process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

It may have only taken Dea Poirier six weeks to write, but when Next Girl to Die came out last month, it was the culmination of years of hard work. Perfecting her craft and following her passion for connecting with people led to this debut novel, in which Detective Claire Calderwood must battle emotions from her past while trying to hunt down a ritualistic serial killer.

Dea Poirier, on Perfecting her Craft with Next Girl to Die

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

An idea hit writer Casey McQuiston while driving on the I-10 off-ramp, and she couldn’t ignore it. That idea was the seed of Red, White & Royal Blue, out now from St. Martin’s Griffin. She did what any good millennial writer with a day job could be expected to do. “I got to work, sat down at my work computer, and G-chatted my best friend. I said, ‘I need you to sit down and listen to this for a second.’” Characters and names tumbled rapidly to the top of McQuiston’s mind, and it flowed so naturally. “This is the one,” she thought. After considering starting so many books and waiting for an idea to grab her, she knew she had found the concept and cast of characters for her first novel.

Casey McQuiston on Writing Red, White & Royal Blue

The Illustrator’s Practice: Amber Vittoria

When artist and illustrator Amber Vittoria confronted portrayals of women in the art she saw in museums, she was discouraged. Frustrated. Disenfranchised. Vittoria simply did not see herself in the frame, so she decided to create images of women that speak to who she is and what inspires her. To few’s surprise, Vittoria’s authenticity, in conjunction with her talent and skill, paid off. Vittoria’s playful, colorful, jubilant designs have been picked up by brands like NBC, Gucci, New York Times, and Instagram, just to name a few. As a freelance artist and New York Resident, Vittoria spends her days investing in her own creative practice and bringing whatever inspires her to her client work.

The Illustrator’s Practice: Amber Vittoria

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

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

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

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

With her second work of historical fiction, Jane Healey knew that she wanted to highlight a story of lesser-known women. So when she came across the story of the Red Cross Clubmobile girls, American women who volunteered to bring a piece of home to soldiers in World War II, she was instantly drawn to them. The Red Cross Clubmobile girls became the subject of her new novel, The Beantown Girls, out last February from Lake Union.

Jane Healey on Research for The Beantown Girls and Women’s Stories in History

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s middle-grade novel, Song for a Whale, grew organically. The main character, Iris, is a 12-year-old Deaf girl who feels isolated from her school and family. Since Kelly is a sign-language interpreter you might assume her goal was to capture the experience of a Deaf character, but you would be wrong. Much like her award-winning first novel, Chained, it began with an animal; in this case a whale.  

Lynne Kelly on the inspiration & writing of Song for a Whale