24 September 2012

Today's HNS Conference Guest: Graphics Designer Cathy Helms

Cathy grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends – thus the inspiration for naming her design business ‘Avalon Graphics’. She has always been fascinated with British history, the Dark Ages in particular. She regularly attends local Renaissance Festivals in North Carolina where she resides, and will be traveling to the UK for the first time in 2012 for the Conference. Cathy offers an array of design services and has particularly geared Avalon Graphics to suit self-published authors and small businesses in need of quality design while on a tight budget. She provide full book jacket layouts, marketing materials such as flyers, postcards, bookmarks, web graphics, book trailers for YouTube and portfolio websites. 

Meet Cathy at the Conference at the 

Indie Advice table(on the balcony opposite the Waterstones book stall) She will be delighted to answer any questions regarding marketing material, cover design or Book Trailer production - for all Indie and mainstream authors and publishers.

Avalon Graphics (est 2009)
Greetings ladies and gents! I'm Cathy Helms writing  to you from rural North Carolina, USA. First of all I want to thank my phenomenal friend Helen for inviting me to her blog! It is great to be here and to be introduced to all of her readers.
 (HH lovely to have you here!)

Cathy's Work Station
I primarily read historical fiction, always on the lookout for anything 'Arthurian',  and while perusing the fiction section at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore spotted The Kingmaking. And that book discovery is what led me to Helen! I wrote to her with a letter of praise for her Pendragon's Banner Trilogy (which is still one of my favorite Arthur-centric novels of all time),  and that initial contact led to her hiring me to re-design the cover for her pirate novel 'Sea Witch'....

and I've been working with Helen ever since! She's introduced me to a whole bunch of great folks in the industry, so I owe a great deal of my recent successes to her!

My husband, Ray, and I reside in Maiden, North Carolina, relocating over a decade ago from Florida (USA), where we both grew up. After years of working in billing and customer service, I finally had enough of crunching numbers and creating invoices. So I applied and was accepted into my local community college where I earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008. 

I call the college experience my own version of a 'mid life crisis' since I waited until I turned 40 to further my education. After graduating, I established Avalon Graphics and have been working out of our home growing my design business steadily since 2009. And I feel that my big break came when I reached out to Helen and ended up fulfilling all of her graphic needs.

Cover design for
Richard Denning

I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends - thus the inspiration for naming my design business. Fantasizing about castles, knights in shining armour and all that frivolity were (and still are!) my favorite pastime. Also, I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. Bucket list item - walk a section of Hadrian's Wall! I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and plan to travel to the UK for the first time in 2012.

I am also an passionate digital photographer and often use my own photography in my design creations. I grew up with dreams of becoming a filmmaker, or a singer, or an artist, and so I've always considered myself a creative soul. As a teenager, I sang in my school's choir, played the trumpet, and was student director of many school stage productions. 

I graduated with the distinction of being named Drama Student of the Year in 1985. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I returned to my creative roots. Fresh out of high school, I failed to follow those dreams. Instead, I followed the job market earning a steady income for the first twenty two years of my professional life, working in dull cubicles.

Besides all things 'Arthurian', I also fell in love with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels while still working in the drab office environment. And when Peter Jackson produced the stunning films back in 2001, I found my muse again for imaginative pursuits. I began writing poetry and dabbling in fan fiction writing. And I wanted to create my own computer desktop wallpapers based on the Lord of the Rings and other fandoms.

Desktop Wallpaper

So after some research into how these digital wallpapers were created I discovered a computer software program called Adobe Photoshop. Years before I went to college to gain a formal education in the medium I taught myself how to create graphics for the web and print media with Photoshop. What my formal education gave me was the technical skills that I would need in order to apply my creative skills in the field of Advertising and Graphic Design. Most importantly, I learned how to prepare digital designs for print and quickly discovered a particular love for book cover design.

How I do it - I am often asked about my process in designing book jackets and my initial response goes something like this: each project is unique and it 'depends....' I know, that is incredibly vague. *laughs* I ask the client about their manuscript first, then ask a few questions about favorite colors, other book covers that they favor and if they have any specific elements they'd like to see on the cover.

Cover Design by
Avalon Graphics
 Then I begin my concepts (in Photoshop, not by hand which usually surprises folks) based on the client's input and largely on my own gut instinct after interacting with the client. I like to work directly with the client in developing a cover design that truly speaks to them and represents the story that they are telling within the pages of their book. While my education taught me the 'rules' of formal graphic design, I like to step outside that box and go for something more unique whenever possible. 
Not all publishing houses allow free styling in book cover design, but I certainly push that envelope! I fashion myself a photo manipulator with a serious addiction to typography. However, my resume simply says 'Graphic Designer' as that would be the prim and proper title for my profession.

