Cover Reveal! Alban Fischer Discusses his Design for Sara Mesa’s Four by Four

“Every project feels like the first time,” says designer Alban Fischer, despite having designed over 300 covers in his career. Before the full translation of Sara Mesa’s novel, Four by Four, was even complete Fischer knew “it was right up my alley.”

Cover Reveal! Alban Fischer Discusses his Design for Sara Mesa’s Four by Four

Writing in Full Contact with the World: Hanif Abdurraqib on A Fortune for Your Disaster

Poet and writer Hanif Abdurraqib strives to pursue whatever curiosities are in his mind when he sits down to write. The end result this time around is his latest poetry collection A Fortune for Your Disaster, exploring grief, change, heartbreak, history, and moving forward. Fortune, out this month from Tin House Books, is his second poetry collection, following 2016’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much. 

Writing in Full Contact with the World: Hanif Abdurraqib on A Fortune for Your Disaster

Melanie Benjamin on Writing Mistress of the Ritz

In Mistress of the Ritz, Melanie Benjamin’s most recent novel (May, Delacorte Press), Benjamin takes one of the most popular and captivating eras for historians, both professional and amateur, World War II, and shines a light on two individuals who remained in the shadows: Blanche and Claude Auzello. As caretakers of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, hub of elegance and glamour, they had the awesome responsibility of keeping face for the Nazis while plotting subterfuge.

Melanie Benjamin on Writing Mistress of the Ritz

David Litman Designs an Epic Cover for Ask Again, Yes

A lot of designers talk about the trouble of working on a cover for a book that they really like. For me, it’s usually that I’m trying too hard to represent all the complexities of the novel rather than focusing on a simple idea and executing it in an attractive way. This book had me going down a lot of wrong paths in trying to do it justice.

The story is an epic about two families who move to a town outside New York City. Without giving anything away, there is a tragedy and the characters spend the rest of the novel and many years reconciling this event. Thematically there’s a lot to unpack - issues of mental illness, the American suburban ideal, family, love, secrets, forgiveness… A lot.

David Litman Designs an Epic Cover for Ask Again, Yes

Jo Thomson, Bringing to Light the Cover for The Vanishing Hours

I came to work on this brief after a we’d had a few rounds of visuals from a freelancer that weren’t quite working for the cover meeting. They were great designs, in keeping with the cover style that had been established with his two earlier novels, but the meeting felt we needed to step away from this look for the third novel. I had voiced some ideas in the meeting and so, with the deadline looming, my Art Director asked me to try some new options. Naturally, my ideas evaporated as soon as I sat down to work on the cover and I mentally kicked myself for having been so chatty in the meeting. I talked the brief through with Alice (the editor working on the novel and all round lovely human) and this helped give me a bit more of a steer, although I was still a bit stumped. An accident involving a scalpel and the tip of my finger resulted in some much needed reading time in the glamorous location of Ealing Hospital A+E waiting room! I whizzed through the novel in the couple hours that I was waiting there and returned to the art dept inspired with some ideas and a comedy bandage.

Jo Thomson, Bringing to Light the Cover for The Vanishing Hours

A Picture Worth 90,000 Words: The Cover Photography of Jasmine Aurora Poole

UK-based photographer Jasmine Aurora Poole creates images that captivate, haunt, and inspire. Poole’s love for stories and world-building plays out in the work she produces and contributes to stock websites such as Arcangel Images, which specifically caters to the book cover industry. 

A Picture Worth 90,000 Words: The Cover Photography of Jasmine Aurora Poole

A Conversation with Peter Mendelsund on Writing

In recent years, Peter Mendelsund has been shifting his career from designing books to writing them. The former Associate Art Director of Alfred A. Knopf already has a couple of non-fiction titles to his name – What We See When We Read and Cover, with another, The Look of the Book, on the way – and has now stepped into fiction with Same Same, a twisting metafictional meditation on creativity. We asked him a few questions about this latest adventure between the covers.

