They used to say “never judge a book by its cover”. Well, forget that. Just look at that cover – look at it! This is the cover that Californian artist Eric Nyquist created for my Australian post-apocalyptic fantasy novel CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT. The novel releases on September 10 in ebook, paperback and audiobook and the ebook version is available now for pre-order on Kindle: (Amazon US), (Amazon UK) or (Amazon Australia). Here is the blurb:
Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and emerge either with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals.
In the great forest of South West Western Australia, thirteen-year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
After their Changings, the twins have powers that let them fight their enemy and face their destiny on a long journey to an abandoned American military base on the north-west coast of Australia…if they can reach it before time runs out.
Eric’s cover is not only beautiful and striking in itself, but it also captures two key concepts of the novel. The main character, Arika, comes out of her Changing with a power that I call “mental shapeshifting”: she does not actually change physical shape. The Nyquist cover plays with this idea and shows the creatures morphing out of a kind of mental slime in Arika’s brain; they form first in the most primordial part of the brain and then move up into the conscious mind, growing lighter in colour as they go.
The other main concept that appears on the cover is the echidna at the bottom; the “evil spirit” of the Changeland appears there in this form.
The cover uses contrasting colours to bring out aspects of the story. Arika’s light blue face emphasises the strangeness of what she is going through. The animals and slime are shown in typical sun-touched “Australian” colours like orange and yellow, while the shades of the Anteater and his world suggest the underground from which he is emerging, as well as his cold psychopathic cruelty.
For me, Eric Nyquist was the only artist for this project. His feel for the beauty and the mystery of nature is exactly right. I think Eric’s creativity was really stimulated by the novel’s imagery: he sent me an amazing set of preliminary sketches for the cover and variations on the final design! Thanks, Eric, for a wonderful piece of artwork. And thanks to the great genre sites Fantasy Literature, Nerds of a Feather, Fantasy Book Critic, Geekritique and SFFWorld for hosting the reveal this weekend.
If you like the cover and the blurb, then I am sure that you will like CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT.
Here is the beginning:
The group were getting ready to go on a Wrecking when Arika’s Changing started.
Narrah heard the strangled choke in Arika’s throat and spun around. Arika was lying on the wooden floor of the hut, her limbs tense. Her green eyes turned up in her head and then closed. Narrah gulped. His mouth was dry and his heart was racing as he watched his twin sister turn pale and shiver like rippling water. Her little face looked very fragile under her black shoulder-length hair. The water lily drawn in dots of white clay paint that curved around her left eye from forehead to cheekbone twisted and jumped. Narrah had painted the lily on his sister’s face with his fingers just yesterday. How long ago that seemed now.
‘It’s started,’ Manya, the twin’s foster-mother said. ‘It is time.’
Manya had taken care of the twins ever since they had become orphans at five years old. Was Arika leaving him now? Narrah never wanted to feel alone like he had when their parents died. It had been raining that day and the forest was dark. He could still smell the strong eucalyptus scent rising off the huge karri trees that stood like crying gods dripping tears on the little lost humans far below. He and Arika used to think of the giant trees as forest deities. It was impossible not to, having grown up underneath their trunks, squinting into the sun every day to try and see their waving tops tickling the sky. But if they were gods, Narrah thought, then they were just as cruel and indifferent as any others he had heard about in Manya’s stories and in the Settlement’s few books she had used to teach the twins to read.
Narrah glanced at Manya’s wrinkled face and then back at Arika. Yes, it was time, he knew. Arika was thirteen.
‘Soon, it will be your turn,’ Manya said to him, ‘but not yet.’
Narrah stared down at Arika’s face, normally so like his own but now a set mask twisted by occasional spasms. Each time the nerves under Arika’s skin flickered, Narrah felt a chill run through him. Arika shuddered a little and Narrah jumped. Was she in pain? What was she feeling? Did she know he was there?
Up until a few moments before, Arika had been standing normally and Narrah had been in touch with her feelings, as he always had. The twins had shared their lives like that, from a distance, for as long as they could remember. They called it the Path. It was like a road that linked them. They could walk along it, meet and then sense each other’s precise thoughts as if they were standing together. They used the Path for their most secret and personal things.
Now the Changing had separated them. Since the Great Madness, it had happened to everyone they knew who reached their teens. It seemed to wait inside them until then. The twins had desperately wanted to understand the Changing and find the truth about the Great Madness before their time ran out. And now it had.
For months the twins had talked about it, and Narrah had sensed Arika’s fear while she had sensed his. They had known that girls entered the Changing earlier than boys, and that meant they couldn’t experience it together. Now Narrah could feel nothing of what Arika was going through. The Path had not given any warning that Arika was about to go into her Changing right at that moment, and now the Path was closed. That separation scared Narrah more than he could have expected. The simple wooden hut and the life the twins had always known seemed very small.
A kookaburra’s cackling laugh broke out nearby. Narrah glanced out the window. The chunky brown bird was sitting out there somewhere among the endless trees. The kookaburra always sounded jolly, and Arika used to love watching the family building its nest and the chicks growing up. But the kookaburra laughed just as loudly while it broke the backs of the snakes it ate.
Go here to read a much longer extract.