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Laura Molnar on creating the Getaway cover

30 May 2021

Cover design is never eternal sunshine, as anyone involved in the process will agree. At Rats, we believe in a simplified streamlined creative process, with no obstacles between our star author, Rod Humphris, and our equally star illustrator, Laura Molnar. In fact, our approach goes against all conventional rules of publishing, where authors usually have a fairly limited impact on the process, and are the last ones to learn what the cover will look like. Nobody has a better vision for the story than its author.

Laura Molnar walks us through her creative process with Getaway:


Finally, we’re revealing the latest title cover, and with it a summary of the process that we went through. As you can see, this one happened to be a little challenging, but the final result is worth it.

We started out with Rod’s initial sketch.

We had two characters, Lesia and Mimi (the dog), staged on a beach, unaware of a danger that is right behind them (the yacht). We have strong horizontal and diagonal lines, that form the union of sea and sand.

Rod sent to me few references to work from:

TThese are my initial sketches based on Rod’s composition. The idea for these was to change the design line from the previous cover [Bloodstock] towards something more abstract.

The colour palette Rod chose for this cover was turquoise blue, and pink for the sand. I think these colours work very well together, giving a very summer-fresh palette in contrast with the dark tones of the rest of the cover:

This is another version, with the yacht behind them, bigger and more threatening.

The idea here was to make an abstract composition, something like the film posters from the ‘70s, where we have different elements, but they don't belong to the same scene, so there’s freedom to adapt the main elements to any desired size and position.

After that, we made a U-turn and Rod’s new idea was to follow a strong, horizontal line, like the other Simon Ellice covers, and have the yacht 'breaking’ that rule. The regularity of the angles would give an abstract quality to it.

Here are a few sketches based on that idea, with focus on the main stage at first:


After these, we decided to make a version with just straight lines, no curves, to follow a level of consistency. The boat would break that rule.

We added more details and modified the boat so it looked more predatory, with a dark mystery to it.

I remember we worked on these sketches just in the middle of the pandemic when the sudden limitations felt especially hard to handle. We decided to take a break and pick it up later. That’s how our Phase Two began (at least that's what I call it), as we made another U-turn on the cover.

Rod thought that the previous cover wasn’t strong enough, so we started a new process where the composition and style were more consistent with the previous Simon Ellice covers.

As always, I started with a few initial sketches. The only things that didn’t change were the elements and the stage of the previous cover: Lesia and Mimi on the peaceful beach, and the dark and dangerous yacht approaching at speed.


Sketch number one was a winner, and we started working on it. My main challenge was to add some texture to the water without losing the black shadow of the boat – crucial to emphasise its danger towards Lesia and Mimi. I realised that adding a wave breaking on the beach would do the trick. It would add richness to the composition and make the sea look more active and enticing.

Water and sea foam, now more detailed, as well as Mimi’s head position looking towards Lesia, created more interaction on the front stage. We kept the boat as an abstract element to keep the balance, where the defined front (foreground, Lesia, Mimi, beach texture) pairs well with the less detailed background (sky and boat) so that the reader's eye doesn’t get overwhelmed with too much information.


After that, Rod suggested making the boat more menacing, with an increased feeling of the upcoming danger. I changed the shadows’ direction so that it matches the boat's reflection, moved it more to the left to accentuate its shape and motion, and added these extra black shapes of reflection to make the lighting more dramatic:

The final touches from there were the sunlight on the water, the sand texture – details that are probably not too obvious to an inexperienced eye, but which make all the difference.

The final cover now goes towards the same line as the previous covers, with a rich, fresh summer palette contrasting with the black shapes of the ocean and boat that gives the sense of danger and drama, and Lesia and Mimi as light and innocent characters who unknowingly get involved in a very dark story.

Hope you like it and enjoy the book on from the outside as well from the inside!