April 27, 2019

Making the Cover: "Tunnelville" 2.0 by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner

Hello lovelies!

I'm treating you to something different today. Or better...something that I already did once, but you don't often see around. Not quite your classic cover reveal, but the illustrated story of how a concept is made into a cover. Which is probably interesting if you dabble in art yourself, but maybe even more if you don't have the faintest idea of how these things work (when the authors themselves are in charge of the process, that is).

Before we start, a short recap is due. In 2013, I received a review copy of Wakefield from the very hands of authors Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner. To cut a long story short, since then we have developed a great author/blogger relationship. I reviewed the three collaborative books they have put forth so far (after Wakefield, the sequels Tunnelville and Perfection), beta-read for both of them, and cheerleaded like a champion at every step of their writing journey. The books Erin and Troy co-authored are the first half of the Mad World double trilogy, originally published by a small press. After Book 3 came out - that is, in June 2013 - the two of them have been working at refining their craft, while also tending to their individual projects. Now, since the rights for the first three installments were reverted to them, Erin and Troy have decided to go indie, and to kick off Wakefield, Tunnelville and Perfection again, before they start publishing the second half of the series. This involved a whole rebrand, of course, starting with the covers. Troy is the one in charge of them, and today on the blog he kindly shares his creative process in a Tunnelville making-the-cover post. (Note: Tunnelville 2.0 is scheduled for the early summer, hopefully June, July at worst...the Dynamic Duo is presently giving the final touches to the revised version...so keep your eyes peeled! Though of course I'll keep you posted...literally 😉). Here goes...


I had a blast creating the Wakefield cover, and part of that was because I’d planned out how each cover would look for the rest of the series, or at least the overall theme/vibe. Since Max was on the first one, it was Astrid’s turn to take center stage on the Tunnelville cover. You may or may not be surprised at who’ll feature on the book 3 art.


I’d settled on each cover featuring three basic elements: character, setting, and a whimsical piece. For Wakefield, that was Max in the hospital with the talking fox. For Tunnelville, I decided on Astrid in Boston and a sign begging for cash (and feet are hard so it let me cheat by covering Astrid’s).
The first thing I did was sketch out our snarky teen. Since Wakefield’s cover used a hand silhouette, I thought it would be fun to go with feet here (there’s a whole lot of walking in the story). And what better way to symbolize Boston than a map of the subway system?


Once I was happy enough with a pencil sketch, I colored it in to have a basic guide of how it should end up. The Boston subway map has definite colors, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room to play around there.

The next step was having this digitalized. So I hired a third party to work his magic and turn this into a neat vector image following my color scheme. In the last few months I’ve been teaching myself how to do this, so I may give it a whirl for book 3’s cover.

This one needed barely any tweaking after I had it digitalized. It was only a matter of adjusting the subway lines and the colors and filling in the ends of the hoodie. Since I wanted this to match Wakefield, I took the exact same red, yellow, and green from there and implemented them into this one.

The final touches were the simplest since all I had to do was match what I’d done with Wakefield by adding the text.

Stay tuned!
Life for Astrid and Max got weird, and then weirder. And now Team Orphan and friends have escaped from Wakefield and are on the run. After pulling a young thief into their fold and dealing with the pains of prescription drug withdrawal, they make their way to Boston, where they settle in a community of underground tunnel dwellers. Among the eccentric tunnel folk, they meet the fabulous Angie DeVille, a self-made hipster and socialite who takes them under her neon wing. She might even know a thing or two about magic.

Dr. Lycen, of course, is having none of this. He’s been tasked with hunting down the Wakefield escapees and will stop at nothing to find them. As if that weren’t enough, Astrid’s aunt has hired a P.I. to track down her missing niece. But as Astrid and Max do their best to stay hidden, they learn that even more sinister threats might be lurking just over the horizon.


  1. That was a lot of fun! I like seeing the "behind the scenes" process for things.

    1. Me too! Like how songs are recorded or videos are made.

      Troy did a great job with the covers, but the series is even better!

  2. I actually love seeing the cover making process. and I admire mr. troy here on designing the cover himself.

    I'm actually confused by the title/book series name at first until I read which is which. mad world seems easy to ignore here, like it's part of the image and not necessarily useful information.

    if I was to re-design this, I would move the authors' names above Tunnelville, move 'mad world book two' to the very bottom and also fix the title slightly for I think the black shadow in the Tunnelville is a bit weird. I would make the shadow to the left or right and add a white outline to the text to show up better. and I would make her right hand (the hand handing loose) a little larger, compared to her left hand on the waist, it seem too small. and I would add more of the map under her arm cause it look like it's missing a bit part of the image.

    she looks a bit old to be a teenager, unless she has one of those older faces. for some reason, I imagine she should have an eyebrow raised as if she's mocking people that passes by her, mr. troy does stated this is a snarky teen so.

    I have make up a mockup design so if the authors are interested in seeing it, let me know.

    have a lovely day.

    1. I did tell Troy that Astrid looked a bit older than her age, to be honest - but I wasn't involved in the creative process LOL. I only saw the finished cover. I didn't notice the hand until you pointed it out, but it's true! All in all, I think the cover looks nice, even if I'll admit I liked the Wakefield one better. I'm not an artist though...you are 😉.

  3. Yay! I'm so excited to see Tunnelville released again soon! I'll be picking up a copy when it does. The covers look nice side by side!

    1. Yep, they do!

      I'm so happy I put this series on your radar (though it's more like Erin did, via The Art of Escaping 😉).

  4. Haha yes, but if we follow that back further, I probably never would have read The Art of Escaping without your recommendation! So it really started with you. 😉

    1. I'm sure you would have found out about it eventually, you human book radar 😉. Maybe only a little later.

  5. I've always loved these posts! It's fun to see all the work that goes behind making covers, and I feel they never get enough appreciation.

    1. I'm glad you liked the behind-the-scene stuff!

      I recently read a tweet that asked why cover artists rarely, if ever, get a mention...even in cover reveals. Heck, it's true! I'll make a point of tracking them down and give them credit from now on.


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