Severed Press is a US based publisher that, amongst it's sci-fi, fantasy and horror novels, seems to specialise in creature features. Being tasked with creating a cover for Severed Press is an exciting challenge but making one for prolific horror author Tim Curran (Skin Medicine, Hive, Dead Sea, Resurrection, Skull Moon, The Devil Next Door, and Biohazard) makes things even more exciting.
Terror Cell is a nightmarish survival horror with roots firmly in the retro classics like Richard Curtis' 'Squirm' except much much much darker and substantially more twisted.
From the moment Severed Press provided the first sample paragraph we were enthralled and considering they wanted the signature creature displayed proudly on the novella's cover it was definitely something we needed to get right!
Out of principal we don't agree with putting the 'final monster' of a film or book on the cover however the description Severed Press sent and the description Tim Curran gave was so deeply disturbing we just couldn't say no.
We did however plan the design to be deliberately vague.
"I wanted [the viewer] to see these creepy nude bodies illuminated in the darkness with those disturbing smiles and the longer you stare at them the more the giant open maw of the monster stares back at you." - Ilan Sheady, art director.
There was however a substantial amount of detail to the creature that we wanted to withhold from the reader leaving them to still be discovered.
The logo of the book was hand created to look equally repulsive and disturbing. Slimy and bubbled like a trypophobic nightmare. The lettering is as uncomfortable to imagine as the creature.
We were particularly proud to have award winning artist Marina Ortega apply her signature style and technique to the design making the monster and it's environment feel like something that could actually exist.
Terror Cell is currently available through Amazon on kindle and paperback.
The full book wrap
the textless artwork shows off the details and thought that goes into Marina's backgrounds and surfaces.
As horror collectors ourselves, we always create a mockup of the cover to see if we'd want it among our collection
This is the rough artwork that we provided for Marina showing the positioning of the figures and the form of the creature. on first appearance we wanted the figures to look like they are moving and wriggling, some even dancing, however these movements are actually a result of the creatures bulky large movements causing the bodies to swing and flail
These 4 sketches show the major stages of designing the cover. We very much took inspiration from 80s horror novels as well as the original Fighting Fantasy novel Deathtrap Dungeon but wanted to give it a modern execution. The first sketch (far left) was actually created on a mobile phone app whilst reading the story on a plane.
This was an alternative design we would have liked to have explored more where the creature is looming over the edge of a sheer drop onto the viewer. Both this design and the final design takes the perspective of the viewer (the final design actually uses your own shadow in the image, cast on the floor pointing towards the mouth of the beast). this alternative design had saliva and miscellaneous fluids dripping and sliding towards the viewer at the split second before the creature falls towards you. Unfortunately for this to work the creature would have to be much smaller allowing space to take in the scenario and more elements would be needed to convince your mind that you are looking up. Whilst we would have liked to explore this design more the final design was most definitely the right one to go for. Maybe this design could be used for other purposes. A sequel maybe?
We highly recommend picking up a copy of Terror Cell. Be sure to grab your copy from here