Q & A with Author / Literary Agent Eric Smith

Michigan-based author, blogger, and literary agent Eric Smith is no stranger to the public eye. A popular and engaging social media user, the New Jersey native regularly and enthusiastically interacts with his literary followers and has gone viral several times. 

Smith’s book-themed ramblings have appeared on Book Riot, Paste Magazine, Publishing Crawl, and Barnes & Noble’s blog. His own books have been published by Bloomsbury, Quick, and Flux. 

Smith, who began his publishing career in social media and marketing at Quirk Books, received his BA in English from Kean University and his MA in English from Arcadia University. 

He spoke to us about the intersection of his two equally compelling careers

Q & A with Author / Literary Agent Eric Smith

Katya Mezhibovskaya on designing Here Is Real Magic

What happens when a magician, whose job is to elicit astonishment in others, loses his sense of wonder? Here is Real Magic is a book about celebrated professional magician, Nate Staniforth’s hero’s journey from fascination and success to disillusionment and searching and eventual rekindling of his connection with magic. After years of transforming audiences from rational, tax-paying adults into wide-eyed children, Staniforth was near burn out. He decided to seek out the source of his vocation and travel to India where magic is ever-present, acknowledged and revered.

Katya Mezhibovskaya on designing Here Is Real Magic

Words from the Weiss: Amanda Weiss Talks Cover Design, Part 2

I was recently approached by Katrina Noble, art director at the University of Washington Press, to work on an upcoming book cover called Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice. Edited by Kishonna L. Gray and David J. Leonard, Woke Gaming consists of essays exploring the ways gamers are using current technologies to challenge inequities within and beyond virtual reality. Not just focusing on #Gamergate and the common discussion of violence within video games, Woke Gaming discusses the future of gaming, identifying strategies for detoxing video game culture and turning it into a positive catalyst for social justice. The book discusses a broad range of social issues from gender dynamics and misogyny to racial and queer positions in gaming practices. 

Words from the Weiss: Amanda Weiss Talks Cover Design, Part 2

The Writer's Practice: Elizabeth J. Church, All the Beautiful Girls

In her second novel, All the Beautiful Girls, Elizabeth J. Church wanted to explore women's bodies, "how in our culture they've been abused, reviled, dishonored, glorified, objectified … all of those things," she told Spine. "The best vehicle I could think of was a Vegas showgirl."

The Writer's Practice: Elizabeth J. Church, All the Beautiful Girls

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamara, The Parking Lot Attendant

An enigmatic, charismatic, possibly dangerous parking lot attendant rules an empire of Ethiopian parking lot workers, inextricably tangled up with the Ethiopian community of greater Boston as well as a mysterious, decaying utopian commune on a tropical island. The narrator, an intelligent and emotionally isolated young woman, pushes her singular self forward through each community, at once insider and outsider, welcomed and expelled.

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamara, The Parking Lot Attendant

Shine On: Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein Shed Light on the Cover of M. Joy’s The Unnaturals

For designers Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein, a book’s insides should always dictate its cover design. Design begins from within, after all, in the guts of the thing. For the cover of M. Joy’s young adult dystopian novel The Unnaturals, new from inclusive indie publisher Wellington Square Media, Jordan and Goldstein got not only creative but downright kinetic with blue light, a driving a motif throughout the novel.

Shine On: Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein Shed Light on the Cover of M. Joy’s The Unnaturals

Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Collaborating with T.S. Abe & Billelis for Ibi Zoboi’s Pride

HarperCollins cover designer Jenna Stempel-Lobell looked to both old covers and modern art to create the cover for one of her latest projects, American Street author Ibi Zoboi’s second novel Pride, a novel “especially suited” to her “typical design process.” 

Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Collaborating with T.S. Abe & Billelis for  Ibi Zoboi’s Pride

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

"We were walking across the desert. It's like walking across the bottom of the ocean, rolling dunes of sand." Former Naval officer and writer Will Mackin, author of the new short story collection Bring Out the Dog, is telling Spine what it felt like, what it looked like to serve in Iraq. What it was like to serve in Iraq during that one minute, on that one day, that one moment that was so surreal, so ugly and so beautiful and so "fucking weird," he took out his grease pen and wrote notes across his arm. So he wouldn't forget. So he could carry the moment forward.

Will Mackin, Collecting his Experience as a Soldier in Bring Out the Dog

Anna Bauer Carr on Creating Alternate Side

For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the routine of “alternate side parking”, the title refers to New York City’s maddening rules that dictate which side of the street (and at what time) one can park so as not to interfere with street cleaning schedules. The title is also a nod to the conflicting sides taken up by the books’ characters: an affluent group of neighbors living on an Upper West Side cul-de-sac and the people who work for them.

