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Yesterday I featured Katie Kacvinsky’s cover for her debut novel, Awaken. Today, you get to hear her squeal about it for yourself. icon_smile-9506147


TCG: With this being your first published YA novel, how much anticipation did you have towards the design of your cover? Did you ever have any ideas about what you thought AWAKEN’s cover should look like? Did you provide any concept input to Carol Chu?

KK: I was more excited than anything—as a writer, you don’t have much creative input on the cover art—it’s in the designer’s hands and you have to trust they know what they’re doing. My editor gushed about the design team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the cover designs I’d seen for their other YA books were artistic and unique. The only cover I imagined was to illustrate my character’s tattoo (a bird on the inside of her wrist), but I never shared my idea. I was more curious to see what the designers would come up with.


TCG: What was your very first reaction when you saw the final design? (or mockups, if you got to see those in the concept stage — how involved were you?)

KK: In all honesty, my very first reaction was: “Whew! They didn’t put Justin on the cover!!” For some reason, my greatest fear was that they’d try to illustrate Justin (my protagonist) and make him look like an uber-seductive soap opera star or like he belongs in the latest break-out boy band. I usually prefer covers that don’t illustrate the main characters. It’s always more fun to imagine them. My second reaction was: “Where did they come up with that??” We had initially talked about my cover featuring the silhouette of a girl and a guy’s face about to kiss, so this cover was not what I expected at all. I just stared at it and the more I stared, the more I loved every elelment—the juxtaposition between the flowers and the pixelated screen in the background, the trapped beauty, the scratchy font of the title. I loved it!!


TCG: There are so many wonderful things about Awaken’s cover that I love, but it’s the visual image of constrained beauty that gets me every time. How does this imagery relate to Awaken’s story? What’s your favorite part about the cover?

KK: I agree, my favorite part of the cover is the symbolic image of something beautiful and natural trapped and bottled up. I also like how it’s an old fashioned mason jar contrasted with a digital image. This cover represents so many messages in my book: technology taking over humanity, people living inside constrained lifestyles, the environment being taken for granted, the natural world slowly being replaced by an artificial one….It also represents my main characters. You’ll have to read it to see why.

TCG: As an author, what do you think is the most important message that a cover should relay? Should a cover be succinct to the novel’s message? Allude to something? Or should it just catch someone’s attention, no matter what it looks like?

KK: I think the cover should set up the story without giving too much away. A book cover tells a story in itself. It sets a tone or asks a question that invites you into the story. I also think it needs to stay true to the story’s message to attract the readers you want. AWAKEN is fairly dark, but it’s also hopeful and romantic and sensual. I hope my cover conveys that.

TCG: What are some of your favorite YA covers — and why?

KK: I like Sara Zarr’s book covers because the images make me question the story. I want to know what they mean—why the heart shaped cookie is bitten into, or why the petals in the flower are falling off. I love the cover of SHIVER, by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s the kind of book jacket that screams danger and mystery and romance and it’s gorgeous enough to hang on your wall when you’re finished reading it. I recently bought the book STOLEN, by Lucy Christopher because the cover drew me in. I like the simple image of something beautiful surrounded by complete darkness–very mysterious.


TCG: Are there any trends in YA cover art that you’ve seen lately that you’ve noticed and loved? Or, have you noticed an evolution in YA cover design in the past few years?

KK: With all of the draw to paranormal books, I notice a lot of black covers contrasted with stark white images and red coloring. To be honest, I’m getting sick of seeing that. Lots of pale faces and bloody red lips and girls that look more like water nymphs than actual people (maybe they are water nymphs, I don’t check to find out).

I would not be surprised if they actually are water nymphs. icon_wink-6163731 Anything else you’d like to add for your inquiring readers?

KK: I just have to say I’m so impressed with the creative process that goes into publishing a book. Between the author’s story, the vision of the editor, the creative images of designers, the marketing team—it really is a team effort that sells a book. And I think all these visions have to complement each other for it all to work. It’s an amazing process!

Thanks so much for the interview, Katie!

Tomorrow’s post will feature art director/designer Carol Chu’s thoughts and process on creating Awaken’s cover! Stay tuned. icon_smile-9506147

Bryan Williams