A Necromancer Called Gam Gam
“A grandmotherly necromancer seeking resolution for her past with the help of her loyal entourage: an undead cat and a spectral knight.
A girl on the run from the Eternal Empire for the mysterious power she possesses.
When a chance encounter pulls them together, Gam Gam will do what it takes to protect Mina from the rogue sergeant hounding her–including raising the dead. As long as they’re dressed for the occasion.”
Welcome Adam, Kerstin and Virginia, and congrats on the stunning cover reveal for Gam Gam! This cover is so delightful, I thought I would have you on to talk about how the cover came to life!
Let’s start with the story. Adam, could you tell us a bit about Gam Gam, and how she came to be?
Adam: Gam Gam started like every other great idea, by scrolling through r/dndmemes and finding someone talking about being the grandma of their D&D party. I, too, thought it would be wonderful to be the grandma of a party (if I ever stopped being Forever DM). Baking cookies and overstuffing the others with food; all the typical grandma things. I was debating what class worked best and settled on necromancer. Finally, she needed a reason to be a necromancer (which I will keep secret as it’s revealed in the novella), and a hobby (which is knitting, an attribute from my wife who was and still is very into knitting). Once I had all that figured out, Gam Gam, my necromantic grandmother was born. A story didn’t really form with her until you made a small comment that made me think more about what I could do with the character, and suddenly I knew what I wanted for an ending. From there, the pieces fell together, and the current Gam Gam was formed. She differs a bit from her original counterpart (I prefer my D&D characters not quite sane), but the heart of her character is still there.
How did you know Kerstin was the person to make the cover happen? (You were right, obviously, because it’s perfect!)
Adam: When I had to hide my wallet to avoid buying all of her The Alchemy of Sorrow prints (I have two, and they’re gorgeous). Kerstin is also a good friend of mine, and was super supportive of the early concept of Gam Gam. I reached out pretty early to see if she’d be interested in handling the cover and she (excitedly) agreed, to my great delight. Then she told me she felt too unworthy to do the cover art, and clearly that was immensely disproven.
You’re absolutely right that her work on Alchemy of Sorrow was stunning. We were SO lucky to have her on board!
Kerstin, I’m always so impressed with how you can listen to us writers babble about ourideas, and then turn those ideas into the most incredible art! It has to be magic. (And skill, and creativity, and your general awesomeness.) What sort of ideas did Adam share with you?
Adam: I was supposed to be helpful?
Kerstin: Thank you! It’s always a wonderful experience, and I enjoy working with authors to help bring their ideas to life.
As for Gam Gam, wait, I can even quote Adam: “a skeleton in an adorable knitted hat and scarf looking as happy as a skeleton can.” I kept the skull-in-an-adorable-hat part, and I think it looks pretty happy.
Did you have a few different ideas as the process started, or did you have this concept pretty quickly?
Kerstin: I did have a few ideas, ranging from a skeleton living its best life to a grandmother knitting in a rocking chair. But I realized pretty early on that I was thinking about it from an illustrator’s perspective. My work usually has one central element, like a character or symbol, that tells a story, and everything else works to support it. But for a cover, it’s more about the harmony of parts, especially when you’re sharing the stage with the title and typography. You can have drawings that look wonderful individually but not together, or vice versa—simpler elements that come together and make magic.
Strangely, it was my experience staging photos on Bookstagram that helped me out. Color, framing, composition… so I relied on my faux bookstagrammer experience to illustrate the cover.
With Gam Gam, it started with the skull and the hat. That made everything else look quite empty, so I framed it with branches. But then it looked more like a horror cover, so I made the hat red and added knitting needles. Having all the color concentrated on the hat made it a bit hard on the eyes, so I spread it around a little with balls of yarn.
If there are early sketches, would you care to share so we can see the evolution?
