process

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Elizabeth McCracken’s highly anticipated new novel Bowlaway is her first in 18 years. This is a character-driven piece which begins at the turn of the last century, and is focused on the fictional community of Salford, Massachusetts. Grand in scope, the novel covers generations — all affected, some tangentially, by the inexplicable appearance of Bertha Truitt’s unconscious body, along with a bag carrying a bowling candlepin, in a graveyard.

A Conversation with Author Elizabeth McCracken on Writing Bowlaway

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

With her second work of historical fiction, Jane Healey knew that she wanted to highlight a story of lesser-known women. So when she came across the story of the Red Cross Clubmobile girls, American women who volunteered to bring a piece of home to soldiers in World War II, she was instantly drawn to them. The Red Cross Clubmobile girls became the subject of her new novel, The Beantown Girls, out last February from Lake Union.

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

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

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

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 Art Director Patti Ratchford designed the cover, which features art by Marc Burckhardt. Bloomsbury will publish Light from Other Stars in May.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 3: Patti Ratchford

The Illustrator's Practice: Jennifer Heuer

For the past 7 years I’ve been working out of the Pencil Factory in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It’s been such an inspiring space to work out of. Having a crew of creative and talented friends up and down the halls has helped shape how I work over the years. Before I moved in here I wasn’t quite as confident in my illustration chops, but when you’re surrounded by some of the best in the biz, you get to have fresh eyes and opinions on projects.

The Illustrator's Practice: Jennifer Heuer

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

Each author struggles with her own worst stretch of creation. For some, fanning the spark of an idea into a fully formed concept stands out as most agonizing. Others get caught in the middle stages, struggling to find a way out of narrative tangles and research rabbit holes and multiple storylines. While each phase of her book Heartland had its challenges, writer Sarah Smarsh told Spine that the hardest might have been final edits—letting go of a book she’d worked on for some 16 years.

Sarah Smarsh on the Challenges of Writing Heartland

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

K.M. Jackson has ideas, for books and books, for series upon series. "I have more ideas than I have time," said the author, whose romance As Good as the First Time launches this month. "The ideas come way too fast." Her new bulletin board is covered with ideas. "They come from the weirdest spots." Her Pinterest board is full of ideas. "The spark could come from anywhere."

The Writer's Practice: K.M. Jackson, As Good as the First Time

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

With Vox, her debut novel, Christina Dalcher “wanted to create a story about a woman who studied language and yet didn’t speak up as the world changed around her and in the end lost her voice.” In the novel, women are limited to 100 words per day and the country must submit to a value system cruelly enforced by the government. The story of how such a world developed and how it is taken down is bold and riveting. The story of how the novel developed is no less intriguing.

Christina Dalcher, on Developing her Debut Novel, Vox

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

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

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

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

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

Hey. How do you feel about zombies?

Two years back, writer Justina Ireland launched this question at Balzer + Bray Executive Editor Jordan Brown. Ireland wasn't a publishing novice — Simon & Schuster had released several of her young adult titles — but she was coming out of a self-imposed hiatus, and a recent split with her agent. "I went back to the well and said, 'What do I love about this process?' I took a moment." And then she wrote another book, a post-Civil War American young adult novel. With zombies. 

The Writer's Practice: Justina Ireland

The Illustrator's Practice: David Foldvari

David Foldvari has been working as an illustrator since the late 90's. His client list includes Nike, Penguin, The New York Times, Random House, The Museum of London, The Guardian, Newsweek, Le Monde, Historic Royal Palaces and countless others. His work has been exhibited globally, and it appears in print weekly in The Observer, where he illustrates columns by David Mitchell, Stewart Lee, and Charlie Brooker amongst others. David currently lives and works in London, and is represented by the Big Active agency. Here he talks us through his process.

The Illustrator's Practice: David Foldvari

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 1: Michelle Brower

Beginning to End is a new series from Spine following a book idea from acquisition to bookshelf. For our first "season," we're honing in on Little Twitch, 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. Michelle Brower of Aevitas represents Swyler; Bloomsbury will publish Little Twitch next year.

Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 1: Michelle Brower

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

In March, sisters Kate and Elizabeth Corr finished their popular The Witch’s Kiss trilogy with its final installment The Witch’s Blood and faced some conflicting feelings. 

“On one hand, we’re really proud of what we’ve written, and kind of amazed that we’ve had three books published in less than two years,” said Kate of the fast-paced and character-driven Sleeping Beauty retelling.

“On the other hand, we’ve spent so much time with Merry and Leo and the rest of our characters— so much time in their world— that saying goodbye to them was really sad,” said Liz. “It’s sad thinking that we’ll probably never write about them again.” 

Katharine & Elizabeth Corr on Finishing the The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy with The Witch’s Blood

The Writer's Practice: Juliet McDaniel, Mr. & Mrs. American Pie

Palm Springs socialite Maxine Simmons thrums at a higher frequency than the rest of everyone. She's fierce and she's funny and she's fearless, the madcap heart of Juliet McDaniel's debut novel, Mr. & Mrs. American Pie. Though she won't arrive on bookshelves until August, Maxine's been around for years.

"Whenever I've had to be in a situation where I'm uncomfortable, I pretend to be someone like Maxine, over the top ridiculously confident " McDaniel told Spine. "She's been with me her whole life."

The Writer's Practice: Juliet McDaniel, Mr. & Mrs. American Pie

The Writer's Practice: Nafkote Tamirat, 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 Tamirat, 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

The Writer's Practice: Carmen Maria Machado

During graduate school at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Carmen Maria Machado heard other students discussing their short story collections, talking about how they wrote around a central concept. "They seemed to be focusing on a very specific theme or set of topics, and the stories are turning them over in various ways," she told Spine

Machado found it ridiculous, this concept of limiting oneself to a defined thematic space. But then she looked at her work — about "bodies and sex and sexual violence and the physicality of bodies" — and realized she was writing this way, too.

The Writer's Practice: Carmen Maria Machado

The Writer's Practice: Erika Robuck

Writer Erika Robuck works from her home office in Annapolis, Maryland. Three boys delivered to school, van parked in the driveway, she pours a mug of coffee, lights a candle, turns on classical music, and writes. 

"My desk is an altar to all my muses," she told Spine. "I have pine cones from Concord, flowers from Key West." After spending a few hours on the creative part of the authoring process, Robuck turns to research, social media, and administrative tasks.

The Writer's Practice: Erika Robuck

S. K. Ali on Saints and Misfits, and Diversity in Publishing

In June, Simon & Schuster’s Salaam Reads imprint published Saints and Misfits, a stunning debut from Canadian teacher-turned-author S.K. Ali. Pitched as a “modern day My So-Called Life… starring a Muslim teen,” the novel centers on the life of a spunky hijabi protagonist, offering a fresh perspective in an otherwise saturated genre. Ali took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her writing process and about diversity in publishing.

S. K. Ali on Saints and Misfits, and Diversity in Publishing

Sam J. Miller, Exploring the Strengths of the Human Heart

When he was growing up, writer Sam Miller worked alongside his father in his father's butcher shop. The work was, in Miller's words, "pretty gritty." But also, a stream of fascinating people came by, including a gentleman who lived in the woods and survived on a diet of worms. "He would come in to buy hot sauce for his worms," Miller told Spine

Sam J. Miller, Exploring the Strengths of the Human Heart