Sister Act: Vanessa Bell's Daring Book Cover Designs

Every time you refer to her as Virginia Woolf’s big sister, Vanessa Bell rolls her eyes at you from the grave. An acclaimed modernist painter and founding member of the lauded Bloomsbury group, Bell also dominated the world of modernist book cover design. Bell was the queen of the unclean line, and her book covers were the visual manifestation of her sister’s uninhibited, musical prose. If you fear asymmetry, read no further. If you crave kinetic graphics and broken rules, carry on.

Sister Act: Vanessa Bell's Daring Book Cover Designs

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

Author Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s start in screenwriting and directing fostered an early interest in adaptation.

“I was always interested in the art of adapting works of literature for the screen,” Greenberg-Jephcott said. She related a life-changing incident from 2006. 

“I was in a villa in Provence having received a fellowship for a Tolstoy adaptation I’d written, and was inspired by authors present to try my hand at prose fiction,” Greenberg-Jephcott recalled. “I had a childhood passion for Capote and was intrigued by the women he called his Swans, who kept cropping up in the Clarke and Plimpton biographies, as well as in Truman’s work. I knew what I had in mind for their collective and individual narratives was too expansive a tale for a feature film—even a series risked not fully capturing their unique voices.  I began what would become a ten year process of research and gestation.”

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott on Writing Swan Song

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

Novelist Mary Kubica's fifth thriller, When The Lights Go Out, launches this week. The best-selling author told Spine that each of her books starts with the flicker of an idea, which she fans from several angles to see if anything alights. "A book often begins with a small, subconscious spark of inspiration that's then molded in a very conscious way to see if the spark has legs," she said. "For When The Lights Go Out, that first spark was the twist itself, which was exciting because it's never happened for me this way. Usually I have no idea how my books will end, but only a beginning!"

The Writer's Practice: Mary Kubica, When The Lights Go Out

Author Minh Lê Collaborates with Illustrator Dan Santat for Drawn Together

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

When asked for advice on writing picture books, author Minh Lê offers up this quote, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Wind, Sand and Stars. "Not that you have to go full Hemingway and write only in terse prose, but you should make sure that every word on the page serves a purpose," Lê told Spine. "Weigh yourself down with too many unnecessary words and there's a good chance your story will never take flight."

Author Minh Lê Collaborates with Illustrator Dan Santat for Drawn Together

Steve Leard on Designing Snow on the Atlantic

I was briefed by Dominic Fagan at Zed Books to create the cover for Snow on the Atlantic by Nacho Carretero. The book tells the story of Cape Finisterre and how this sleepy, windswept corner of Spain became the cocaine gateway to Europe.

Zed wanted the cover to look like an exciting history book, whilst avoiding any pirate clichés or featuring any cocaine on the cover.

Steve Leard on Designing Snow on the Atlantic

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

How does the co-founder of a theatre company create a novel that captures the tumult of coming-of-age in modern London? For Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom developed like a collage.  

It began with Loizou’s journals written when he was 24 years-old. Like Oscar, Disbanded Kingdom’s main character, Loizou describes himself at that time as “bumbling and directionless.” The journals captured the emotional journey of discovering how he fit in the world after university, but turning that into a novel was a challenge.  

The Writer's Practice: Polis Loizou, Disbanded Kingdom

Cover Reveal! The Lost History of Dreams, Kris Waldherr

Acclaimed visual artist and author Kris Waldherr traffics in art and words, which is why the cover for her debut novel The Lost History of Dreams is just as packed with meaning as it is visually stunning. Everything--from the cover’s cryptic eye miniature and shadowy visage to its delicate lavender typeface--harkens back to Waldherr’s own evaluation of the novel itself: “The Lost History of Dreams is a novel built on images. Daguerreotypes of the dead and photographs of the living. Watercolor paintings of migrating birds. Eye miniatures created by secret lovers. Stained glass and forbidden dreams,” Waldherr said.

Cover Reveal! The Lost History of Dreams, Kris Waldherr

Luke Tredget on Writing His Debut Novel Kismet

Vacations, sunny and exotic. Refresh! Never-grumbly couples, undertaking hip adventures designed for two. Refresh! Gift-giving BFFS and stylish office mates and smiling babies and goofy but never ill-behaved pets. Refresh!

Social media keeps 21st century everybody hooked, with a finger always on the "refresh." But also, it keeps everybody stressed, spending more time measuring a life up against other lives than living it. "When you're being served a daily diet of pictures and videos of other people whose lives are seemingly more exciting and exotic than your own, it is only natural to question whether your life is all it could be," Luke Tredget told Spine. The author explores social-media-induced anxiety in his debut novel Kismet.

Luke Tredget on Writing His Debut Novel Kismet

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

Half a century ago, Mike Scardino served as an ambulance attendant for St. John's Queens Hospital. In the late '60s, working an ambulance didn't require training beyond what the Red Cross (or in Scardino's case, the Boy Scouts) offered. The job paid better than anything else a young college student could earn on breaks, but it was brutal, physically and emotionally. 

The Writer's Practice: Mike Scardino, Bad Call

Cover Reveal! The Meaning of Blood by Chuck Caruso

Cloud Lodge Books (CLB) are delighted to have Spine Magazine exclusively reveal the cover for The Meaning of Blood and Other Tales of Perversity, the latest offering by award-winning crime author Chuck Caruso. The evocative cover is courtesy of design studio LaBoca.

