Well, here it is.
The cover artwork for Nikolas and the Pantheon Trials was crafted and realized through the talents of Spencer Charles (designer and typographer) and Jacqui Oakely (illustrator). I've been itching to share this with you from the moment I received the final version. And let me tell you: I'm through the roof and over the moon about it!
I met Spencer through AIGA, Salt Lake City, when he was a student at the University of Utah. After a couple of years, I moved to New York City only to find out, about a year or so after, he was moving there, too. I, like so many others, was thrilled to hear about his incredible opportunity to work with Louise Fili. I watched, again with others (his growing fan base), as his skills and talents sharpened with rapid speed and his handiwork grew convincingly strong and persuasive.
So, when Nikolas dropped into my head, and I thought about producing it independently, Spencer was my first hope-choice as the designer that would assist in me in making a cover that was everything beyond ordinary.
After he graciously accepted the invitation to take on my project, I still didn't know about an illustrator. I had plenty of talented friends that would have done an excellent job, but as Spencer was designing the cover, I decided to really lean into his intuition about who he thought we should ask.
Enter the brilliant-brush world of Jacqui Oakley. Bashfully, I admit I didn't know Jacqui's work at the time. So when Spencer said, "Dallas: I know who we need to ask; I've always wanted to collaborate with her" I was anxious to see what illustrator had such pull on the likes and talents of Spencer Charles! I clicked to her website. And then I did a Google search. And then I spent hours looking at her work, my jaw on the floor the entire time.
Spencer led the way and reached out to Jacqui, via social media. And you know the feeling when you see someone's work and its so powerful, you know you're going to sound like a crazy-fan if you ever talk with them? And then, you sometimes imagine that they'll be so high and mighty, that "why would they take on my project" becomes all you can think about?
Well, Jacqui Oakley is the real deal. And she's one of the most lovely people I've met, too. Caring, interesting, silly, exacting, inventive, spontaneous, and then there is her ART—her CRAFT—her way of drawing with a brush! And her way of depicting animals. And faces. And landscapes. And the lists continue. To put it simply, I was completely TAKEN with Jacqui, from the first moment of contact.
Once Spencer and Jacqui agreed to the project, we set up a Google chat and spoke via screen. We decided we'd create a common Pinterest board and I would pin ideas I had been having in regards to what I thought the cover art should look like. Further discussions with Spencer and Jacqui spawned ideas around these terms: "wood-cut" and "arts and crafts movement" and "a book that looks like something you'd find on your grandparent's bookshelf—something they may have read many, many years ago." Oh, and yes—my one demand: "It can't look like any young adult novel cover now. We need the cover to be a work of art, in and of itself."
So, who did what? As the book designer, Spencer decided the design of the cover; he decided to have the illustration split into five geometric portions; he created the typeface Nikolas(!), which spells out my name at the bottom; he drew the name 'Nikolas' (that gorgeous name that I can't see any other way than as it is now); he created the ornamentation on the spine, including the symbol work and the hand-lettering of 'and the Pantheon Trials.'
Jacqui—the resplendent Jacqui—drew everything else you see. Every. Single. Brushed. Line. And I'm flabbergasted by it, still. We had talked about a "wood-cut" look and feel (an homage to the hand-maker Nikolas might have been) and man, she nailed it! The detailing of the sun, the young face of Nikolas and unequivocally executed illustration of the wolf are such fresh approaches, that for these alone I would urge you to buy this book! Jacqui's personal care, as well, went into the decision of the direct gaze you have of both Nikolas and the wolf, which completely arrests you, as the viewer/reader.
The other figures (I'll let you guess who they are, at this point) were perfectly imagined and executed, too. Jacqui's love for mythology and her understanding of how it merges with this story is what created those gorgeous renderings at the bottom left and right corners. You'll also see the varying types of ships in the background, representing different pantheons en route to the setting described in the first few chapters. Yes, Jacqui's understanding of myth and legend graced our collective ideas perfectly, as you can see.
Within the next couple of months, you'll also see the back cover featuring another illustration, as well as a closer examination of the spine and it's detailed ornamentation.
But today, 3 months before we physically release this story, please enjoy the artistic prowess of these two friends of mine. Thank you, Spencer. Thank you, Jacqui. Thank you for the transformative craftsmanship of this Santa Claus origin story. The cover is a mythical, visual wonder!
NOTE: pre-ordering will be available soon, both in softbound and Kindle formats! Also, if you're in Salt Lake City at midnight on 6 December, plan on coming to the release party at The People's Coffee.