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

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

The cover for The Travelers by Regina Porter came about when I was trying to do something completely different and, once I stopped trying so hard, it finally started to come together. Basically every cover designer will tell you the road to a cover is almost never the same, which makes it interesting but also stressful of course.

This novel is a family saga of two families, one white and one black, interconnected over many years and places. It’s a story made of many different stories, none necessarily more important than the other. This meant there was no shortage of symbols to represent each part, but which ones could represent the wide scope of the entire book was the challenge. Initially in conceptualizing with editorial, we wanted something bold, modern, but with a touch of a southern classic feel. Even though it takes place all over, a large selection of the stories take place in the south, in particular one scene that shapes the events of much going forward. This particular scene takes place on a tragic night when a young black couple is pulled over by the cops in Georgia in 1966. Along that stretch of road are weeping willow trees, we felt that given the strong family narrative it would make sense to use willows as a sort of family tree.

Michael Morris with a Look at Different Directions for The Travelers

Mamta Chaudhry on Creating & Editing her Novel, Haunting Paris

While walking along Quai d’Anjou in the Parisian neighborhood of Île Saint-Louis with her husband, Mamta Chaudhry glanced—as she had developed a habit of doing—at the lighted windows of the homes they passed. From one of those windows drifted softly played music, and Chaudhry began to envision what kind of life the people who lived there led.

With that piece of music echoing in her ears, she imagined the voice of Julien, a ghost who watched over his still-mourning lover Sylvie from the banks of the Seine below her window. Julien spoke the words that would later become the first page of Chaudhry’s debut novel.

Mamta Chaudhry on Creating & Editing her Novel, Haunting Paris

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

When she was accepted to a California writers' workshop in 2004, author Devi Laskar wanted to dust off an old short story she had written about arranged marriage. However, a good friend from graduate school, who was also attending, insisted she write something new. 

“So I wrote a family story about a woman and her kids and her dog,” Laskar explained. “I was torn between my love for The House on Mango Street — and my desire to emulate it — and my years of training as a reporter.” 

Devi Laskar on Creating Her Debut Novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

I’ve worked with the talented creative team over at Tor on countless covers, and I’m always thrilled when they approach me with a new project. Magic for Liars came across my desk at a particularly busy time for me, but the book concept was really interesting, and I was excited to take the project on.

This fantastic debut novel from Sarah Gailey follows our lead, Ivy Gamble. When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages where Ivy’s estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic - Ivy ( a reluctant detective ) is pulled into a world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister―without losing herself.

Will Staehle Discusses his Cover Design for Sarah Gailey's Magic for Liars

Interview with Cover Designer Emily Courdelle

Designer, letterer, and illustrator Emily Courdelle infuses texts and images with unadulterated joy. Emily Courdelle earned her First Class Honours Degree in Design for Publishing from Norwich University of The Arts. Since then she has worked in house at London based publishers. She now works as a freelance designer/lettering artist. A cursory glance at Courdelle’s portfolio reveals enchanting scripts, inviting layouts, and dazzling motifs. Spine recently chatted with Emily about three of her most recent covers: Jeffrey Boakye’s Black, Listed, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, and Nicola Mostyn’s The Love Delusion. Additionally, Courdelle got real with us about her creative process, her life as an artist, and her decision to go freelance. 

Interview with Cover Designer Emily Courdelle

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

On a 1937 December morning, as sunrise light streams through the high, arched windows of Grand Central Terminal, Joe Reynolds spots an out-of-place young woman near the station’s famous gold clock. After coming to the woman’s aid, Joe learns three things: Her name is Nora Lansing, she’s a wealthy Manhattan socialite, and she absolutely captivates him.

This serendipitous meeting begins an unlikely love affair that defies both time and tragedy. As Joe and Nora find each other again and again, they slowly unravel the mystery surrounding Nora’s strange circumstances even as the threads of their lives wind tighter together.

Lisa Grunwald Discusses Writing Time After Time

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

The cover design for The Paper Wasp came together very organically. I was hired as a freelancer by Grove Atlantic’s Art Director Gretchen Mergenthaler. The cover memo had some specific direction, but Gretchen always encourages original ideas and experimentation and it sounded like a great project. I was excited to work on it.

