Well, well, well. What do we have here?
Oh, this little beauty.
Yesterday, Making The Grade did a cover reveal for Trish Doller’s upcoming Where the Stars Still Shine. And it is quite shiny indeed! Today on TCG I have two lovely and insightful interviews with none other than the author herself, as well as her fabulous cover designer, Regina Flath.
Let’s get this cover love show on the road, shall we?
TCG: First things first: Trish, what was your initial reaction to your cover? (Mine? “It’s so pretty.”)
TD: My initial reaction was a big, breathy wow. Because I knew which image they were going to use, I played around with it myself (I am one of those authors who makes her own fake covers), but all the fonts I tried were very simple and contemporary. So when I saw that gorgeous script I was stunned that it was more beautiful than I could have imagined. I think any changes to the cover have been minor, so it’s kind of exciting that what people are seeing now is almost exactly what I saw that very first time.
What’s your favorite part of the cover?
I have two favorite things about the cover. First, when we started discussing the cover of Where the Stars Still Shine, my editor sent me what she thought would be the perfect image. Only it turned out to be the photo that has since become the cover of Uses for Boys. Pretty, right? Well, we agreed that what we liked best about the cover was the fairy lights. So I did an image search and discovered a series of photos by a photographer who goes by Beth Retro. The green dress and fairy lights image was part of the series, and I fell for it hard and fast. And when I sent it to my editor, her reaction was similar to mine. I even sent her a couple of other concepts for good measure, but I think we were all pretty smitten by then.
And the second thing is the font. After I saw the cover the first time, I did a little exploring to find out the name of that font and, if I got it right, it’s called Aphrodite. Which felt very special to me because Where the Stars Still Shine takes place in a small town in Florida with a healthy Greek-American population that factors into the book. And since Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love…well, I have no idea if my designer, Regina Flath, chose that font intentionally but knowing her it’s entirely possible.
So that makes it sound like the whole thing is my favorite, right? Exactly.
Yep, it sure does. And I’m so happy you feel that way. (In regards to your font question, that answer will actually be verified in Regina’s interview below!)
I always hope that covers tell some sort of story — how does your cover art compare to the story within?
The fairy lights are a small, but significant part of the story in that they represent the kind of friendship Callie has never experienced, as well as the power of light to chase away the darkness. And she’s had plenty of darkness in her life. The fairy lights are given to her as a gift–one of the first things she receives in her new home that belongs solely to her–so they’re pretty special.
We’ve had a few cover discussions over email and Twitter — and I know you’ve got strong opinions like I do. What kind of cover grabs your attention? What do you think can make or break a cover?
My favorite covers tend to be those with illustrations and interesting typography. I think it’s one thing that adult fiction does so well that we’re only just starting to see echoed in young adult fiction and I’d love to see it used more often. Maybe even on one of my books.
Have you ever had any cover discussions with teenagers to garner their thoughts?
I lead a teen book club that meets once a month and we talked about covers at one of our meetings. The general consensus among the five high school-aged girls was that they don’t like kissing covers, they are tired of girls in gowns, and they like illustration. One girl in the group says she doesn’t really care all that much what’s on the cover, though, while another said sometimes she wishes all covers were plain and that the flap copy was what you relied on to decide whether or not to buy a book. One of the group’s favorite covers was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I love that one, too!
Excellent choice. What are some of your favorite covers — and why?
And now, for the designer herself! Welcome, Regina!
TCG: What was your design process like for STARS? Did you start out with a summary, or were you able to read the book prior to the concept phase?
RF: With STARS I only had the summary to work from, but since the author and editor had an image they wanted to work with already, it was easy for me to come up with the type design based on the short summary.
Trish gave me a little insight on where the cover image came from, but said she was floored by the type design you incorporated on the cover. How do you pick your type for your designs? What’s that process like? Do you have favorite typographers, foundries?
The font used on the cover is Aphrodite Slim Pro. The type choice for my designs is informed by the genre of the book and the overall feel of the story. For STARS I knew we wanted something really beautiful. I chose Aphrodite because I knew I could use the serif glyphs to interlock the letters and words and make everything feel really integrated and romantic. Normally the process is much more involved, where I’ll sit for a few hours on myfonts.com scrolling through fonts by keyword based on what I want the feel of the design to be. Sometimes I’ll start with a keyword like “romantic” but other times I know I’ll want a serif, a sans serif, or a modern face and I’ll search using those terms. My favorite typographers tend to be known for their hand lettering, like Jessica Hische or Mike Perry. (Shout out to Mike Perry who taught a workshop I took in college! Whee!)
Thanks for two new typographers to add to my list, Regina! Also, whoa, where did my last half hour go? Surely not to staring at their websites…
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions you feel the general reading world has about cover design?
Oh this question is close to my heart. Overall people seem to think that the designer who creates the cover always has the final say in what a cover looks like. For example, if people generally don’t like a cover or think the cover ‘looks like everything else’ that might not necessarily be because the designer chose to offend. A million different people in a million different departments (editorial, marketing, sales, book buyers, book sellers, etc) all have a certain amount of approval and input on a cover design. If a designer is lucky (like I was in the case of STARS) her vision for the cover will pretty much be what she intended it to be. More often than not, a designer needs to incorporate many different types of input to make sure all the departments are satisfied that a cover is the best it can be for the market it is in. At the end of the day, cover design is commercial design but a really good cover design will make you forget that fact.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I get inspiration from almost everywhere. My interests outside of design are really varied, but they all inform my work. For instance, I’m an herbalist, which means I make a lot of my own medicines or body care products. While that seems to have nothing to do with design, the process of seeking out plants that others might overlook and using them for powerful medicines is a lot like seeking out imagery and feelings in a story and using them to make powerful imagery or type choices on a cover design. The same goes for my interest in alchemic and esoteric philosophies; the idea of taking something base and turning it into gold is a lot like the process of design where the designer has to distill a whole novel into one image.
As for visual inspiration, I love the work of Charmaine Olivia because she does ‘beautiful young woman’ in a way that is really other-worldly and interesting to me. I just found photographer @old_hag on instagram and am totally inspired by her work; she does these magical self portraits and shots of her home that are incredible. I also love Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics both for art and content.
What is it about a cover that makes you want to pick up a book? What are 3 of your favorite pieces?
When I see a cover that challenges my ideas of how covers ‘should’ look, that makes me want to pick it up. Also, I’m a sucker for anything that looks remotely magical or has interesting use of special effects like spot UV.
My most recent favorite covers are:
Thank you so much for stopping by TCG today, ladies! It’s only, what, a short 7 months until pub date, right? (SEVEN MONTHS. SHEESH.)
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the blurb that will be on the cover. Because it’s by Melina Marchetta.
“Trish Doller writes strong, gutsy characters that you can’t help caring for and Callie is no exception. Her journey is heartbreaking and powerful.” — Melina Marchetta, Printz Award winning author of Jellicoe Road