A lightning bolt — that is how most of Anne Ursu’s previous books came to be; a jolt of inspiration and the pieces fell into place. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Lost Girl, however, was more sculpting than lightning. “I had to keep chipping away at it, shaping and reshaping until I found its form,” said Ursu.
In 2014, Ursu had the idea of writing a novel about watching someone you care about struggling at school. Identical twins seemed like the perfect way to tell that story and so characters Iris and Lark were born. Ursu added magic, fairy tales, summer camp, female identity, and a chalkboard sign that read “Alice, Where are you?” which she’d once passed in her car. Then she let the idea sit and waited for lightning to strike.
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics is the recently released book by Mirabai Starr. Her latest contribution to the conversation on religion and spirituality presents us with a new perspective: the perspective of the divine feminine.
Starr’s translations of the mystics John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, and Julian of Norwich earned her much acclaim in the religion and spirituality genre. As an author, Starr, who teaches philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos, has largely focused on creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred text. Wild Mercy is a hybrid of the two styles of writing.
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.
With this episode we’re starting something new. Occasionally we’ll be offering you a bonus episode in which host Hiba Tahir has a conversation with an author about their upcoming book, their writing process, or anything else under the sun they’d like to discuss.
In this episode Hiba talks to Kris Waldherr, author of THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS, releasing April 9th by Atria Books. Waldherr details a bit about her process for writing the novel, how she came to be a novelist, and a few other related topics. For more information on Kris Waldherr's new release, visit www.kriswaldherrbooks.com
The process of designing Dig started with all my favorite ingredients: an editor with a clear vision for the cover and a story I could really sink my teeth into. Dig, written by the brilliant A.S. King, is about five teens—The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. Confused? Good. The less you know about Dig the better. Let the teens help you tunnel your way out of the dark as they discover how their lives and the lives of millionaire former potato farmers, Marla and Gottfried Hemmings, intersect. The former title of the book, Blend & Strain, also tells you a little bit about what you’ll encounter in its pages. Blend your cast of characters together, then strain, to see what comes out of the chaos.
Judging by the amount of empty cups dotted around the room, a good time was had by all at last night’s Academy of British Cover Design awards; in particular, by those talented ten who won a coveted ABCD book.
All the shortlisted covers were nothing but exceptional and Spine would like to congratulate everyone who entered.
And now, without further ado, here are the winners!
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.
Ilima Todd’s journey toward publishing her first historical romance, A Song for the Stars, out April 2 from Shadow Mountain, unfolded much differently than did her previous publishing experiences.
At the 2012 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference, Todd, then an unpublished author, mulled over the assignment her workshop class had been given: Write the first page of something you have always wanted to write. The story she wanted to tell had come to her immediately, and it was far from her chosen niche, very different from the young adult sci-fi that would become her first published novel.
If you love book covers, you can thank the British and American Arts and Crafts movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If you love book covers with both historic and modern elements of design, you can thank Alice C. Morse, an American artist, designer, and teacher whose work in bookmaking went far beyond the cover. Morse, who also illustrated books and experimented with various bookbinding techniques, knew the artistic and commercial value of exceptional book design. Her legacy? Enchanting, inspiring designs that echo the emphasis of the Arts and Crafts movement: beauty and (and in) practicality.
Looking back on my design process for This is Not a Love Song, I realized that my thinking didn't start with the manuscript. It started with Brendan Mathew's first book, The World of Tomorrow, which I had had the great pleasure of reading and designing the cover for in 2016.
It's interesting to compare these two books because they're wildly different. The World of Tomorrow is a fantastically fun, fast paced novel set around the 1939 World's Fair. A very specific setting and time period, that had a clear visual vocabulary. This is Not a Love Song is a set of contemporary short stories that are much more meditative. As with most story collections, there are a wide range of settings and characters to dive into.
Taking on a scary, big-world topic and writing it in a way that small readers can both relate to and find hope in is no easy task. That is exactly what Wendy Meddour set out to do in her latest picture book, Lubna and Pebble. While adults will immediately recognize the setting as a refugee camp, children will be captured by the triumphant creativity, resilience, and caring shown by one small child.
The book is set in Utah, 1888 in Mormon country. A woman awaits her husband's long anticipated return home, but a stranger arrives at her doorstep and with him, trouble.
As usual when I start a book cover design I read the book. Then I started on my research looking at images around the subject matter, old posters, old rugs/tapestries from the era and place. I looked at anything I could find from 1888 Utah.
Poseidon’s Scar, published in January, is the second book in Matthew Phillion's YA fantasy Echo and the Sea series. The book is drenched in mythology and woven into imagination. Phillion has cast Echo, a fierce young woman who stands her ground, confronts conflict, and has the ability to breath under water, because she’s an Atlantean princess. The city of Yacuruna is inspired by the yacuruna of South American folklore: hairy, backward-facing river monsters. These creatures are said to live in upside-down cities beneath the water's surface. They shape-shift into beautiful people, in order to lure humans into the water. After learning of the tale, “this had to be in my book” Phillion explained. It was no easy task, however, pulling readers below the river's surface, along with the characters, to a wondrous, hidden city. “Writing an upside-down underwater world was tough,” he told Spine.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 Manis, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.