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Yesterday’s post featured the beautiful illustrated hardcover and paperback artwork for Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back. Today, Corey was kind enough to stop by TCG for an interview! Welcome, Corey!


TCG: I think there’s some sort of homing device that’s been implanted in my brain that immediately draws me to illustrated covers. WTCB’s hardcover artwork first beeped across my YA cover radar because in a sea of dots moving one direction, it was the oddball that seemed to be moving opposite of everyone else. Did you get to provide any insight/feedback during its conceptual phase? What was it like for you, the day that your cover art showed up in your inbox? What was your initial reaction?

JCW: First off-that’s freakin’ awesome of you to say. I felt the same way when I saw it for the first time last year. My whole involvement in the conceptual phase of the cover design consisted of a discussion with my editor about indie concert posters and the idea of some iconic image with large letters, etc. The rest was up to them—a team I fully trusted would create something brilliant. And, when I opened up the email attachment and saw it for the first time, I was floored. They managed to create something wholly original, yet seemingly tapped from some inner wish in my brain.

whaley_wtcb_wp-7217816The most eye-catching part of WTCB’s hardcover is its execution. I haven’t had a chance to see it out in the wild (heh), and can only imagine a finish that fits its face. What’s your favorite part about the cover?

My favorite part? Geez that’s a hard one. I love the lettering of the title and name…the way they sort of jump out at you. I also, or course, love the bird. But, the coolest thing about it, to me anyway, is the textured, non-glossy feel of it. When you hold it, it actually feels a bit like the wood paneling it’s supposed to simulate…it’s so awesome. 

I need this book in my hot little hands very, very soon – I’m a bit of a texture enthusiast when it comes to book design, and love it when its use actually means something and isn’t gimmicky. Now let’s talk about the paperback cover…it’s like someone over at S&S knew exactly how to dial in the coordinates to my cover-lovin heart. I mean, really. Illustrated cover first, and now a typography-based one? That’s simple? And symbolic? And carries a sense of timelessness? How does the treatment of each speak to the heart of your novel?


Well, it’s sort of like you just took my answer from me…haha. To be honest, it can be fairly nerve-racking as an author to wait and see the cover of your book—you know, what image will symbolize your work to the rest of the world….especially for a first-time author. But, you see, after Michael and team’s brilliant work on the hardcover, I trusted them wholeheartedly with the paperback. Did I think it would be such a huge departure from the first? Not really. But man oh man am I in love with it. I, like you, LOVE typography and always sort of envisioned my book covers to be heavy on the lettering, etc…you know, big, bold words and bright colors to contrast, etc. When I saw the paperback my first thought was: How on earth do they know exactly what I want without me even saying a word? Kismet. 

whaley_wtcb_pb_wp-5455622As an author, how do you feel about the storytelling side of cover art? Do you view it as a visual portal, a hook? Does it need to be succinct to a novel’s story? Or just garner attention? (Yay loaded questions!)

Oh boy…loaded question indeed. I think, now that I’m published, I have changed to way I view cover art a bit. In once sense, I look at it more objectively…because I’ve learned that not all authors have the same great experience I’ve had with loving their cover designs. It’s hard for us not to judge something based on its initial appearance (see also: every stereotype on earth), but I know some authors out there who have mixed emotions about their respective covers, etc., as far as how they think the covers stand for their work. I definitely think that covers serve as a hook and portal, because, you know, you can’t have a book sitting on a shelf opened up to the best, most convincing passage and expect that people will read it and all.

As far as being succinct with a novel’s story, yeah…I feel like the cover should, in some way, match the tone and feel of the novel. With WTCB, I feel like S&S did a great job in this respect with the hardcover and the paperback. The wood grain on the hardcover, for instance, immediately reminded me of the southern, rural setting of the story and I loved that. And, with the paperback, the mysterious, almost intimidating silhouette of the bird..well, I think it just speaks a lot to some of the themes that I try to address in the story, just in a more visual, abstract manner.

In terms of YA cover art, are there any novels that have really stood out to you lately? Or perhaps any from your past that have resonated with you throughout the years?

foer_eatinganimals-6691100For sure. I’m not sure they count as YA, but I love the covers for Jonathan Safran Foer’s novels (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (see also the movie tie-in cover that was recently released, which is brilliant as well), and Eating Animals).

It’s like an unofficial Jonathan Safran Foer celebration month here on TCG. Jon Gray should be extremely proud.

Other covers I love this year have been The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (such a cool, haunting design), and The Art of Fielding (there’s that typography again).


Thanks kindly for the interview, Corey! For those of you who’ve enjoyed today and yesterday’s posts, you’ll definitely want to stick around for tomorrow’s interview with S&S senior designer Michael McCartney. I may be a little biased here, but it’s kind of awesome.

Bryan Williams