Ellie Game on Designing the Cover Art for Girl in the Walls

Posted on 7th April 2021 by Mark Skinner

In a slight change of direction for the Waterstones Blog, we delve into the fascinating art behind cover design with the brilliant designer Ellie Game. In this piece, Ellie provides an illustrated account of the process behind the cover image for A.J. Gnuse's stunning novel Girl in the Walls, and how appearances can often be deceptive. 

Girl in the Walls is completely unique – part thriller, part contemporary gothic, part a meditation on grief, belonging and friendship. It’s a difficult story to try and sum up in a single image. But when I was reading the manuscript the thing that really stood out to me was how important the setting was. The old, creaking house in New Orleans in which the story takes place is almost like a character in itself, and as I was reading an image of how the house looked was forming in my head. So I knew early on that for the cover I wanted to try and turn that image into a reality.

Rather than relying on existing stock imagery I thought it would be amazing if we could create a miniature model of the house which we could then photograph. As well as being a fun way to create a cover, it would also be really practical as it would mean we could create an image that was completely bespoke and would allow us to control every aspect, from the design of the wallpaper, to the size of the shadow on the wall.

One of the most fun aspects of being a cover designer is when you get to commission other artists and illustrators with different skill sets. In this case I knew that Catherine Prowse, an incredible director, animator and model-maker would be the perfect person to bring the house to life. We met to discuss how the set should look, pulled together some moodboards and rough sketches, and from that Catherine was able to create a room from the house in miniature.

Throughout the process Catherine would send over photos of her progress, and it was amazing to see it all come to life. I particularly love the tiny clock, which has a hand-painted face to match the wallpaper (both of which were beautifully painted by model-maker and illustrator Natalie Jones). All the pieces were then brought together in three separate layers, that when photographed together appeared as one room.


The set was brought to life by amazing lighting by George Warren, who made sure all the shadows fell in the right places and captured the final image. The result was exactly as I’d imagined – at first glance it looks like a photo of a real house, but when you look closer you realise it’s not as it seems...

Cover design and art direction by Ellie Game @itselliegame

Set design and model making by Catherine Prowse @catherineprowse

Director of photography George Warren @georgewarrenn

Wallpaper pattern painted by Natalie Jones @tootins



Fascinating Insight. Truly creative collaboration, producing beautiful results. Well done to everyone involved. Inspired me to buy the book. I'm looking forward to reading it. View more

13th April 2021
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