before, and I couldn't stand doing backgrounds at the time! Now, here's something many people may not know about us, artists. We have various strengths and weaknesses. Some might be good at character design but struggle with backgrounds. Others may be great with color but lack in executing proper value and contrast. The list goes on and on. In my case, I've always liked drawing characters first and foremost, even when I was a kid, not giving the background or secondary items any other thought. Well, decades later, that practice tends to bite me in the butt a lot. LOL!
Because of this, I now tend to start my illustrations by focusing on the background first, because, if my least interesting subjects are lacking, then my entire composition is weak. Again, this is just me. Some artists don't have a problem with background, middle ground, foreground, the subject matter, or any part of an illustration at all! Anyway, long story short, I had to spend about as much time on illustrating the planet, which is Argustas (where the majority of the book takes place), as I did on Aly.
And last but not least, the expression. In the original "A Soldier's Burden," Aly looked weighed down, tired, but there was still something, hmm, bold about her; strong. I didn't want that to be shown on the cover. No, I wanted the viewer to see a girl, dressed in armor, placed behind this world she's expected to defend, asking, "What in the world am I doing here, because I don't want to be here at all!" She's terrified, something I really wanted to drive home in the novel. Yeah, while Aly's alien capabilities are phenomenal to read throughout the story, I didn't want the people to forget that she's this: just a girl trying to do whatever she could to survive the horrors of the battlefield. Prossia isn't Star Wars. There isn't a theme song that gets you excited as the story rolls up the screen. No, this is war, civilization's ultimate tragedy.
So, here it was. The cover for my first novel. The illustration that would find itself on web ads, flyers, postcards, you name it. Talk about a proud moment! Years went by, and Prossia still held its place on the online bookshelf, as I honed my skills at writing and learning the quirks of the business. I couldn't have been more grateful for those years that followed Prossia's release...especially since they taught me all of the numerous mistakes I did the first time I launched the book, the cover being one of them. Why don't we save that story for next time? ;)
Read the next post in this series HERE.