The Writer's Practice: Lilliam Rivera, Dealing in Dreams

Sixteen-year-old Nalah, AKA Chief Rocka, leader of the all-girl Las Mal Criadas crew and the heart of Lilliam Rivera's new YA novel Dealing in Dreams, is blinded by her vision of life in Mega Towers. The Towers, three giant and luxurious concrete apartment blocks, loom over the residents of Mega City. All of Nalah's actions on the streets — running curfew patrols, punishing stragglers, fighting other crews in public showdowns — are aimed at earning the favor of Déesse, the city's beloved leader, and a home in the Towers for Las Mal Criadas.

The Writer's Practice: Lilliam Rivera, Dealing in Dreams

Steve Leard Plays With Perspective for The Mountain That Eats Men

The Mountain That Eats Men (Zed Books, 2019) is the haunting story of Cerro Rico, a mining mountain near Potosí, Bolivia. 

From the 16th century, the mines of Potosí bankrolled the Spanish empire. During those years immense wealth allowed the city to grow larger than London at the time and the mountain was quickly given the epithet Cerro Rico – the ‘rich mountain’. But today, Potosí’s inhabitants are some of the poorest in South America while the mountain itself has been so greedily plundered that its summit is on the verge of collapsing. So many people have died in the mines that Cerro Rico is now called the ‘mountain that eats men’.

Steve Leard Plays With Perspective for The Mountain That Eats Men

Rebecca McLaughlin on Writing Confronting Christianity

Before writing her debut book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion, Rebecca McLaughlin had written a variety of articles for online faith-focused platforms. With the book she wanted to address a broader audience, and to tackle her own faith head-on. In doing so, she took on not only a personal spiritual challenge, but a writing challenge as well. McLaughlin told Spine she set out to take a deep look at the arguments that could be significant barriers to belief, positioning her book as a litmus test of modern Christianity.

Rebecca McLaughlin on Writing Confronting Christianity

Nicolette Seeback on Designing the Luminous Cover for Trust Exercise

Designing the cover for Trust Exercise was a unique experience for me because I didn’t have the chance to read the manuscript before I started working on it. This was because the project wasn’t initially assigned to me, but I had been attending jacket meetings where many beautiful designs were being presented, none of which were being approved. I had been listening to the feedback on the other designs, while also learning some clues about the book itself during this time. When I was asked to contribute some designs to show in the next round, I thought about all that I had heard, and my first instinct was to experiment with intimate figure drawings. I had heard that sex and consent were themes in the book but I hadn’t yet seen any covers exploring the body, so I set out to fill that gap. I used crayons, thick markers and various other pens to create line drawings on paper that I scanned and vectorized. I treated each of these designs very similarly by placing large type in the center and weaving the illustrations through the letters. These comps were liked by some but ultimately killed because they weren’t quite right for the book.

Nicolette Seeback on Designing the Luminous Cover for Trust Exercise

Roy Kesey On Translating Pola Oloixarac’s Intricate Prose in Dark Constellations

Argentinian author Pola Oloixarac’s latest novel, Dark Constellations, is an exploration of mankind’s obsession with knowledge, control and progress. It spans 19th-century science and modern-day cyber-surveillance and even peeks forward into humanity’s likely near-future. Throughout the book, Oloixarac weaves an intricate blend of technical detail, deliberateness and evocative lyricism to create the magical realist world in which her epic saga takes place. Combining esoteric sciences, arts, technologies, cultures, philosophies and even lexicons with heightened, poetic and dreamlike scenes and descriptions, she transports readers into a reality at once entirely extraordinary and all too familiar. Effectively reproducing this linguistic alchemy in the novel’s English-language translation was, for translator Roy Kesey, “the single greatest challenge of the book.”

Roy Kesey On Translating Pola Oloixarac’s Intricate Prose in Dark Constellations

Jack Smyth Creates a Bold Cover for The Half-God of Rainfall

Inua Ellam’s The Half God of Rainfall is a modern take on ancient mythology / basketball saga which is part poem / part play. It’s about as far away from a regular piece of fiction as you can get, and I really wanted to try make it feel different in the way the cover was approached.

From the get go, Jo Walker’s wonderful covers for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s paperbacks were a loose reference, so I kept things graphic and pattern based.

Jack Smyth Creates a Bold Cover for The Half-God of Rainfall

Mallory O’Meara on the Process of Writing The Lady From The Black Lagoon

Mallory O’Meara, author of The Lady from the Black Lagoon, was a 17-year-old self-proclaimed “horror geek” when she first saw the Creature From The Black Lagoon. She was captivated, and did what she typically did when something caught her curiosity: investigate everything she could about the movie, the director, the actors, how they filmed the underwater scenes, and of course, the Creature. In her research, she came across a single black-and-white photo of a glamorous woman with dark hair and captivating smile, painting the mask of the Creature. The photo caption identified Milicent Patrick, animator and creature designer. It was several years before O’Meara came to learn that in 1950s Hollywood, a woman monster designer was a very rare thing.

Mallory O’Meara on the Process of Writing The Lady From The Black Lagoon

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 2: Lauren Panepinto

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews Creative Director/VP for Orbit Books, Lauren Panepinto. They discuss how she came to be at Orbit, artist collaboration, and cover design for science fiction/fantasy books. You can view more of Panepinto's work at www.laurenpanepinto.com.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 2:  Lauren Panepinto

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

DePaul University’s nonprofit Big Shoulders Books press disseminates, free of charge, quality works of writing by and about Chicagoans whose voices might not otherwise be shared. The press is primarily run by students in the university's MA in Writing and Publishing and undergraduate English programs. Their most recent release, The Garcia Boy, shares the story of the late award-winning essayist and educator Rafael Torch, son of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. 