Kerstin: Oh, you’re familiar with my rough drafts. I’m actually wheezing. But for you, I will swallow my pride and send you this thing of beauty:
Also, I’d like to take this soapbox moment to remind aspiring creatives that your rough draft does NOT need to be great or even presentable. No one will ever see it, or ask to see it, unless they’re named Krystle.
WHEEZING. Thank you for sharing, Kerstin. You’re absolutely right that first drafts are allowed to be first drafts! I promise never to use my powers of persuasion for evil!
Virginia! The typography on Gam Gam’s cover is so delightful, absolutely capturing the vibe between humorous and a little bit dark. Care to tell us about your process and how you got involved?
Virginia: I have been hearing about this toque knitting necromancer for months now thanks to being in an SFF discord with Adam, and when he finally started working on the cover I think I basically pulled a Katniss and volunteered as tribute so that I’d be able to work on it. (Since this is the internet, I’ll just clarify that Adam paid me, I didn’t volunteer in that sense. Nobody panic.) It’s just such a wonderful concept. I was very happy to be a part of it. And once I found out Kerstin was doing the artwork I knew it was going to be excellent. Kerstin and I have worked together before (she did all of the amazing interior illustrations for The Alchemy of Sorrow) and I couldn’t wait to see what she had done for this. I was not disappointed when the artwork came my way, it was glorious, as you can see, and it didn’t take me that long to find two fonts that I thought would really work to bring the final touches to the whole thing. Then it was just down to playing with placement, adding some bone textures, and adding skeletal kitties! (Ok, only one of my skeletal kitties made it to the final cover, but she’s still my favorite contribution to the cause.) Adam was very easy to work with, and the whole process has just been fun. I can’t wait to read the book!
Adam, what can we expect from Gam Gam?
Adam: Several knitted garments, a shamble of undead, one skeletal cat (he’s on the cover, and that was all Virginia, she’s brilliant), heartbreaking and heartwarming moments, humor, and exactly one use of the word “squirt”.
You’d better get at least one squirt in there, after how many times you looked for it in my books!
When is her story launching?
Adam: A Necromancer Called Gam Gam launches on May 30th! However, ARCs are open to anyone who is interested, just hunt me down and ask away.
Do you have anything else planned for her?
I have a short story prequel titled The Knight Revenant that will be available for free in some capacity on May 30th as well. Though I haven’t started work on it, I have plans for a sequel, and would love to do a short story with Nugget as the POV.
Thank you so much for chatting with me about this fantastic cover!
And don’t forget to preorder out A NECROMANCER CALLED GAM GAM, dear reader. And check out Adam on his socials. I have it on good authority that he’s one of the best Adams around.
Adam Holcombe daylights as a programmer and moonlights as an author. After spending years toying with the idea of writing, he decided to fully commit and work toward releasing his first novel.
Then Gam Gam got in the way, and his first novel became his first novella. The novel will come later.
When he’s not locking himself in a cold basement to type away, he can be found squishing his dog (but not too hard), squawking at his tortoise (but not too loudly), goofing off with his wife (in perfectly ordinary, non-weird ways), DMing for his friends (I even got to play as a character a couple times!), or the usual chilling at home. He is a lover of books, board games, video games, and swords.
Adam is currently working on more Gam Gam stories, as well as the launch of a Sci-Fi series with the novel Bounty Inc.
TESTIMONIALS ABOUT ADAM AS A PERSON:
“THE BEST ADAM” – Krystle Matar.
“ALSO GAH” – Virginia McClain.
Filipino American author of debut novel Burn Red Skies somehow finds herself in odd places—whether it be hiking across Germany to draw castles, training in a Muay Thai boot camp in Thailand, or practicing the fine intricacies of Chinese calligraphy in Taiwan. This Bay Area native left home with undefined dreams and somehow ended up studying Chinese in Germany.
Through her experiences, she realized that the story was in the journey, not the destination. It is her dream to one day turn her sketches into stories.
Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch. She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running through deserts, mountains, and woodlands, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. She’s also fond of word games, and writing descriptions of herself that are needlessly vague.