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.
True crime writers chase ghosts. In attempting to solve mysteries, they piece together bits of lives that have ended, examine events long over, and untangle relationships they never knew. They must then transform these details into engaging narrative, while remaining true to the facts of the case.
In her book "The Hot One," writer Carolyn Murnick tackled the genre from a different angle, blending true crime with memoir, telling a story of female friendship while also chasing the ghost of her childhood friend Ashley Ellerin, who was brutally murdered in 2001 at the age of 22.
During his 30-year career with Sports Illustrated, Steve Rushin has written in press boxes and hotel rooms, on airplanes and shuttle buses, and aboard a ship crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica. But at home in Connecticut, where he composed most of his recent memoir Sting-Ray Afternoons, Rushin sits (or reclines) in a small home office surrounded by books, papers, folders, and not a few tchotchkes…
Eric and I have been talking about collaborating for a while. My interest was piqued when a few months ago he sent me an email asking me if I would write semi-regularly for Spine. But I can't tell you the immediate panic that came over me. I mean yes, I’ve been writing my blog for a while. Yes, I wanted to write different kinds of things for different kinds of audiences. But how would it work? So it's funny that when I finally committed to writing something, Eric decides that purple covers were interesting in that week. Because it's a color I literally feel nothing about.
For Julie Israel's young adult novel Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, designer Samira Iravani wanted to communicate the stark contrast between the main character’s humor and the emotional turmoil she suffers from throughout the story. The plot revolves around Juniper "recovering from the unexpected death of her older sister, Camilla," Samira tells Spine.
I’ve listened to Phantom of the Opera since I was 16. I can envision myself now, lying on the floor of my living room with my best friend, blasting my parents’ CD as loud as it would go. I’m sure I drove them nuts with the constant replay. But I was hooked to the lavish and dark tale of music, love, and tortured souls. This love followed me into adulthood, and I saw the musical both as a fan, and later as a teacher escorting my high school French classes to New York City to expose them to their very first show. Imagine my extreme delight seeing their experience develop into a passion, just as mine had.
Heidi Bergman is trying to find Walter Cruz. Colin Belfast is trying to find Walter Cruz. Even Audrey Temple is trying to find Walter Cruz.
We found Walter Cruz. (Hint: iBooks.)
Heidi, Colin, Audrey and Walter are characters in Gimlet Media's radio thriller Homecoming, about a mysterious government initiative. During season two, running now, Heidi, Colin and Audrey search for project participant Walter Cruz, desperate to discover his state of mind five years after leaving the initiative. As each episode drops, so drops a chapter of The Lost Coast, an ebook written by Homecoming co-creator Eli Horowitz and novelist John Brandon (Citrus County, Further Joy) that follows Walter's progress, internally and up the West Coast.
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.
British book cover designer Helen Crawford-White has a number of incredible jacket designs to her credit. Among them, the cover of the recently published The Summer Of Impossible Things, written by author Rowan Coleman. Here she details for Spine her process for creating the cover.
Novelist Julie Israel describes her writing process in no uncertain terms.
“It’s kind of like a bell graph,” she says, “where the thing being measured is chaos.” Similarly chaotic is her unconventional route to debut author stardom. Though she holds the expected B.A in creative writing, Israel prides herself on the more atypical entries in her resume - like her experience teaching English in Japan, which she best summarizes as “HOLY CULTURAL EXPOSURE, BATMAN.”
Spencer Kimble is a book cover designer based in New York City. Among the works in his portfolio is the jacket for author Julie Klam’s The Stars in Our Eyes. Here Kimble details for Spine his process for developing the cover, in his own words.
Leo Nickolls a freelance book cover designer and illustrator with extraordinary talents. Some of his work includes covers for Joanna Nadin's & Anthony McGowan's Everybody Hurts, Chris Womersley's City Of Crows, Allegra Goodman's The Chalk Artist, and the recent 40th Anniversary Edition of Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia. Holly Dunn caught up with him at his studio for Spine.
Lisa Horton is a London-based designer and illustrator. Horton was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule and answer a few questions about her life as a freelancer, and share her creative process behind the cover design of Lisa Heathfield’s young-adult novel, Flight of a Starling.
Hazel Gaynor's writing practice includes a lot more (read on!), but begins and ends with no excuses.
"What I’ve learned since first being published is that regardless of where you write, or what mood you’re in when you get there, you have to show up at your writing place every day, even if only for 15 minutes some days, and get the words down. No excuses."
Freelance designer M. S. Corley has always been interested in supernatural folklore. A fan of the Lore podcast since its beginning, the opportunity to design a cover for a related title was “The dream job, he didn’t know he wanted,” unaware that the book had been in the works.
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.
Mark Ecob is Creative Director for Mecob Design Ltd., a designed studio specializing in book publishing. Here he discusses his process for the recently released title, Anthony Barnett's The Lure of Greatness, published by Unbound.
Simplicity is key. Sure. But so is substance. A clean, minimal graphic only works if it means something. Enter Shayla Bond, the cover designer for SPINE 7. If you think this issue’s cover is cool, you should meet its creator. Bond (even her surname radiates badassery) is a self-taught visual artist and fashion illustrator with a university background in textiles and artisanal methods. For her, the jaunty shapes on SPINE 7’s cover are not only delightfully simple; they are deliberate, meant to mean.
When Julia Fierro isn't writing the next big thing, her brain chews on the next big thing, spitting out bits and bobs that Fierro saves until she has a towering pile.
"Sometimes I'll write what I hope will be a first chapter, but I send myself notes most days," she told Spine. "It might be one line. Last night at two in the morning, I'm struggling for my phone in the dark."
New York Timesbestselling author Julie Cantrell grew up in what she describes as a “rural, blue-collar Louisiana town,” where the possibility of becoming a novelist was “as far-fetched as becoming the Queen of England.”
Cantrell, who from a very young age had relied on writing as a way to process the world around her, found herself nevertheless convinced she would be wasting her scholarship if she chose to study the craft professionally. A high school English teacher told her to pursue something less wasteful.
Mark Swan is a designer for Kid-ethic, a studio specializing in print design for the publishing and film industries. Here he answers a few of our questions about his average work day, previous book cover creations, and he believes makes a great book cover.
Since he can remember, sociologist and bibliophile Clayton Childress has been enchanted by process rather than product. That is, he has always loved to learn how things are made. “In elementary school the first thing I ever spent my own money on was an Entertainment Weekly subscription—this was back when EW was doing profiles on producers, screenwriters, etc., and covering entertainment business news.”
Matt Johnson is a London based book cover designer. Among the works in his portfolio is the incredible jacket for Rachel Khong's Goodbye, Vitamin published byScribner UK. Here he shares for us his artwork and process, along with the original concepts developed by the creative team.
Maria Elias is an inventive and thoughtful designer. She has received accolades and mentions from AIGA, Design Observer’s 50 Books/50 Covers of 2015, and Type Director’s Club Communication Design for her work on the book Convictions.
Here she digs into her process for us and gives us some thoughts on the world of design.
Emma Ewbank is a senior designer for Bloomsbury. Her portfolio features many notable works including the design for Tor Udall's A Thousand Paper Birds. Here Ewbank describes for Spine what when into creating this remarkable cover.