Publication + Process

Congrats to Nicki on publication day for The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel!!! To celebrate, I’m gonna share some of the cover process.

I came into the cover process for The Grandest Bookshop quite late in the piece, after all the major design decisions. Not so with The Detective’s Guide! Here, with a full cover illustration, I was involved from the start, and it was a blast.

Those of you who are super quick off the mark and have already read the book will know that the characters are a really big focus. There’s the kids, of course, and there’s also the rich (and weird) first class passengers (aka suspects). Nicki writes them all with such joy that I really wanted the cover to feature a whole bunch of characters.

Then, of course, the setting is vital. The fact that they’re on a 1920s steam liner is a really cool thing that lots of readers will love, so that’s got to be obvious. Not only obvious, but dramatic and opulent too!

Those two key components (interesting characters + huge beautiful ship) provide something of a conundrum for an illustrator. How can we make the ship look big without the characters being tiny dots? How can we show lots of characters without relegating the ship to mere backdrop? These were the questions, and I have infinite gratitude to my AD Meg Whelan at Affirm for helping me answer them.

First I had to sketch a lot of steam liners, to see what compositions might be possible and workable. These are some of the early ideas, after the first research phase. I’m still stuck between wanting to focus on the ship and wanting to focus on the characters.

But both aspects were too important to let one slide, so we pushed a little further and tried using the dock to give us some more options.

The dock was a useful idea, but the lure of actually being at sea won out! Onto colour sketches…

And then, to the final:

The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel

In one month (Feb 23) The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel by Nicki Greenberg will be out in the world! I’m a sucker for a good whodunit, and these characters and setting are fantastic. For me, creating the cover was as much about trying to convey the reasons I loved it as anything else, and it was the absolute highlight of my career thus far.

The first middle-grade novel from award-winning author Nicki Greenberg, this book is a classic whodunnit mystery set aboard a grand ocean liner in the 1920s. With first-class glitz and glamour and a deliciously plotted intrigue featuring an uppity stage star, a missing diamond, a leopard and a loveable cast of child sleuths, The Detective’s Guide to Ocean Travel is an exciting romp on the high seas, perfect for fans of Murder Most Unladylike and The Good Thieves.

Thank you to Meg Whelan at Affirm Press for being an incredibly supportive art director throughout the creation of the cover. Process post to follow at some point 🙂

Melody Finch

Melody Finch is out today! This is a middle grade eco-fantasy journey across Australia, from Queensland down to the SA coast. I got to draw the Murray river! And a diamond firetail! And I designed the title font, which is new for me!

The cover was a collaboration with the authors, and I’m very proud of how it turned out. All the best Ian and Gary, I’m glad this book is out there in the world now 🙂

The Grandest Bookshop in the World!

Today is release day for The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor, and, delightfully, the first time my illustrations appear on the cover of a published book. The entrancing cover design is by Affirm Press, and I contributed the characters and window illustrations. I can’t wait til I can go to a bookshop and see it for real. But, in the meantime, it has been a pretty exciting distraction from Covid lockown.

As for the actual story: it’s a glorious middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 1890s Melbourne, and the bookshop, known as Cole’s Book Arcade, was a real place. I loved it, and it feels like such a special story, grounded in Melbourne history.

Thank you so much to Meg Whelan, and the Affirm team, for bringing me into this project.

Here’s the book trailer:

And here’s a little close up of the MCs :