Interview with Miles Harvey & Emily Olson-Torch On The Garcia Boy by Rafael Torch

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

“A horned lark perched on the concrete balcony outside my window, framed against the colorful paifang of Montreal’s Chinatown.” So begins Filipino-Chinese author Roselle Lim’s debut novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, out in June.

The average reader may be swept away by the language and beautiful imagery of the first page of Lim’s novel, without a thought as to how much time, effort, and care went into crafting that first sentence. “The first line, to me, is extremely important. It needs to convey the voice, the tone, and the footing of the new book,” Lim said. “It took me until about the third round of revisions to get the line just right for Natalie Tan.” Lim considers the first line of a novel the entry point for a journey, one that sets the reader’s expectations for the entire novel moving forward. 

Author Roselle Lim on her Debut Novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune

Artist Cristina Pagnoncelli Breaks Out the Inks for We Set the Dark on Fire

In December of 2017 I was hired by HarperCollins - one of the largest publishers in the world and the English language - to do lettering for the cover of a new book by a young writer. I read the book's digital preview and quickly devoured the 304 pages. I fell in love with the history - which is fanciful but parallels very closely with our current society (machismo, xenophobia and class conflict). Only after absorbing the whole plot, I set out for visual research. The briefing asked to bring some Mexican / Spanish character to the lettering since the story is about immigrant characters.

Artist Cristina Pagnoncelli Breaks Out the Inks for We Set the Dark on Fire

Sarahmay Wilkinson on her Incredible Design for the Cover of House of Stone

Some stories read like beautiful, bitter medicine. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s first novel House of Stone, a multifaceted and fragmented reflection on Zimbabwe’s harrowing past, is one of those stories. The novel oozes intensity, even terror. It’s magnificently composed, but it’s also so raw it might cut you. When designer Sarahmay Wilkinson, who currently serves as Associate Art Director at W.W. Norton, received the creative brief for the cover of House of Stone, she knew the project would be challenging. How does one wrap a biting story in shelf appeal?

Sarahmay Wilkinson on her Incredible Design for the Cover of House of Stone

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

In The Archive of Alternate Endings, author Lindsey Drager has penned a historical fiction which follows the 75 to 79-year passes of Halley’s Comet and answers the questions: What things change? What stay the same?  

Expertly crafted, The Archive of Alternate Endings weaves stories of our past with fantastical peeks into the future, at a rapid pace. Blending fact with fiction is challenging. Writing it so that the reader believes it as all true is an art. “Historical fiction is speculative … in the vast majority of cases it is our own brains that fill in gaps," Drager told Spine. “If you are going to speculate history, it should be for a good reason.” She did just that, by touching upon important moments in history and reminding us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lindsey Drager on Writing The Archive of Alternate Endings

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 1: Kristen Radtke

For this first episode of Season 3 of our podcast Holly Dunn interviews cover designer, graphic novelist, and Art Director, Kristen Radtke. The conversation includes Radtke’s process on design, writing Imagine Wanting Only This, and how she works with other artists for The Believer Magazine.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 1: Kristen Radtke

Melissa Rivero, Developing her Debut Novel, The Affairs of the Falcóns

Melissa Rivero's debut novel The Affairs of the Falcóns, published April 2 by Ecco, centers on Ana, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant, as she navigates work and motherhood and marriage, intrafamilial classism and colorism, and 1990s New York City, all while managing a growing debt load and avoiding deportation.

Moving along a chronological path interspersed with flashbacks, the novel is written in close third-person. Readers follow Ana as she progresses through her life, just as Rivero followed Ana as she progressed through her writing.

Melissa Rivero, Developing her Debut Novel, The Affairs of the Falcóns

Greg Heinimann Explores Photography and Illustration for The Other Americans

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami is a novel about the fallout from a hit-and-run accident involving a Moroccan immigrant man in modern day California. It features multiple narrators tied together through their connection to the event, the cover up that follows, and the strength of the deceased’s family in dealing with such a trauma.

The brief was fairly simple in that it asked to convey the mystery behind the accident, and should be photographic. A small-town nighttime scene with illuminated windows was suggested, or perhaps the intersection where the crime took place.

Greg Heinimann Explores Photography and Illustration for The Other Americans

Anne Ursu, on Writing The Lost Girl

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.  

Anne Ursu, on Writing The Lost Girl

Mirabai Starr, Bringing Together Stories & Experiences to Write Wild Mercy

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.

Mirabai Starr, Bringing Together Stories & Experiences to Write Wild Mercy
Spine StaffComment

The Australian Book Design Awards Shortlist

The Shortlist for the 67th The Australian Book Design Awards has been presented, and the designs are amazing!

The winners of the Australian Book Design Awards will be announced at the Awards Party on Friday 31 May at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.

Spine StaffComment
The Australian Book Design Awards Shortlist

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

Spine Podcast, Bonus Episode, Author Kris Waldherr

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

Spine Podcast, Bonus Episode, Author Kris Waldherr

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig

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.

Samira Iravani on Creating the Cover for Dig