Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

The concepts for this amazing, funny, and rather existential novel took me in quite a few directions. My initial approach centered around a running theme in the book which is centered on the mythical hero Achilles, to whom the protagonist, Reseng, holds in high regard and as someone he relates to. The idea most associated with Achilles is obviously the Achilles heel…his weak spot, and of course or hero Reseng has one... don’t we all… but more on that later.

Designer Michael J. Windsor, Setting His Sights on The Plotters

Mira Jacob, The Creation of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

Back in 2014, writer Mira Jacob's six-year-old son Z became obsessed with Michael Jackson. He wanted to dance like Michael, he wanted to look like Michael, and what began as Z's questions about his pop-star obsession spread into deeper questions about skin and color and race and family. Jacob is East Indian and her husband is Jewish, and Z wanted to understand who he was.

When Z learned about the killing of Michael Brown, a black man shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the questions grew more complex, and carried fear.

Mira Jacob, The Creation of Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

Gunpowder and Geometry is the story of Charles Hutton, a man who in the 18th century spent his early life working down the mines but rose out of poverty to become a Professor at the Royal Military Academy. 

I was asked to do something eye catching and different for this book - a ‘modern spin, not too old school looking’ and ‘nothing too dusty’ was the brief so I took that to mean I could have a bit of fun with it.

My initial thought was to focus on the mines and machinery as I thought a beautiful, gold foil, sparse jacket might do the job.

Jo Walker on Designing Gunpowder and Geometry

A Conversation with Artists of The Believer Magazine

“The aesthetic sensibility of The Believer is pretty legendary,” Kristen Radtke, fresh from her honeymoon, tells me of the bimonthly, five-time National Magazine Award finalist, literature, arts, and culture mag. “It’s always had such a cool, crisp, throwback look, thanks largely to Dave Eggers and Charles Burns, the design and illustration gurus behind the original magazine.” 

A Conversation with Artists of The Believer Magazine

Kris Waldherr on Book-Publicity Efforts for The Lost History of Dreams

Writer Kris Waldherr's novel The Lost History of Dreams launches from Atria Books next month. The book, best if not fully described with the genre-centric words "romance," "Gothic," and "mystery," follows post-mortem daguerreotypist, historian and widower Robert Highstead as he seeks to carry out a cousin's dying wish, a quest that pushes him through his own grief into someone else's ghost-infused love story.

Like all 21st century authors, Waldherr is working hard alongside her publisher's publicity team to create advance buzz around her novel, and is tapping into her full skill set to do so. "I'm both a designer and an author," she told Spine. "I'm using all my design mojo to help my novel fly in the world."

Kris Waldherr on Book-Publicity Efforts for The Lost History of Dreams

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Good: publishing a book. Better: publishing a book that garners acclaim. Best: going paperback. Paperback means people can’t get enough of you. Paperback means give me that story. Such was the success of Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s Swan Song, a historical novel based on writer Truman Capote’s relationship with a group of society women he dubbed his ‘swans.’ Today we’ll explore how designer Ceara Elliot both echoed and augmented the original cover of Swan Song for its new paperback version. You’ll find the paperback cover borrows just enough of the late-1950s motif to create continuity; all the while, Elliot’s cover design stands on its own. It also stands out on the bookstore shelves, as all good paperback covers should.

Ceara Elliot, Designing the Paperback Cover for Swan Song

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 4: Publicity

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from acquisition to publication. For our first "season," we're following Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. Bloomsbury will publish the book in May, and the publicity team — Senior Publicist Lauren Hill, Senior Marketing Manager Nicole Jarvis, and Digital and Trade Marketing Director Laura Keefe — is already at work generating buzz. Keefe spoke to Spine about their efforts.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 4: Publicity

Positively Un-Precious: The Writing Practice of Alison Stine

When The Kenyon Review published Alison Stine’s essay “On Poverty” on Leap Day of 2016, the Appalachian author’s commentary on classism in the writing world-- a piece full of bite but avoiding vitriol--went viral. Like, really viral. Stine’s work has appeared in publications typically associated with the literary elite (read: writers who got a head start): The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Nation, Tin House, and others. Two years after “On Poverty” made its debut, SPINE caught up with Stine, whose novel The Grower will appear from Mira in fall 2020. 

