The Art Department: That Burning Summer Cover

Even before I started working in the Design Department here at Hot Key, Art Director Jet asked me to draw the cover of A World Between Us by Lydia Syson. He had seen a screenprint and thought my style would suit the cover, inspired by Spanish Civil War posters. So when it was time for Lydia’s second novel, That Burning Summer, in part about a WWII fighter pilot in one of RAF’s Polish squadrons, I was excited to get at it again. The Polish pilots were some of the most successful and revered in the RAF, so for someone who had to sit through giggly history classes on how Poles were the last to ride horses to war, this was some welcome redemption!


Here is my first pass, which wasn’t quite there yet. For reference Lydia sent me loads of links from her thorough research, including what the pilots might be wearing, and the hairstyles of the “land girls.” The characteristically flat Romney Marsh, where the story takes place, also had to be on the cover and the church, which plays a role in the story, was modeled on Fairfield Church. The story sets off with quite a serene atmosphere, contrasting the impending war looming on the horizon, both literally and metaphorically. I wanted this to be reflected, and used the bird mentions in the book as a metaphor for the battles waged in the skies above.


Quite rightly, it was suggested the first round lacked in drama, and that the colour scheme was a too dated, so I got rid of the birds (which would resurface on the back). In the process I managed to tie together the two “halves” of the image with the plummeting Hurricane plane, billowing smoke in it’s wake, about to be swallowed whole by the Marsh.


Next up I was asked to tuck Peggy’s hair in a scarf, as it was giving off too much of a fluffy 80s vibe.


This was a rough alternative colour scheme we made, with a much more limited and dramatic palette.


And here is the final, after quite a lot of tweaking and fiddling with their faces, and some costume changes.

TBS_BACKThe back cover illustration of That Burning Summer.

Want to find out more about THAT BURNING SUMMER? Here is a video of the author, Lydia Syson, introducing the book. You can also follow Lydia on Twitter @lydiasyson.