Cover Reveal! The Meaning of Blood by Chuck Caruso

Take Cover: Alice Marwick on Creative Process

Here is the thing about Alice Marwick: she refuses to apply only one philosophy to cover design. So far, her open mind and portfolio have served her (and the authors for whom she designs) well. Marwick has designed for publishers like Bloomsbury, Zed Books, I. B. Tauris, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Atlantic Books, and John Murray. She has also worked in-house at a small independent press. Now, Marwick works for herself and the books in which she believes. Her latest cover design for Sweet Thames is yet another testament to her versatility as a designer.

Take Cover: Alice Marwick on Creative Process

Kimberly Glyder on Designing Dear Mrs. Bird

Back in early 2017, Jaya Miceli, art director at Scribner, asked me to work on the jacket for Dear Mrs. Bird, a novel by AJ Pearce. The book takes place during World War II in England and centers on a young woman who answers letters at a newspaper as an advice columnist. These letters are addressed to “Mrs. Bird.” Given a great deal of creative freedom on this title, one of the challenges I had was to differentiate my design from the UK edition, which is a beautiful package featuring a bird.

Kimberly Glyder on Designing Dear Mrs. Bird

Glenn O'Neill Gets His Hands Dirty For The Possible World

The Possible World is a novel featuring three seemingly disconnected characters who each, in different ways, need saving. They are brought together to change one another for the better. Ben is a six-year-old boy who witnesses a horrific crime that claims the life of his mother; Lucy is the doctor who tends to Ben in the aftermath; and lastly Clare, an elderly lady, who harbours a long lifetime of secrets.

In considering a jacket approach it was suggested, in our monthly briefing meeting at Penguin, that we think of the possibility of a simple iconic image that radiated a sense of hope.

Glenn O'Neill Gets His Hands Dirty For The Possible World

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: Marcie Lawrence

For this episode Holly Dunn talks to Marcie Lawrence, Senior Designer for Little, Brown and Company. Lawrence creates covers primarily for middle-grade and young adult titles. Topics covered include marketing to young people, how to design for books with difficult topics, ad the vices and virtues of pintrest.

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 3: Marcie Lawrence

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning

“I never could quite escape the fact that I wanted to write books,” said former journalist-turned-novelist Sarah Henning. “I think it’s impossible for us to run away from who we really want to be…  Dreams don’t die even when we’re adults and have a mortgage and kids. Some people stuff those dreams down and let them rot in their guts and some of us go for it, even if it seems selfish or silly, though dreams never are. Anyone who tells you that you’re either of those things for going after what you want most likely has a big dream-shaped ulcer in their gut.”

Q & A with Sea Witch Author, Sarah Henning

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 2: Designers at HarperCollins

Holly Dunn speaks with a team of designers from HarperCollins, including Jessie Gang, David Curtis, Alison Klapthor & Erin Fitzsimmons. They discuss individual projects developed for HarperCollins, as well as how they work together as a team.

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 2: Designers at HarperCollins

Sarahmay Wilkinson, Using Textiles for Woman of the Ashes

Working with Laird Gallagher, editor at FSG, on Woman of the Ashes was an absolute pleasure. Mia Cuoto’s writing has the depth, detail, and precision of a journalist, with an added layer of magic and wonder -- it is most captivating.

Woman of the Ashes takes place in Southern Mozambique in 1894. The story explores  two sides of an empire, as well as two sides of a divided family. At the center of the story is a young woman named Imani. Fifteen years of age, Imani is a member of the VaChopi tribe. She is hired as the translator for the Portuguese Sergeant German de Melo, it is their relationship that becomes the primary backdrop for the unfolding of Woman of the Ashes.

Sarahmay Wilkinson, Using Textiles for Woman of the Ashes

Nathan Burton Serves Up the Cover for Sophia of Silicon Valley

I was briefed by Siripant Ploy at Harper Collins to come up with a cover for Anna Yen’s Sophia of Silicon Valley, a comic novel whose protagonist is finding her way through a male/geek dominated industry. They didn’t want it to look too chick lit and wanted something iconic and eye-catching.

Nathan Burton Serves Up the Cover for Sophia of Silicon Valley

Suzanne Dean collaborates with Bryn Perrott for There There

Fierce, funny and groundbreaking, There There is a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about violence and recovery, hope and loss, identity and power. I wanted something simple, strident and bold that used type and image in a stark combination. There There was such a commanding title, I instinctively knew it would look incredibly graphic, filling the cover dimensions perfectly.  I thought the US woodcut artist, Bryn Perrott, would be particularly good for the cover. She had a raw energy about her work that, in my mind, perfectly matched the tone of the novel.

Suzanne Dean collaborates with Bryn Perrott for There There

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 1: Coralie Bickford-Smith

In this episode Holly Dunn interviews designer / author / illustrator and all-around brilliant creative, Coralie Bickford-Smith. Topics discussed include Coralie's breaking into the publishing industry, the creation of a few of her covers, and how she came to write and illustrate The Fox And The Star, and The Worm And The Bird.

Spine Podcast, Season 2, Episode 1: Coralie Bickford-Smith

Janet McNally Explores Fairy Tales, Ballet, & Addiction in The Looking Glass

Novelist Janet McNally’s latest book was inspired by her love for fairy tales and ballet. 

In The Looking Glass, Sylvie Blake’s older sister Julia disappears, leaving Sylvie struggling to live up to Julia’s legacy at the National Ballet Theatre Academy. With the help of their old storybook, Sylvie sets out to find her sister and ultimately learns that “the damsel in distress is often the only one who can save herself.” 

Janet McNally Explores Fairy Tales, Ballet, & Addiction in The Looking Glass