Tag Archives: book cover

Hopeless Optimists

Hopeless, Maine – Optimists is the fourth book in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series I create with Tom. At time of posting it’s available for pre-order in all the sorts of places that sell books. My publisher for this – Sloth Comics – tells me there have been a happy number of pre-orders places already, which is cheering.

Sloth is not a big publishing house, and in normal years has depended a lot on direct sales at comics events. These have not been normal years, and many events haven’t happened. The creative sector has been even more precarious than it usually is. With the cost of living rising, people will, of necessity, cut their budgets for fun things first. Throwing coins at people makes a huge difference.

Of the covers we’ve done so far, this one is my favourite. I’ve only been involved in creating some of the covers, having taken on the colouring part of the work after several books had already been put out there. 

Hopeless, Maine graphic novels are generally available from places that sell books, including book shops – although you’ll probably have to order them. Optimists is, at time of posting, available for pre-order and due out at the end of March.

As Sloth isn’t huge, we don’t have much distribution outside of the UK for these editions BUT we also have an American publisher bringing out hardback editions, which makes it easier for people to get copies should they so desire.

What we did at Druid Camp

It would be fair to say that I’m not good with nudity. I can just about cope with other people’s, mine I find difficult. Making my body available to people in any way creates challenges. I have a lot of issues with my body, so inviting people to look at it or to accept my skin is tricky. So, yes, that is my new book cover, and yes, that is my back.

I’ve never considered myself cover material – I’m not the kind of slinky, glamorous entity that normally goes on covers. Last year, I decided to challenge this, to see whether my publisher, and readers, would be willing to tolerate me on the front of a book. It was not an easy thing to do. Given the subject matter of the book, I clearly needed to be lying down. For the Pagan aspect to come through, I needed to be lying on something natural, which meant outside. I don’t have a garden. I also don’t have a decent camera. Evidently, this was going to take a team, and the right place.

I took the project to Druid Camp, in no small part because it’s a safe space for me. Skin is acceptable there, and I knew no one would have an issue over my removing clothes. Plus, it’s a friendly, supportive environment full of people with skills. Getting the paint onto my back and the photos was a team effort, and a lot of trust on my part. It was a strange and exposed sort of thing to do, but it left me feeling stronger and less fearful.

I put this image out into the world with some nervousness. I tell myself that it will be ok because I am well used to people criticising my appearance. Only a couple of weeks ago on Twitter, a chap asked ‘why the f*ck would anyone want to go near you?’ I’ve had people telling me how ‘funny looking’, fat, and unattractive I am my whole life, this cover will not change that, and it will likely bring more of the same. I am used to thinking of myself as ugly, it is part of my sense of who I am. What makes me nervous, truth be told, is the risk of being found attractive. I find a measure of safety in being the sort of person very few people would want to touch anyway. It is simpler, and unthreatening. People affronted by my body have never even tried to hurt me by then using that body unkindly. Other people’s desire has not always worked out well for me and part of this wider process of testing my edges is about trying to establish that there isn’t something about my body that justifies abuse.

So here it is: awkward painted mammal by the light of a summer sunset, on the lush meadows of Druid camp.

Druid cover: Contains trees

I love the process of getting a cover on a book. I know it’s something authors generally get excited about, but being married to a brilliant artist makes the whole thing so much more fun. I’m not a very visual person, but I figured out years ago that the answer to covers is not to be too prescriptive. I’ve spent time at the publisher end of the book industry and a surprising number of authors are very clear about what they want whilst having no clue that it won’t work. I figure, your cover artist is the art expert, and also the expert on what works. Book covers these days have to also be viable as tiny thumbnail images online, as well as working on paper versions – its’ tricky

I’m lucky in that I can sit down and have a conversation about the kind of thing I might want, and whether that would work. I have learned to keep it vague. It helps to talk about mood, and to pick one or two key features for the artist to focus on. Then, if you trust your artist (and I trust mine utterly) its often a better bet to just sit back and let them do their thing, playing to their strengths to give you the very best they’ve got.

