top of page

TSC Production Journal #4: Art Direction

At Emergent Realms, we put a lot of thought into the words that make up our stories, but those words are often accompanied by many images like cover art, maps, character art, and any other artwork we need to help you immerse yourself in our worlds.

Today, Jim Wilbourne talks about the artwork behind The Seventh Cadence and how it all came together.


Jim on the Art Direction for The Seventh Cadence

Though the revision process for The Seventh Cadence was the most difficult hurdle for the novel, finding a cover artist we were satisfied with proved to be a formidable challenge in its own right.

First, there was the issue of actually finding an artist who was both interested in the project and that we trusted to be around long enough to keep doing art for the series for the foreseeable future. And then there was the matter of making sure the artist could fit the aesthetic of the story at a reasonable price. Surprisingly, this took a few years, but when we found the right artist, we were overjoyed.

We chose Billy Christian from Polar Engine Studio because we loved his art first and foremost. Secondly, his experience with Magic the Gathering made him uniquely positioned to do a book cover for an epic fantasy novel. Plus I saw that he’d done the illustration for A Mark of Kings by Bryce O'Connor and Luke Chmilenko. I remember seeing A Mark of Kings for the first time and thinking, “this cover art is amazing!” and I bought the book on the spot based on the cover alone. I know my story is going to be great for most epic fantasy fans, so I knew that I needed to find someone who could help those readers come to that conclusion just as I had for A Mark of Kings (which is also an amazing book, by the way. You can grab it here).

After we had an artist I was happy to work with and was also interested in working with me, there was one more problem: the actual concept. This proved to be a challenge because of the scope of the novel. We needed that perfect mix of wonder, mystery, and adventure so that readers understood what kind of story to expect. And it would be unreasonable to ask Billy to read the entire book just to find the perfect idea.

First, we took epic fantasy and sci-fi author, Lindsay Buroker’s advice: “put a dragon on it.” At first, I thought it was too low-hanging and didn’t properly convey the depth and scope of the story if it was focused on this one element, but ultimately she convinced me.

Secondly, I absolutely love when I’m reading a novel and I realize I’m reading the scene that is on the cover. I wanted so badly to have a cover that had that moment because I knew that there had to be a lot of other people who enjoyed that as well.

After deciding to place a dragon on the cover, I was limited to perhaps four or five moments in the story I could illustrate. I chose the moment depicted because it allowed me to place two of the primary characters in the story in the image, it didn’t spoil any critical plot points without more context, and it certainly conveyed the sense of wonder and adventure I needed.

Manner Hall then took the image Billy created and did the typography and formatting.

Speaking of Manner Hall …

There there was more to the art direction than just the cover art. There was the issue of maps. The Emergent Realms team has been working with Nefarious Press Publishing for quite some time now, and Manner’s work on Vile & Blessed by A H Serrano had shown us that she would be a go-to designer for so many different things, and she certainly delivered. After re-illustrating The Seventh Cadence’s map of Continua, we ended up doing maps for specific locations in the story. We had so much fun doing this that we decided to include these maps in the novel itself so you could have a deeper experience with the story.

Manner also designed the chapter heading artwork. These headings have specific meanings, but more on that another time.


Pulling all the artwork together for this novel was certainly a challenge, but when it came together, it was worth it!

I’m tempted to show you some additional maps in the story, but I’m not supposed to…

You know what? We’re going to show you one more!

This is one of the small cities featured in the novel called Azuri. It’s the primary trade nexus of West Hzorah and several of the series’s primary characters are from here. Manner Hall really made this city come to life!

We’re getting really close to release day! The energy is electric here at ER HQ.

We have a few more surprises for you before the novel drops. Stick with us!

Jim Wilbourne’s debut epic fantasy novel, THE SEVENTH CADENCE, releases October 8, 2021. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram to keep track of his writing adventures.



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page