Will Staehle’s Cover Art for The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter

Tor.com is pleased to reveal Will Staehle’s cover art for The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, the first book in Rod Duncan’s The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire duology. From the catalog description for The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, publishing September 2014 from Angry Robot:

Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life—as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

Below, artist Will Staehle was kind enough to share his design process, including a look at some alternate covers!

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan is a fascinating book. It’s made up of nearly every element that I love: Victorian-era technology, undercover detective work, alchemy, double aliases, and a powerful secret society. Phew!

The covers themselves were just as much fun to design as the book was to read.

I started with a few Victorian based thoughts, including designs with mixed and matched lettering, as well as some designs with heavy ornamentation. One of the other core elements in the story is the main character’s secret identity, so I also worked up some designs where I tried to use optical illusions to imply our double-sided heroine.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter Rod Duncan Will Straehle

The winning design is rather straightforward, but I think also quite strong.

One of my all-time favorite artists is John Heartfield, who was an incredibly powerful photo-montage and collage artist. (We also happen to share the same birthday – just 90+ years apart! ) His use of simple objects and interesting compositions to create larger than life concepts, and in some cases images that were able to be two different things at the exact same time seemed a good fit for The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter. So, in a homage to Heartfield, we have a woman’s hand that is assembled from bullets and a small coin purse.

One of the other issues with this cover was the challenging length of the title.

I’m quite happy with the nontraditional solution here of wrapping the long title around the edge of the entire cover, thus creating a fully framed border (which also subtly refers to a theme found within the novel). Overall, I’m really happy about how this cover turned out, and I hope that I’ve done Mr. Duncan’s great and compelling read justice with a fitting cover.

Thanks again to Mr. Duncan and to Marc for the fantastic project!


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