Though Last Christmas in Paris won't hit bookstores until October, critics are already praising the book, a romantic, epistolary novel that takes place during World War I. "Unputdownable," wrote bestselling author Karen White. "Last Christmas in Paris stands out not just for the beautiful prose, but also for the characters that literally shimmer on the page. Kudos to Ms. Gaynor and Ms. Webb for … this remarkable novel that will undoubtedly go on my keeper shelf."
Kate Gaughran is a freelance cover designer whose work includes book jackets for Asking For It, Green Glowing Skull, and Don’t Die in Autumn. She spoke with Spine about her process for designing these, as well as answered a few other questions for us.
"One too many people asked me if 'Sleepwalker's' was going to have a sequel, and that kind of question makes me claustrophobic in my soul." In part to push her creative self forward to the next narrative while avoiding this constant question, to skirt the Second Book trap/trope, Jacob moved into a different medium: the graphic memoir.
It was an absolute joy working on The Good People by Hannah Kent. From the very opening pages I was overwhelmed by the rural landscape and how intrinsically it echoed the beauty and fragility of the lives it surrounded – the love, grief and terrible loss. The atmosphere it created for me was almost a physical one that stayed with me long after I finished reading.
A peek at writer Ann Mah’s Instagram feed reveals crusty bread, sunny Parisian kitchens, and candids of her 3-year-old daughter in New York City. As a travel journalist and novelist, Mah firmly embraces the belief that a writer is ideally a wanderer: perhaps there’s a home base, but the inspiration of new experiences and surroundings is a necessity.
Working as a cover designer affords all sorts of benefits: free books, a variety of projects and of course the ability to walk into a bookshop on the other side of the country and see your design work on display. But as with everything in life, working as a cover designer comes with its own set of challenges. Spine spoke with talented designer Emily Mahon to get her perspective.
Erika Swyler's writing practice is summed up in two basic phrases, practical sentences nothing like the lovely prose she spun in her first novel The Book of Speculation and numerous short stories. Her debut bestseller follows two threads stitching together the story of 21st-century Long Island librarian Simon Watson with that of an 18th-century carnival troupe.
Jenna Stempel is a Senior Designer at HarperCollins Children's Books in NYC with work notably featured in the New York Times and the 2015 New York Book Show. Here she talks with Spine once more about her elaborate design process in creating the anniversary book covers for the Little House on The Prairie Trilogy box set - presumably no easy task!
"I often compare it to making a big pot of stew, gathering all the necessary ingredients, preparing them, boiling them up, then simmering them down and hoping to get something that isn't too burnt at the end.
Australian YA novelist Fleur Ferris has a vaster store of life events than most. Previous and current personal and professional titles include police officer, paramedic, mother, daughter, sibling, friend, student, teacher, speaker, rice farmer, traveller, holiday maker, city-dweller and country-dweller. Her role as concerned parent pushed her to an exploration that led to her first novel, Risk, about two 15-year-old girls seeking romance online. She spoke to Spine about the journey.
Nathan Burton is a London-based freelance designer and illustrator. He created the cover for Homegoing, published by Viking. Spine contacted him about the cover. Here is his process for designing the cover in his own words.
Nick Stearn is an art director based in London. Among his works are the covers for James Swallow's Nomad and Exile. We contacted Stearn about the designs. Here is his process for developing them, in his own words.
When Scholastic book designer Maeve Norton heard the title Bad Princess, she knew she wanted in. The nonfiction title by Kris Waldherr presents the tales of more than 30 real-life princesses, beginning in the Dark Ages and ending with Britain's current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Jess Massabrook is a designer with Princeton University Press. There she creates promotional materials for the publisher, as well as designs covers for books such as Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? and Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education. Here Massabrook joins us to answer a few questions on process.
Janet Hansen, a designer at Alfred A. Knopf, has a slew of standout covers to her name that are not only brilliantly designed, but perfectly in tune with the stories they cover, as well. While you might expect that to be the norm, it’s not, but Hansen’s reverence for the written word and the authors she works with ensures that the content and cover are always in sync. Impressed by her breadth of work (which has been celebrated by everyone from The New York Times to Design Observer) we chatted with Hansen to find out how she got her start, what her process is usually like, and what inspired some of her most recent works, including The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff and Voices in the Night by Steven Millhauser.
Founded in 2002 by Scot Bendall, La Boca is an award winning boutique design studio. From movie posters, to record covers, to iconic advertising campaigns, their client list includes everyone from Nike, MGM, Warner Bros to The Sydney Opera House and beyond. Scot took time out of his ridiculously busy day to answer a few questions for me about book cover designs.
"My initial inclinations were to take a bunch of stabs at music video imagery and gig posters. Those indie rock bands show off an impeccably curated lifestyle of leaning against graffitied buildings in their threadbare t-shirts and watching the sun set on roofs in Brooklyn. I tried to capture that same romanticized city life on the cover."
"I don’t remember much of the early part of writing Girls In the Moon, because I started when the twins were ten months old and those months were all a blur. Maybe that was good for me! … I can’t remember much about where the ideas came from, but that’s what happens with many of my projects. I’m almost a believer in the Muse—some things just come to me, and they turn into something larger in a way that I can’t track later."
"A quote from the copy explains 'Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life?' Therefore hearts were crucial to the storyline because of the romance element and the wizard’s rage and plot fuelled by his own broken heart. I tried to work with hearts as a concept in a dynamic iconic manner."
“We always start off with the plan of writing alternative chapters, but [that] doesn’t always work out in practice. One of us might get stuck and take longer to work through a particular chapter, or she might want to keep going and complete the whole of that section. Also, the chapter outline might well change as we write: characters do things we hadn't anticipated, resulting in the story changing or needing to be told in a different order. The important thing is to get the first draft finished! Editing too early can be fatal - you just end up going over and over the same ground.”
Over the course of his 30-year career, designer and art director Chip Kidd has created many of the book world's most famous cover images — the white boxer shorts of David Sedaris's Naked, the stunning, ruffled mane of All the Pretty Horses, the Jurassic Park T-Rex skeleton — and possesses one of the most well-known names in book cover design. Despite his iconic status, the designer told Spine he's made a career of avoiding a signature style.
"I think children's books are special because they often communicate big, complicated ideas in the simplest way. The challenge in designing covers for these books is similar in that you want to create something relatable but also aspirational; something that is age-appropriate but also speaks to who readers want to be. I love being able to create covers for a range of ages and genres because I have the opportunity to work with many different artists and there is always room for experimentation."
"A Totally Awkward Love Story was the most fun I’ve had designing a book cover to date. It started while reading the manuscript, about a boy and a girl who fall in love while trying to lose their virginity. I laughed out loud so many times at how hilarious awkward and raunchy the story was. It is a sweet romantic comedy at it’s core, but since it is very mature, it would compete in a more sophisticated/older part of the Young Adult market, with a larger chance for cross-over appeal. I love comedy, so it was my goal to create a design that was equally hilarious to the story that my thirty-something year old friends would want to read."
The most enjoyable part of cover design for me is coming up with something concrete and visual to illustrate an idea. If the idea is straightforward, the solution is usually pretty simple— if you want to say "love" in a visual way, you draw a heart— but when the idea is complex, like the idea behind Unmistakable (Portfolio Penguin 2016), you need an image that hits several notes at once.
Eliash Strongowski is a designer based in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Strongowski's book covers exhibit an incredible ability in the art of collage. We contacted the artist about use of this technique, and how it was applied to the Ukrainian version of Fates and Furies.