So what I do -  offer an array of design services and have geared Avalon Graphics to suit the self-published and small businesses in the market in need of quality design while on a tight budget. I provide full book jacket layouts, marketing materials such as fliers, post cards, bookmarks, web graphics, book trailers for YouTube and even portfolio websites for my clients. I have signed on with UK publisher Knox Robinson Publishing to handle all their book cover needs in 2011 while I also continue to work with many individual authors directly including Richard Denning, John Baird, Pauline Barclay and Helen!  

I want to thank Helen again for allowing me to descend on and take over her blog for an entry. It has been a true pleasure! Cheers!!

HH - My pleasure to invite you Cathy - not only have I a wonderful designer with a fabulous talent, I've also found a treasured friend!

Covers for Historical Fiction

Cathy's Banquet Guests

Lucius Artorius Castus (Roman Commander who lived 140-197): He led a legion of Roman soldiers based at Ribchester against the Caledonii tribe during a large campaign to push the enemy back north of Hadrian's Wall in his time. I think the man would give me a fantastic insight to life along the Wall...whether or not his campaign was in part the basis for the Arthurian Legends...well that is anyone's guess. But he's high on my own personal list of contenders for the real Arthur. And any man of that caliber I'd love a long chat with over a strong wine and in front of a roaring fire.

Clive Owen (actor, 46): My favorite actor! I think he'd be an interesting dinner party guest because he always seems friendly and impeccable in interviews. He comes from humble beginnings and I'd like to hear more about how he'd made it all work in such a tough industry as movie making.  I'm a bit curious about his obsession with David Bowie too, and I would ask him all sorts of questions about learning to ride horses for the filming of King Arthur - and his own thoughts on the legends. What was it truly like to portray 'Arthur'?

Steven Spielberg (director, producer, screenwriter, etc) - my idol filmmaker since I first saw his films back in the early 80's. Fascinating man. I would ask him about his inspirations and whole creative process. And why exactly did Indiana Jones hate snakes so much?

Gaius Julius Caesar (probably most famous Roman Emperor..er...Caesar of them all / 100BC to 44BC): I've always been fascinated with this man's life story - what we know of it at any rate. I'd love to hear all about it in first person. What was the Roman Empire truly like day in and day out? And how much did he truly trust Brutus?

Howard Huddleston (b. March 1912 d. Dec 1988): My paternal grandfather. I adored him and he adored me. I never had enough time with him. He is the reason that I have a particular love of animals...especially horses. He bought me my very own pony before I could walk. And much to my mother's dismay, he always took me out to his pastures to feed the horses; allowing them to lick my hair and such when I was still a toddler.

Linda Hostetler Tucker (b. Oct 1968 d. June 2008): My beloved cousin. I lost her too soon. I miss her. She was my twin in life.

Ashley Argo: My best friend! She's my writing partner; she understands and most importantly accepts all my quirky ways. And how could I have a dinner party that included Clive Owen without inviting Ashley? She would murder me. *laughs*

Captain Jack Sparrow! (fictional - Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) Don't tell Jesamiah Acorne that I picked Sparrow over him! It was a tough choice mind you. Perhaps I would have better luck getting the rum if I invited Acorne instead! Jack Sparrow is one of the most beguiling and bewildering characters ever to grace the screen...or the Caribbean.

Richard Cypher (fictional - The Seeker): Terry Goodkind gave us the best of all men when he created Richard for the Sword of Truth series. And I would love the chance to share a meal with the modest woods guide who turned out to be the savior of their entire world. I want to know what it is like to be a War Wizard! And I bet he could prepare a better meal than any fancy restaurant on the planet today.

Contact Cathy for all design work

view some more of Cathy's work -  marketing material she has designed 


  1. she is great designer. it is our pleasure to have her. the conference not only helps to see her, it also helps to meet great people, and the knowledge will be improved. the graphic design is like sea, the thinking also plays good role. designer is the one who brings the dream of the client. website design bangalore

    1. Thank you for leaving a comment: Cover design for books is very important - it's what makes a potential reader in a bookstore pick it up to see if its worth reading, and covers have to be even more eye-ctaching on the internet, for often they are only thumbnail size, that initial "look at me" is even more important - and Cathy Helms has a talented gift for designing that much needed first impression. I'm honoured to have her as a friend - and designer!

  2. I think that graphic is one of the wonderful things in the field of designing. A website can't look attractive without graphics. I employed with graphic design company and enjoy my job.

    1. I agree Jack - good graphics are very important, I am so glad I have Cathy helping me market my books with her talent for design.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.