Saturday, 3 October 2015


I met writer Helen Claire Gould at last year's Novacon (the UK's longest-established SF convention). I was there as (as usual) exhibiting and promoting my artwork, and Helen was promoting her SF novel, Floodtide, which she had then published as an ebook. 

The Floodtide flyer which Helen gave me contained an intriguing excerpt from the book, which sounded right up my street. Great title, too. I remember at the time thinking that this was just the kind of story that I'm keen to illustrate. 

After the convention, we kept in touch and although Helen had painted her own cover for the ebook, she told me that she was planning a print version that would have a different cover, and asked me to produce the artwork. Perfect!

Floodtide could have easily conformed to your Hunger Games style of iconic graphic design, or being a complex story, a more abstract, typography-led cover, but Helen was clear that she wasn't interested in a cover that could easily get lost among other current trend/samey covers, instead favouring an illustrated scene from the story. 

Floodtide is a pretty chunky book, with a lot of characters and environments. However the majority of the story takes place in a complex of interconnected lava tubes and caves on the planet Naxada. Helen's expertise in geology forms the basis of the science in the story, so it was important to show this setting in the artwork.  We decided that a general view of this mysterious underworld would work for the back cover, with more of an action scene on the front, which was to feature Jordas, Soolkah and Yado, the story's three pivotal characters. 

Helen's writing has a very visual quality to it, and I soon found myself imagining Floodtide as a graphic novel, so I wanted to give the cover a slight pulp sort of look, through the vibrant palette, the composition and typography. 

One of my original illustrations for the back cover was based on an ice cave, but it wasn't right for the book. However I really liked the piece, so developed it further to an individual piece, which I entitled Void

While the front cover is a scene from within a lava tube (and illustrates one of the chapter cliffhangers in the story), the back cover shows an almost chamber-like scene featuring the entrance to the lava tube we see on the cover as well as a cluster of "glowcakes", fungus-like growths on the cave walls, which emit light. 

After the cover artwork was complete, we set about creating a teaser and trailer film for the book. This we decided to deliberately make in a mono comic book style, ad both the teaser and trailer comprised various characters, scenes and scenarios from the book.  Helen's son Jason provided the recording for the voiceover, and Helen put together the screenplay. My job was to illustrate everything, which I rendered in ink and finished digitally. I then edited the whole lot together and composed an original piece of music for it. 

The original idea was simply to have a series of static, illustrated frames, like the pages of a comic. Then it occurred to me that we could animate many of these very simply, using a parallax shift style effect. This really brought the scenes and characters to life and gave the Floodtide teaser and trailer a very distinctive look. 

Watch the teaser!

Watch the full trailer!

Watch the promo video!

Here are some of my original illustrations from the teaser and trailer:

Helen will be promoting and selling Floodtide at this year's Novacon, and the artwork will be included in my own display. A very appropriate time to celebrate almost a year's collaboration!

The ebook version of Floodtide was re-christened with the new cover art, and is available on Amazon

The paperback edition of Floodtide is exclusively available via Helen's website - - and at various local outlets in her home town of Peterborough. 

1 comment:

  1. Great to see this up on your site, Alex. I would just like to say how much I've enjoyed working with you and with everyone connected with the teaser and trailer, i.e. my son and his friends from the Performing Arts course at Ormiston Bushfield Academy, and Ange, who was my audience for Floodtide for 5 years and stepped in to provide a voice at the last minute. It's been great fun!

    Floodtide is now in a number of local and slightly less local shops - see the website for details, which are updated in realtime. In particular, Waterstones Peterborough have been very supportive of my novel, so thank you very much, Jackie and staff!