Positively Un-Precious: The Writing Practice of Alison Stine

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

I was excited to see Famous In A Small Town on the Henry Holt winter 2019 list because I love Emma Mills's books, and they're incredibly fun to work on. I designed her previous two books, This Adventure Ends and Foolish Hearts, so I asked to be assigned Famous In A Small Town as well. (My creative director, Rich Deas, designed her debut, First & Then.)

Liz Dresner on Designing Famous in a Small Town

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Eternal Life is a novel about a woman born in ancient Jerusalem, about 2,000 years ago, who is still alive today in New York City. She makes a pact with her lover and ends up cursed with immortality. Whenever she sets herself on fire, she dies and is reborn as an 18 year-old, with all her memories intact.

Tal Goretsky Experiments with Paper for the cover of Dara Horn's Eternal Life

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

The initial cover brief for this title was that it should be an atmospheric photograph of an airport or aeroplane and tie in with the feel of the Vintage paperback cover for All That Man is, Szalay’s previous book. After trying a few different images it wasn’t to be, and we instead opted to go along a typographic route. However, in an attempt to keep some continuity between the last book and this one, we kept the title split like how All That Man is and this was the starting point for how the title came to be hyphenated and spilt over 3 lines. This added an element of concrete poetry to convey the subject matter even further; hinting at Szalay’s ripple effect narrative. It also led us very naturally in the direction of world airport codes.

Designer Rosie Palmer Shakes Things Up for David Szalay's Turbulence

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s middle-grade novel, Song for a Whale, grew organically. The main character, Iris, is a 12-year-old Deaf girl who feels isolated from her school and family. Since Kelly is a sign-language interpreter you might assume her goal was to capture the experience of a Deaf character, but you would be wrong. Much like her award-winning first novel, Chained, it began with an animal; in this case a whale.  

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

To Keep the Sun Alive is about the intimate, vibrant lives of the people in the Iranian city of Naishapur. The novel is told through servants, children, and close families set against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. As the city falls apart the characters' strengths are put to the test as they seek justice and truth, and search for a voice.

Donna Cheng on Designing Rabeah Ghaffari's To Keep the Sun Alive

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain

Sick-Note Britain (Hurst Publishers, February 2019) is an urgent call to reform Britain’s sickness culture, offering social – not medical – solutions. The author sees the book as a blistering condemnation of a sham system that works for nobody.

Hurst gave me a pretty open brief, which for me is ideal as it allows me to try a wide-range of approaches.

With a book like this, there’s a number of obvious routes that initially come to mind. I often find it useful to get them down on paper, if only to rule them out and move on to more original ideas. The most obvious was a shape of Britain made out of a crumpled note. This seemed to tick some boxes, but for me these were shallow, a bit flat and didn’t have the necessary impact. 

Steve Leard on Designing Sick-Note Britain

The Covers of Devangana Dash: a Delightful Blend of Graphic Design and Deeply Human Illustration

New Delhi-based visual artist and designer Devangana Dash knows daring color and deviant lines. Just look at her covers for works like Goodbye, Freddie Mercury, Auroville, and Heart: A History, and you will find that oft-coveted balance between crisp, modern design and the gorgeous singularity of the human hand. Dash works as an in-house book designer for Penguin Random House India, where a constant influx of creative projects requires her to design, illustrate, and correspond with clients daily. 

The Covers of Devangana Dash: a Delightful Blend of Graphic Design and Deeply Human Illustration

Pete Garceau on Creating the Cool Cover for Tim Johnston’s The Current

The Current was a title that was given to me by the creative director of Algonquin Books, Anne Winslow.

The story takes place in the dead of winter, outside a small town in Minnesota. It focuses on 2 murders, that happened 10 years apart. Both victims were teenage girls, that died in the exact same spot, under the ice of a frozen river. The last girl to drown, had her car rammed off an icy road, into the frozen river, by an unknown attacker. With her, in the car, was a friend that survived the crash, who unearths secrets throughout the story, that lead to the killer.

