After tweaking the design of the four main characters, cover artist Scott Christian Sava sent me a sketch that included background elements. You can see the sun rising (or setting) over snow-capped mountains behind the protagonists. They’ve crashed on a planet called Bestic, part of the 39 Cygni system, about 260 light years from Earth. 39 Cygni is larger and brighter than our sun, but cooler. It’s classified as an Orange Giant. No swampy tropics on this planet, at least, not where they crashed. They crashed in the mountains, so they have to hike to the city where they were supposed to land. To the right, you can see a path heading down what looks like giant mushrooms. They’re not really fungus, but I envisioned this world as having trees that resembled mushrooms in texture and look. They’re also edible, if you know how to cook them. I just thought it made it seem more otherworldly than just having trees with oddly colored leaves.
The initial concept included the city in the background, behind the kids. Right now, that’s been pushed aside. At the size he would have to draw the city, there wouldn’t be much detail to see anyway. As you can see from the previous picture, Ix is resized and still visible behind Jenny. I know big bugs are anatomically impossible due to size limitations of chitin and things like that, but when people mention that, they’re talking about giant insects from Earth, like movie monsters from the ’50s. Valxtraxians, like Ix do have exoskeletons and molt, but they also have a more rigid internal structure, similar to bones. The exoskeleton is a defense evolution to protect them against Valtra’s predators.
I’m trying to keep much of the science of the Zack Jackson series rooted in the real world and out of the realms of fantasy, yet still make it accessible for young readers. I also hope to make it appeal to boys and girls, because we need both genders in the sciences helping advance our civilization and understanding of the universe around us.