Anna Bauer Carr on Creating Alternate Side

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi's middle-grade novel The Sky at Our Feet is full of memorable characters. As the reader progresses through the book, three rise to prominence. Intelligent, impulsive Max struggles to balance the medical requirements of her seizure disorder with her desire to be independent. Jason D, thoughtful and tenacious, races to find his aunt, hoping together they can save his Afghan mother from deportation. As Jason and Max scramble around New York, the city takes on a spirit of its own, becoming as integral to the narrative as the two children.

The Writer's Practice: Nadia Hashimi

Matt Broughton on Designing Dead Men’s Trousers

Dead Men’s Trousers is essentially the next chapter in the Trainspotting story, dragging our favourite characters into the Brexit era. Renton is the jaded manager of a number of Internationally acclaimed DJs. Sick-Boy, as usual, has his hands in whatever sordid deal he can find. Spud is still Spud. And bizarrely, Begbie has reinvented himself as a celebrated artist.

Each character has an agenda – the friends stalk each other, deceive each other, use each other, corrupt each other. It’s an often hilarious, painful, yet surprisingly moving ‘dance of death’. An idea that lead us to our cover – a re-enactment of Michael Wolgemut’s 1493 woodcut ‘Danse Macabre’. With added trousers.

Matt Broughton on Designing Dead Men’s Trousers

David Mann Creates Some Happiness for Aminatta Forna

It was happiness indeed to receive such a great, in-depth brief for this one! From the start, we wanted to make a big literary statement, and create a special and unique package for Aminatta. Comparative titles on the brief were Hari Kunzru and Zadie Smith, who have incredibly bold, striking covers that are largely typographic. We could have gone that route, but we really wanted to get a sense of narrative and place into the cover as well as impactful typography.

David Mann Creates Some Happiness for Aminatta Forna

Cover Reveal! Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou

We here at Spine are delighted to reveal the cover for Disbanded Kingdom. It is the first novel by Polis Loizou, co-founder of London's Off-Off-Off Broadway Company, published by Cloud Lodge Books. The stunning cover is courtesy of design studio LaBoca.

Cover Reveal! Disbanded Kingdom by Polis Loizou

Snap, Grackle, Pop: Nicole Caputo Talks Cover Design for The Gunners

On shelves now is the beautifully jacketed novel, Rebecca Kauffman’s The Gunners. The bold, minimalist font asserts itself without descending to typographical aggression. Two grackles grapple (or perhaps share) an earthworm beneath the title and author credits. The balance between graphic and white space hovers near perfection. And how, you might ask, does a designer create such a gorgeous cover? Simple. According to Nicole Caputo, all you need is love. For the story itself, that is.

Snap, Grackle, Pop: Nicole Caputo Talks Cover Design for The Gunners

The Writer's Practice: Rebecca Kauffman

Writing her first novel, Another Place You've Never Been, Rebecca Kauffman figured out what kind of writer she was: a slow one. She wrote a paragraph a day, and couldn't write more. She struggled, too, with stress and anxiety. Why was she spending so much time on this project, this fictional thing that might, only might, someday become a book?

The Writer's Practice: Rebecca Kauffman

Book Designers Fight Gun Violence with Peace Prints

The morning after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, designer and illustrator Laura Eckes rode the train to work and read about the events of that day. She felt an all-too-familiar mix of emotions: anger, sadness, a desperate desire to affect change, and guilt over the reality that she probably wouldn't. But then she thought about work, and her coworkers, and decided this time would be different.

Book Designers Fight Gun Violence with Peace Prints

Joanne O'Neill on designing This Could Hurt

Set in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, This Could Hurt is a witty, heartfelt novel that illuminates the pivotal role of work in our lives. The author captures the emotional complexities of five HR colleagues trying to balance ambition, hope, and fear as their small company is buffeted by economic forces that threaten to upend them.

Joanne O'Neill on designing This Could Hurt

Melissa Four on The Killing of Butterfly Joe

The Killing of Butterfly Joe is about a young man who meets a charismatic butterfly salesman, who takes him across America on a wild road trip. It's a coming of age story full of big, colourful characters, and it has a Gothic feel to it. 'The American Dream' is a theme - Butterfly Joe is always chasing a big deal.

Melissa Four on The Killing of Butterfly Joe

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

With words, Jen Campbell has constructed a life. For 10 years, the UK-based writer and vlogger worked as a bookseller. She creates original book-centric content for her YouTube channel and its nearly 40,000 subscribers. She teaches writing workshops and has published six books, including her first two works of fiction, out last fall. 

The Writer's Practice: Jen Campbell

Sandra Chiu on designing the cover for The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a beautiful novel about family, relationships, and the choices you make in life. I was immediately drawn to the brief when the editor, Sally Kim (G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Random House) introduced the book. After reading and falling in love with the manuscript, I became very determined to design a cover that does the story justice.

Sandra Chiu on designing the cover for The Immortalists