Pete Garceau on Creating the Cool Cover for Tim Johnston’s The Current

The Illustrator's Practice: Lynn Scurfield

An illustrator’s workspace is both modern and anachronistic: it welcomes the design world’s most innovative trends, all the while honoring the human hand and the old-fashioned, often messy tools at its disposal. Such is the studio of Toronto-based illustrator Lynn Scurfield, whose life-affirming creations make use of both Macintosh and gouache, Adobe and acrylic. In a quiet corner of a quiet suburb, Scurfield illustrates for clients like Macmillan, The New York Times,  and The Atlantic, just to name a few. Scurfield calls her workspace a “nice corner of shared living space where outside the window a squirrel comes by to visit often.”

The Illustrator's Practice: Lynn Scurfield

Karen Thompson Walker Discusses Process for Writing The Dreamers

Author Karen Thompson Walker's new novel The Dreamers, out last month, is set in the fictional college town of Santa Lora, California, where a mysterious virus has arrived in a college dorm, placing its victims in a perpetual dream state. Soon, the disease extends outside the dorm walls. The book wraps readers in a tranquil dream while keeping them turning the pages to uncover the cure.

Karen Thompson Walker Discusses Process for Writing The Dreamers

Tree Abraham Takes On a Transcontinental Challenge for The Remainder

Last summer I had the fortuitous experience of being briefed the same book by two publishers. First, the British publisher And Other Stories reached out to me, and then a few rounds into the cover design process, the American publisher Coffee House Press contacted me about designing the US edition. Having studied design in the UK, and now based in the US, I am quite comfortable adapting my style to suit the intended market, but I could not have foreseen the challenges that this unique case would pose.

Tree Abraham Takes On a Transcontinental Challenge for The Remainder

Stephen Brayda on Designing Samanta Schweblin's Mouthful of Birds

Mouthful of Birds was presented on my first list as a cover designer for Riverhead and stars aligned. With a six-month-old baby at home, I needed another reason to lose sleep at night.

Packaging Samanta Schweblin’s newest collection of short stories proved to be an all-consuming adventure like the stories themselves. I was immediately moved as I read- I’ve always been fascinated with tales that end with more questions than answers. The stories are short (some just two pages long) but packed full of evocative and haunting imagery- more than some full-length novels. Schweblin has mastered the formula for captivating storytelling and I quickly got caught up in the ride.

Stephen Brayda on Designing Samanta Schweblin's Mouthful of Birds

Andrew Grant, Creating a Champion for the Underdog & Writing Invisible

With his eighth book, Invisible, out this month from Ballantine, Andrew Grant wanted to appeal to a wide range of readers while balancing the complexities of uncertainty, surprise and action. His approach was to create a hero who “very much resonated within the time that we live in, a hero that was most suited for current times.” Protagonist Paul McGrath comes home to New York City after many years away as military intelligence officer, a career that alienated him from his pacifist father. He arrives too late for reconciliation. His father died under questionable circumstances, and the man police believed responsible walked away during the trial due to a legal technicality. In an attempt to find the truth about what happened to his father, and gain access to restricted areas within the courthouse, McGrath, whose motto is the only constant is change, takes a job as a courthouse janitor.

Andrew Grant, Creating a Champion for the Underdog & Writing Invisible

Carol Ly on tackling a new genre for Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across

Like many, I knew of Mary Lambert from her beautiful vocals on the song Same Love. I didn’t realize she was an accomplished poet/spoken word artist until I became the designer for Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across.

Before the design process began, Mary invited us to see her perform. I ventured out that evening with the book’s editor, Kate Farrell, and her assistant, Rachel, without knowing what to expect. By night’s end, Mary had bared her soul on stage through song and poetry, and it was clear how much she connected with her rapt audience.

Carol Ly on tackling a new genre for Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across

Clémentine Beauvais on the Inspiration & Development of In Paris With You

This month sees the US release of Clémentine Beauvais’ best selling French novel, In Paris with You. Told in verse, this tender and funny book is the story of Eugene and Tatiana, whose teenage romance fails, only to be rekindled when they meet again ten years later. The novel has been a bestseller on French charts since it was published in 2016, selling 30,000 copies in the first three months, and reprinting three times in the first two. It is no surprise this beautifully written story has such appeal. It is infinitely relatable, yet utterly unique. Much like the story in the novel, the story of the novel also crosses time and geography.

Clémentine Beauvais on the Inspiration & Development of In Paris With You