Kelly Winton on Designing The Paper Wasp

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Wim Hof, “the Iceman,” practices cold exposure in order to accomplish incredible feats: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, for example. He also holds the world record for a barefoot half marathon above the Arctic Circle, and standing in an ice cube-covered container for more than 112 minutes. 

Reporter Scott Carney’s investigative and participatory journalism book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, delves into Hof's methods, and explores how far humans have strayed from our evolutionary roots and the implications that has on our health. "The developed world—and, for that matter, much of the developing world—no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency," he told Spine. "Instead we get the diseases of excess.” 

Scott Carney on Writing What Doesn’t Kill Us

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things tells the story of Jessa-Lynn Morton, who takes over her father’s taxidermy business shortly after his suicide. Still grieving, she struggles to keep both the business and her family from falling apart. While Jessa buries herself in work and alcohol, her mother begins making lewd window displays with animals from the taxidermy shop. Jessa's first love—also her brother Milo’s wife—ran out on the family years before, leaving Milo with their young daughter and her troubled son from a previous relationship. Struggling to cope with her absence, Jessa and Milo remain locked in a pattern of resentment and grief.

Jakob Vala Explores the World of Taxidermy for Mostly Dead Things

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

From wedding ceremonies to hand washing, if society understands the reasons behind an action, it is considered "normal." In his new book, Waiting for Fitz, Spencer Hyde tells the story of Addie, a teenage girl struggling with OCD. She is admitted to a psychiatric ward where she finds friendship with a schizophrenic boy named Fitz. Together the two learn about love, forgiveness, courage and who they are in the space between "normal" and their own atypical reasoning.

Spencer Hyde, Drawing on Personal Influences for Waiting for Fitz

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 5: Mark Campbell

For this episode Holly Dunn interviews Mark Campbell, Head of Design at HarperCollins Australia and New Zealand, and President of the Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA.) They have an in-depth conversation on the working relationship between art director and designer. They also review results from a survey conducted by the ABDA in 2018. The survey’s focus was of the work experience among the ABDA book-design community, covering things such as contracts and revisions.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 5: Mark Campbell

Marjan Kamali, Exploring Iranian Culture for The Stationery Shop

In The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali tells the story of a romance that reaches far beyond its origins and across the span of the characters’ lives. Amidst growing political turmoil in their home of Tehran, Roya and Bahman do not expect to fall in love amidst the books of their local stationery shop, let alone find their entire lives changed by it. Little do they know, this will also be the year that Prime Minister Mossadegh is removed from power with the assistance of the American government. 

Marjan Kamali, Exploring Iranian Culture for The Stationery Shop

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person

Ulli Lust, a 2013 Los Angeles Times book prize winner for her graphic novel Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, is revisiting her past with her newest book How I Tried to Be a Good Person. The graphic novel is a memoir, like Lust's first book, and according to Fantagraphics is “a story of sexual obsession, gender conflict, and self-liberation.” 

Ulli Lust, on How I Tried to Be a Good Person

Sounds Like You Have It Covered: Eric Wilder’s Cover Design for Sounds Like Home

For the 20th anniversary reissue of Mary Herring Wright’s memoir Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South, designer Eric Wilder faced the challenge of delivering Wright’s message to 21st-century readers. The memoir’s old cover, which featured a scripted typeface a sepia-toned photograph of the author and her brother, simply would not do for the much-anticipated reprint of Sounds Like Home. Instead, Wilder decided to play with elements of Wright’s Carolina heritage for a cover that subtly conveys the memoir’s strong sense of place.

Sounds Like You Have It Covered: Eric Wilder’s Cover Design for Sounds Like Home

Emily Courdelle on Designing Is Butter a Carb?

I designed the cover for Is Butter a Carb? while I was working in-house as a junior designer with the wonderful design team at Little, Brown Book Group. I put myself forward for this project in the cover briefing for two main reasons: 1) the title (who doesn’t love a Mean Girls reference?), and 2) that I felt this project could give me a chance to experiment with my love for hand/digital lettering.

Emily Courdelle on Designing Is Butter a Carb?

Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee, Bringing Sea Sirens to Life

Last year, graphic novel sales drastically outpaced the growth rate of other print publishing. More and more readers are drawn to the marriage of art and storytelling that goes into books like Sea Sirens, a new middle-grade novel about a Vietnamese-American surfer and her water-loving cat. Spine sat down with Eisner Award-winning illustrator Janet K. Lee as well as writer and co-founder of Alpha Girl Comics Amy Chu to talk about bringing their graphic novel to life.

Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee, Bringing Sea Sirens to Life

A Look at International Editions

When a book originally written in English is translated for a new audience it often requires a new cover to go with it. Some of these are very similar, taking elements from the English version, while others are vastly different. It's difficult to draw any conclusions about how these markets differ from the UK or US simply by looking at these covers. That would require a lot more research, comparison and conversation with designers. (PhD thesis, anyone?) In this article, I've instead tried to focus on the objective design choices that have been made rather than judging them as better or worse. Just as with US vs UK covers, I don't think that's a useful conversation. Moreover, it's impossible with the markets being as different as they are.

A Look at International Editions

Baily Crawford Tackles a Sensitive Subject for On a Scale of 1 to 10

On a Scale of One to Ten by Ceylan Scott gives us a look inside life in a psychiatric ward through the eyes of teenage Tamar. Based on the author’s true story, it is as poetic as it is unflinchingly honest. With themes of depression, self mutilation and suicide, the cover had to be intriguing while remaining respectful of the content. The read is deeply emotive, raw and beautiful; I wanted to encompass these qualities while also remaining accessible, considerate to the reality that a manuscript this dense with hard-hitting subject matter can provide important refuge to so many readers.

Baily Crawford Tackles a Sensitive Subject for On a Scale of 1 to 10

The Illustrator's Practice: Samantha Hahn

Samantha Hahn is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and creative director with an astounding body of work. She has hand-lettered magazine covers for Vogue and Marie Claire, done illustrative reportage for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Jonathan Simkhai, and produced beautiful book covers for Penguin Random House and St Martins Press. They are just a few of her illustrious clients. Others include New York Magazine, Tiffany's, Conde Nast and Saatchi & Saatchi.

The Illustrator's Practice: Samantha Hahn

Lauren Peters-Collaer gets Creative with Collage for Feast Your Eyes

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg is an arresting and deeply compelling novel. It tells the story of Lillian Preston—a single mother and photographer searching for artistic recognition in 1950s New York City—and is formatted as if it were a catalogue of notes from a posthumous MoMA exhibition of her work. The “catalogue”, written largely in the voice of Lillian’s daughter Samantha, describes her mother’s life, including a show at a small gallery early in Lillian’s career where a display of partially nude photos of a young Samantha leads to obscenity charges, Lillian’s arrest, and mother and daughter becoming a lightning rod for national scrutiny and scorn. I was mesmerized by Feast Your Eyes immediately so was simultaneously incredibly grateful to my art director, Jaya Miceli, for giving it to me, and terrified at the thought of not doing it visual justice.

Lauren Peters-Collaer gets Creative with Collage for Feast Your Eyes

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Nafiza Azad has always been annoyed by Shakespeare’s “What’s in a name?” question. 

“It centers the Western perspective as the only one that matters,” the YA author explained. “[But] a name has all sorts of meanings and functions in different cultures around the world.” 

This fact is reflected in the city of Noor, the setting of Azad’s diverse debut novel The Candle and the Flame. Names play a prominent role in the novel, as the main character Fatima, one of the few people left in Noor after a tribe of djinns slaughters the human residents, acquires the power to divine the true names of djinn. “Names for the djinn are very important,” Azad said. 

Nafiza Azad Discusses Writing The Candle and the Flame

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 4: Miraphora Mina

For this episode Holly Dunn talks to Miraphora Mina, who along with Eduardo Lima, make up the design duo MinaLima. Mina is responsible for designing elements for the Harry Potter Films, as well as the Fantastic Beasts series, including The Marauders Map, The Daily Prophet, and all the text books. She and Holly also discuss MinaLima’s work on interactive classics for HarperCollins.

Spine Podcast, Season 3, Episode 4: Miraphora Mina