On this one, I wanted a sense of shrine, or altar as being a way of conveying the notion of prayer. We poured over images of Celtic deity figures online, and then Tom imagined me this strange and lovely figure, inspired by existing figures, but not anything already out there. As I’m a Druid, I pretty much have to have some kind of plant or tree imagery in the mix (it’s almost a law!). We went out looking for one, because that’s worked before (The tree on Druidry and the Ancestors is near where we used to live on the canal). What you can see on this cover, is a hawthorn perched on the side of a common – it’s not a precise take of a real tree, in its exact situation – mostly because the angles on those slopes aren’t quite suitable, but it is very much a gist of how things are on the hills round here. The grass is briefly lush, but in summer becomes a golden yellow, like a sheen of fuzzy hair that stays into the winter. The hills themselves have been quarried over long time frames, which contributes to the shape.

So this cover is very much an invocation of place. There isn’t an actual shrine around here like this one, but as there have been people living here for as long as there have been people… I like to think there was something.


When a Pagan Prays;

  • eBook £6.99 || $9.99
  • Jul 25, 2014. 978-1-78279-632-9.
  • Paperback £11.99 || $19.95
  • Jul 25, 2014. 978-1-78279-633-6.

Cover story

There’s something utterly lovely about having a book with my name and Tom’s art on the cover. Druidry and the Ancestors is the first paperback to land with this setup. We’ve done ebooks before, and there is Lost Bards and Dreamers – but that’s self published, which is different.

When we started contemplating the cover, we knew there would have to be a tree. You can’t have a Druid book without some kind of plant life on the cover!  The tree in question lives fairly near the canal. We knew there were some good, gnarly trees in the area, and I like ivy, so the pair of us went out with a camera, and came back with images for Tom to play with. I like willows. I know an oak says ‘druid’ more obviously, but the area in which I wrote the book is all willow and alder, oaks aren’t so partial to the damp. I love the capacity of willow to regenerate, and its beautiful flexible wood is wonderful to craft with. I have a wicker man in my history.

How to represent the idea of the ancestors? I didn’t want anything too obvious, so that ruled out standing stones and the like. I also didn’t want to peg it to one period. So we settled on a sort of charm bracelet, each individual image representing something I find meaningful.

Up at the top there’s a pentagram – which probably doesn’t need much explaining. This is a book I feel is as much for the wider pagan community as it is for Druids, even though I’ve come in from a Druidy angle. Then below to the right, we have a Celtic cross, because I’m very conscious that plenty of my ancestors were Christian, and their presence in the mix is important to me. Next down is a Pictish boar. Now, I’m not aware of being ethnically Pictish but I love the art style, and it also gave us a creature because I have a broader definition of ancestry than just immediate human bloodline stuff.

Then, going down the left side, there’s an awen symbol, not just for the Druidry, but for the crazy revival folk who invented so much and who I have a real love-hate thing going on with. Below that, an oak leaf, not just for the obvious Druid reference, but to include plant life in my depiction of ancestry. Then a skull. Because we like dead people, and skulls evoke all sorts of useful things, and we like skulls and I’m a bit of a goth at heart still.

Right at the bottom is a symbol Tom created for me years ago. Squint closely, and you’ll see it also features on this blog, and on the cover of Lost Bards and Dreamers. One of these days I shall get it tattooed onto my person. It’s a purple poppy, for dreams and visions, but the leaves are arranged in the style of a triskel, picking up on the Celts again, on all things that come in threes. This is my image of self, constructed from things historical, very much me, dangling off the bottom of the chain.

Peer at the background and you’ll see a hill that could well be Cam Peak or Silbury, or Glastonbury Tor, and some houses that could be Celtic roundhouses, or then again might not be.

There isn’t much that I do that doesn’t get thought about a lot. There’s a wonderful, magical process going from ideas in my head to things Tom creates. They never look how I expect them to. They always look better.