A Conversation with Peter Mendelsund on Writing

Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Discusses Her Novel, The Nine

Inspired by the biblical story of Hannah, who finally has a son, Samuel, after years spent longing for a child, author Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg set out to write a story about the relationship between a mother and son. Set within the walls of fictional elite boarding school Dunning Academy, Blasberg’s The Nine (She Writes Press) reflects on the relationship of Hannah Webber and her only child, a son named Sam. Hannah has kept a close eye on Sam, being involved in his life and school as much as possible. Although she struggles with the desire to keep her son at home, Hannah believes that in order to give Sam the best education, he must become a student at Dunning  

 Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg Discusses Her Novel, The Nine

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Dr. Aysha Akhtar made her first foray into non-academic writing with Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy, and Our Shared Destinies (Pegasus Books, May 2019). Throughout her book, Dr. Akhtar weaves stories of interactions between humans and animals with science, human experience, and social history to draw assertions about the connection between humans and animals: how we interact, develop empathy from, and benefit from relationships with animals. 

Dr. Aysha Akhtar on Developing Her Book, Our Symphony with Animals

Grace Han on Designing Brandon Taylor's Real Life

I’m always excited to read the work of Riverhead’s debut authors, and this was no exception. Brandon Taylor’s voice is smart and electric and I am truly enamored by his ability to navigate us through a range of emotions in such an elegant, profound way.

Real Life is about Wallace, an introverted grad student who is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. After the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend, he is forced to face his private wounds. For Wallace, real life unravels in a place where he is studying the complexities of biological life. What is striking to me is that there are raw and violent emotions being brought to the surface in this seemingly controlled, academic, backdrop.

Grace Han on Designing Brandon Taylor's Real Life

Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Meg Elison on Writing The Book of Flora

Released in April, Meg Elison's The Book of Flora (47North) wraps up her The Road to Nowhere trilogy. The post-plague society depicted in the book disrupts stereotypes of gender and sexual intimacy, and introduces new concepts of "normal" and hope for the future. Rife with gender fluidity, queer acknowledgement, and political undertones, The Book of Flora is, as Elison told Spine, “a call to action.” 

Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Meg Elison on Writing The Book of Flora

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Designer Cherie Chapman has a knack for turning the intrigue of a novel’s plot into a series of captivating images for its cover. Chapman’s passion and talent for creating book covers continues to earn her high-profile projects, including a recent redesign of the Simon Brett murder mysteries. Canongate’s new imprint, Black Thorn, commissioned Chapman to rework 14 of Brett’s titles. Editors at Black Thorn thought the series needed a more illustrative approach, and they sought Chapman’s particular gift for creating fiction book covers with zing. Chapman’s guiding principle for the Simon Brett series? Fun. Imagine it: a project infused with joy for both designer and potential readers alike. Here’s how Chapman made magic for these quirky, cozy murder mysteries.

Cherie Chapman, on Designing the Simon Brett Murder Mysteries

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

Bianca Marais’s writing is emotionally rich and deeply felt; I absolutely loved both reading and designing for her novels. If You Want to Make God Laugh is set in post-Apartheid South Africa and tells the story of three very different women who are brought together unexpectedly and, through their journey together, challenge the conventional norms of both family and identity.

This cover is a bit of a publishing unicorn, as it was an outtake of one of the comps presented for Bianca’s first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. The editor sent Bianca two cover concepts for Hum, and she loved both so much that when it was time to jacket her next novel, it was suggested we try and rework the unused one. This almost never happens!

Kaitlin Kall, Breathing New Life into a Concept for the Cover of If You Want To Make God Laugh

Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli on co-writing Compassionomics

Imagine this: You’ve been in the examination room at your doctor's office for nearly 30 minutes, waiting to review an abnormal test result. Your anxiety, already elevated by the news something is amiss, has only been heightened by the detached manner by which you were received, processed, and shuffled into the waiting area. The doctor arrives and the news is grim; your treatment will be painful and the odds do not look favorable for your complete recovery.

 Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli on co-writing Compassionomics

Authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb team up for Meet Me in Monaco

In France for the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, Grace Kelly just wants to escape the flash-bulb pops and overlapping questions of the paparazzi. When British press photographer James Henderson chases her into the struggling boutique of Sophie Duval, the perfumer offers to hide Grace from prying eyes and cameras. This encounter, which is the first link in Meet Me in Monaco’s chain of events, forever entangles the lives of photographer, movie star, and perfumer.

Authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb team up for Meet Me in Monaco

January Gill O’Neil, The Power of Poetry

Poet January Gill O’Neil, author of the fall 2018 release Rewilding, might not believe that poetry is ever necessarily on the side of power— but she does equate the two.

“Poetry is power,” O’Neil insists. “Making the choice to sit down and write or read a poem is power. It’s a choice. It’s self-care. It’s the start of a revolution. It’s change. Like a photo, a poem captures a moment. And that is powerful.” 

The Cave Canem fellow has been published widely to much critical acclaim, including in The New York Times Magazine, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Ploughshares and Ecotone, among others. In 2018, she was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and from 2012-2018, she served as executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.

January Gill O’Neil, The Power of Poetry

University Press Cover Round-Up

Since July is a quiet pub month, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate an oft-overlooked area of UP Design: Series Designs. Series designs are a challenge to design; they require forethought to fit a wide variety of titles and the designer has to consider a package that can be replicated indefinitely without duplicating previous colors/symbols or breaking the pattern in a way that divorces the design from the rest of the series. Take a look at six examples of designers who really hit the mark on this challenge to produce beautifully memorable series designs.

University Press Cover Round-Up

Beginning To End: The Making of Hard Mouth, Part 1: Amanda Goldblatt

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from writing through acquisition, design and on to publication and publicity. For our second "season," we're looking at Hard Mouth, Amanda Goldblatt's debut adventure novel about a woman facing—and sometimes fleeing from—her father's drawn-out battle with cancer. Counterpoint Press publishes the book this month. We begin the series by talking with Goldblatt.

Beginning To End: The Making of Hard Mouth, Part 1: Amanda Goldblatt

Lara Elena Donnelly on Writing the Amberlough Dossier Series

Set nearly a decade after Amberlough, after Cyril DePaul tipped over the first domino that led to the rise of a brutal fascist government—and five years since Armistice, since violent resistance to that government began in earnest—Amnesty, the conclusion to Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough Dossier, answers an often-ignored question: What happens once the revolution is over?

Lara Elena Donnelly on Writing the Amberlough Dossier Series

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Henrietta Lovell is best known as the Rare Tea Lady. She is on a mission to revolutionise the way we drink tea by replacing industrially produced teabags with an appreciation for the best quality leaves. Her quest sees her travel to the Shire Highlands of Malawi, across the foothills of the Himalayas, and to hidden gardens in the Wuyi Shan in China to source the world’s most extraordinary tea. Infused takes us on a remarkable journey, introducing us to the people who grow and craft the precious leaves as well as the celebrated chefs who serve them. And always guiding us is Lovell herself, who tells the story of how her love affair with tea has shaped her life through times of both great joy and adversity. The result is a delicious infusion of travel writing, memoir, recipes and glorious photography, all written with Lovell’s unique charm and wit.

Eleanor Crow teams up with Illustrator Yehrin Tong for Infused

Scott Jurek, Venturing into the Wilderness for North

Scott Jurek ran 2,189 miles in just 46 days in 2015, and set a record for the Fastest Known Time attempt for the Appalachian Trail. That's an average of about 50 miles a day. Or, in more comprehensible terms, 84 back-to-back marathons. He just did it.

In North, out last spring in paperback from Little, Brown Spark, Jurek and his wife, Jenny Jurek, describe the resilience and exhaustion on their plunge into the wilderness, and readers hitch a hike for the mucky ride. The Jureks portray what becomes possible when you work to make a dream into a manifestation.

Scott Jurek, Venturing into the Wilderness for North

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews freelance book cover designer Amanda Weiss. Weiss has been recognized frequently by the Association of University Presses for her work, including selections for the 2019 AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show: Beyoncé in Formation, and Woke Gaming. Dunn and Weiss discuss typography, photography, and use of color.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 6: Amanda Weiss