song of the slums

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Making the Cover

Early Cover Ideas

First Version

Final Version

Designing the text

Cathy Larsen


I first met Cathy Larsen when she was designing books and covers for Penguin. I'd done a map to go at the front of Ferren and the Angel (and all the books in the trilogy as it turned out). I love drawing maps, but it needed the hand of a professional to turn it into a map that would print up well on the page. Enter Cathy - the consummate professional, who can turn her hand to anything. Great at drawing and original artwork, great at working with photos, great with the graphics for covers and inside a book, and great at the whole business of laying out a text (she can even remember the old, laborious days when layout had to be measured and calculated for a typesetter, before computer programs could do it all automatically). Is there anything this superwoman can't do? Well, she admits to not much liking creating cartoon style art - but check out the Cathy Larsen page, and you can see she's no slouch at that either!

Song of the Slums is a photoshop cover, using found images, studio shots - and an incredible amount of modifying and playing around to make it all come together in a single vision. I'm in love with the Song of the Slums cover, I think it's just beautiful to look at regardless of selling power (though fingers crossed for that too). I came in part way along, and made Cathy's task even harder than it already was … well, read about that on the First Version page. But even before that, there had been versions created and discarded, far more than I ever knew about. Track through the whole story and you'll see how much goes on beneath the surface - you'd never guess! The making of this particular cover is a classic - of developing and evolving, re-thinking, re-starting. The story of this cover could provide material for a whole book in itself!

Talking to Cathy, I realised that creating a photoshopped cover involves all the talents of a film director - meaning, not only artistic flair, not only technical skill, but also the talents of a military general for organising, assembling, coordinating … not to mention all the tricks for scrounging, make-shifting and pulling rabbits out of thin air. The Song of the Slums cover has its own special story, but similar things go on - says Cathy - in the creation of many covers. What's not always so similar is that different people often take care of different tasks in the creating process. Here, it's all one person's work - and I'm so thankful that that one person was Cathy Larsen!

So here it is, the story behind a wonderful cover:

(i) The Early Cover Ideas

(ii) The First Version

(iii) The Final Version

(iv) Designing the text inside

and, lastly, (v) a page on Cathy herself.

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Richard Harland.