We’re taking a break from our usual design discussion to bring you this bonus episode.
Earlier this year when we were developing this podcast we took a look at several different formats for the show. One of the thoughts we had was to discuss with authors the process of bringing one of their books to life. Which led us to record an interesting conversation with author Erika Swyler. Erika's first novel was the Book of Speculation. She has a fascinating story to tell as to how she became involved with the pitching process for that book. We also talked to her about writing, and a little bit about her current project.
The spare, often floral, book cover designs of 19th Century Boston artist Sarah Wyman Whitman might conjure memories of piles of forgotten books at garage and estate sales. Think thin gold lettering on quiet green cloth. Think precious leaves and hearts. In a bookstore today, where slick, pyrotechnic covers compete for buyers’ attention, you might overlook Whitman’s designs for their antiquated simplicity. And you might regret it. Whitman, whose artistic career and social influence made her one of Boston’s most prolific and intriguing artists, may easily be considered the mother of modern book cover design. At a time when cover design was dominated by ornate flourish and, well, men, she ushered in a new minimalism that continues to speak for itself.
I'm sitting on a train on my way to London, and I'm ridiculously excited. Today I get to hang out at Bonnier Zaffre, the newest kid on the publishing playground. And this kid has had its Weetabix, already luring in big-time authors such as Lynda La Plante and Wilbur Smith.
Bonnier Zaffre is the brainchild of CEO Mark Smith. A quick internet search reveals that zaffre is “a blue pigment obtained by roasting cobalt ore (and also) a cobalt blue colour.” Not the most obvious name for a publisher but Mark Smith chose it himself as he is a particular fan of the colour. Smith joined Bonnier in 2014 to start a fiction arm of Bonnier Publishing, itself part of global media group Bonnier AB, a Swedish conglomerate heavily involved in improving the Swedish education system by donating books to schools on a regular basis. The new publishing house has “the entrepreneurial spirit of a start-up, with the financial backing of a parent company with revenues of more than 6 billion euros.”
Raffa, the short-statured, brave-hearted hero of Linda Sue Park's Wing & Claw trilogy, possesses the encyclopedic knowledge of flora required of a young apothecary. He easily recalls each plant's physical and medicinal properties, and comprehends how best to combine and manipulate to achieve the desired affects in human subjects. But Raffa holds something more inside him than most "pothers." Witness:
"[Raffa] pounded the stem and leaves of the scarlet vine to a pulp, then added some to the poultice. As he stirred, the paste began to take on a gentle vermilion glow, and in his mind he heard something that sounded like a faraway cowbell … ."
Mark Swan is a designer for Kid-ethic, a studio specializing in print design for the publishing and film industries. Here Swan details his process for developing the cover to Antti Tuomainen's The Man Who Died, in his own words.
In this episode we talk to cover designer M. S. Corley. Corley works with traditionally published and independent authors alike. He's designed covers for best selling author Hugh Howey, Aaron Mahnke's Lore series, and many other great books.
Holly MacDonald studied illustration at Camberwell College before moving onto publishing. She began as a Junior at Transworld, and has since worked both in-house (at Bloomsbury and Oneworld) and as a freelance designer. MacDonald is currently a Deputy Art Director at HarperCollins. Here she details her process for designing the cover of Lionel Shriver’s The Standing Chandelier.
Tom Bevan is a designer and illustrator currently residing in Leyton (UK). Among his works are recent cover creations for Marc Behm's Eye Of The Beholder and Afraid to Death. Here Bevan details his process for creating these pieces, in his own words.
Kew Gardens, the historic, 299-acre botanical garden in southwest London, sits at the heart of Tor Udall's first novel, A Thousand Paper Birds. The main characters — a widowing musician, a struggling origami artist, a grief-stricken linguist, a curious child, and a quiet gardener — push through time, through grief, even through the porous borders separating the living from the dead. As their narratives intertwine, the characters crisscross Kew Gardens, from memorial bench to glasshouse, from woodland to pond.
Nico Taylor is a Literary Art-Director at Little, Brown Book Group in London. Among the works in his portfolio is the cover for Claire Messud's The Burning Girl. Her he details his process for developing the cover in his own words.
Ruth Young arrived first. The 30-year-old sonographer showed up before her ex-boyfriend and before her younger brother. She even arrived before her parents: her mother, recently obsessed with vitamins; her recovering alcoholic, philandering, history professor father, battling Alzheimer's disease. All these characters play central roles in Rachel Khong's first novel, Goodbye Vitamin, but first, said Khong, came Ruth.
For this episode we talk to Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein, cover designers for such titles as Humankind by Timothy Morton and Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez. The couple are also responsible for many incredible book covers for academic publishers. Their award winning designs have been highlighted by AIGA and Design Observer, as well as Print Magazine.
Only in M.S. Corley’s world do Jesus, folklore, marginal fiction, video games, monsters, and all things 19th century converge and construct the ultimate creative environment. In this space, he concocts book covers design that convey and conceal the darkness on the page. A designer and illustrator with an expansive portfolio, Corley credits his haunting, unique cover designs to a lifelong affinity for the spooky, the supernatural, and the unexplained. “Prior to working on book covers, I've done a lot of other illustration work both personal and for clients that could be classified as horror,” Corley remarked. “My interests generally fall into the line of ghosts, monsters and the supernatural, so drawing spooky imagery was always my thing. And it ended up bleeding into my book cover work too.”
What makes a successful young adult hero? In the case of Broody McHottiepants, a few book rejections, a couple glasses of wine, a quick wit, and a Twitter account.
Coming off a brutal round of querying in early 2015, Carrie DiRisio was mourning, just a little bit. Agents had yet to bite on her young adult novel, a book she'd written over the past while working full time and attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. What did these people want? A brooding hunk? A handsome hero, fond of glaring and silence, but also prone to occasional bursts of wit and chivalry? Well, she'd give him to them.
Will Staehle is a designer and Illustrator based in Seattle. Among the amazing work in his portfolio is the jacket for Jeff Noon's A Man of Shadows. Here Staehle details for Spine what went into the creation of the cover.
Welcome to Season 1 of Spine podcast. For our first episode we talk to book cover designer Kimberly Glyder, creator of covers for notable titles such as Fen, The Wonder, and a new edition for Gone with the Wind. Over her career she has received recognition from AIGA, Type Directors Club, AAUP Book Jacket and Journal Show, New England Book Show, New York Book Show, and PRINT’s Regional Design Annual.
One morning Eric Wilder sent me an email at 9:00 am. He asked if I had seen a new Guardian article about UK book cover design. Did I mention it was at 9:00 am? I'm not a rational person at 9:00 am, so I knew he had to be serious.
He sent the article, but I was mystified by his urgency, till I read the thing. It was extremely familiar. Some version of this article comes around every so often. To make a long story short, it claimed UK cover design was the envy of the world, and had always been better than US design. And Eric wanted me to pen a rebuttal. I read the piece and sent him my response. I wasn’t interested in getting in the middle of the old rehashed nationalistic argument.
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.
Jack Noel is a cover designer and illustrator residing in London. Among the incredible work in his portfolio is the jacket for Sophie McKenzie's SweetFreak. Here Noel details for us his process for creating this fascinating cover.
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.