Hello again, lovelies! Please say hello to our guest today, the ever-cool Chelsea Pitcher, author of the forthcoming The S-Word, and one of my own agent-sisters. Before we dive in, here’s a little bit about the book.
But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.
Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’ sdiary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while sheclaims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.
And here we go!
Okay, icebreaker question: who is your favorite superhero?
I’ve always been a fan of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. She’s witty, feisty, and just the right amount of wicked. Maybe not a traditional “hero,” but I much prefer characters that walk the line between good and evil. Anybody who’s 100% good or 100% evil will have a hard time keeping my attention.
First off, congratulations on selling your book! I’m sure this is a question that makes you cringe everytime you hear it, but where did the idea for The S-Word originate?
Well thank you! And don’t worry, since we’re pretty early in the process, I’m far from being sick of the question. Also, since so many things coalesced to inspire this novel, my plan is to give a different (but true) answer for as long as I can manage it.
So for you, my answer is . . .
I feel like we live in a society obsessed with vigilantes. From Batman to Dexter, Veronica Mars to Revenge, we deal with our disappointments in the justice system by hoping someone cool, clever and kick-ass will step in and save us. But what does this over-reliance on heroes say about our society as a whole? And how does the quest for justice affect the vigilante herself?
And just like that, Angie was born—an amateur vigilante hell-bent on taking a stand against the bullies at her school, but wholly unaware of how easily morality can shift in the quest for justice, or how quickly the hero can slide into villain territory.
Wow- sounds like a grey area I can’t wait to explore! Can you tell us about how you signed with our fabulous Sandy Lu?
Sandy picked me the old-fashioned way—out of the slushpile!!
I started querying for THE S-WORD in early 2011, using sites like AgentQuery.com tofind agents who represented my genres. (THE S-WORD is realistic, but I also write urban fantasy, so I wanted to find someone who might be interested in representing my career as a whole, rather than just one book.) Sandy seemed to fit the bill, and I loved what she had to say in an interview on GuideToLiteraryAgents.com. I queried her, along with a few others, and she requested within a few days (she was the first!)
A few months later, she called to offer representation. Wegot along instantly, and after she compared my book favorably to Veronica Mars, I was hooked! I signed with her that week, and I’m so happy that I did!
So are we! Now, everyone has their little quirks and habits that affect what they do. What is a perfect day of writing like for you?
I like to do long stretches of writing. Getting a thousandwords in here and there is fine, but I find I work best when I can devote several hours in a day to getting some serious work done. On my best days, I’ve done around 7,000 words (this is rare), and I feel like writing without interruption gets the best flow going.
Also, if I could be outdoors, in the sun, somewhere peacefuland quiet, that would be fantastic (and also rare!)
I’m the same way- I like to camp out and let the whole day pass by with my mind in my own little world. Is there anything you have to have while you’re writing? Lucky pen, lucky drink, lucky weather?
I prefer to be heavily caffeinated. If I can get just the right amount (triple soy caramel latte, anyone?) I find my subconscious takes over and I don’t even think about what I’m writing. It’s pretty much as close to automatic writing as I can get, and it tends to yield the best fruit.
What about a writer’s life has surprised you most since you got your book deal?
Publishing is an interesting business, because for a longtime things are moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re just writing, rewriting, editing, querying,checking your email obsessively, er . . . a usual amount of times. And then suddenly
EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE.
It takes some getting used to, and you really have to be self-motivated—promoting your book online, working on new projects, etc.— when things are happening behind the scenes, because you don’t want to be fooled by a false sense of downtime!
So then what about a writer’s life has been the most gratifying?
The fact that my favorite thing to do and my career can actually be the same thing. It’s kind of amazing.
I think that’s the dream for most of us, right there. But, writers are also readers (usually voracious ones). What book or books most influenced you as a reader or writer?
So many books!!! But you were expecting that, weren’t you?So I’ll pick out a few:
James Howe’s BUNNICULA for hilarious character development and the creation of the Original Vegetarian Vampire.
Lloyd Alexander’s THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN for adventure, self-actualization, and a hilarious heroine.
Francesca Lia Block’s DANGEROUS ANGELS and Holly Black’s MODERN FAERIE TALES for being game-changers in the fields of magical realism and urban fantasy.
You get to corral a gaggle of fellow YA authors into a single space: what’s the space, and what do you do?
I’d take everybody to one of the islands where they filmed Mama Mia. No, seriously, have you seen that movie? Those islands are GORGEOUS, and I’ve always wanted to go to Greece. So we go there, do some swimming, writing, celebrating. Everybody’s happy, and telling all kinds of interesting stories. Win-win.
Oh, that sounds amazing. Greek islands and stories? Sign me up! We’d need something to read on the flight, though. What is your most anticipated read of 2012?
I’m really excited to read Francesca Lia Block’s THE ELEMENTALS and Michael Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY. I’m a long-time fan ofFrancesca’s, and GEEKOMANCY was pitched as Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer—how could you go wrong?
Okay, laaaaaast question: what was it like, that moment when you found out your book had sold?
Pure, unadulterated shock.
I was at my parents’ house when Sandy called, and I went into their laundry room to get some privacy. Sandy had just gotten back into town after being on leave, so I told myself she might just be calling to check in with her clients. And even after she started to tell me about THE S-WORD climbing the chain at Gallery Books, I kept expecting her to stop at some point and say, “So now it’s doing to second reads/acquisitions/etc.”
Eventually it dawned on me that the book had made it all the way to the top, and from there the shock transformed into joy. And that’s pretty much how it’s been ever since: moments of shock and disbelief, broken up intermittently by giddiness!
Thank you so much for having me!
Thanks for dropping by, Chelsea, and congratulations again!
And keep an eye out for The S-Word, out in stores January 2013.
Until next time~
Four years ago, Elliot North’s world turned upside down when her best friend Kai left to find his fortunes elsewhere. Left behind to care for her family’s crumbling estates, Elliot’s life is a daily battle against her cruel, feckless father and self-indulgent older sister as she struggles to grow enough food to keep them solvent and feed all their tenants. The Luddite lords, scornful of the genetic experiments and technology that led to much of the human race being broken to the mental level of six-year-olds, care for the Reduced, but a new generation is breaking free of those restraints into a society that doesn’t know how to define them. When Kai suddenly returns as the rich, successful Captain Malakai Wentforth, the Cloud Fleet is a way for Elliot to save her tenants and her lands- if he doesn’t finish shattering her heart first.
I adore Jane Austen in a way that I never expected to when I was younger. In middle school and most of high school, I thought she was synonymous with everything that could possibly be wrong with required reading, something that had to be deathly dull and uninteresting and of absolutely no relevance to anything. Senior year, we had to read Pride and Prejudice over winter break, and I fell in love. (Colin Firth in tight pants didn’t hurt) That started my Jane Austen kick, and when I got to Persuasion, I fell hard for this slow, poignant unfolding of a love gone horribly wrong and the painful, stuttering chance for redemption.
When I found out about a YA retelling, I was both giddy and terrified.
After reading, I can say the verdict came down fully on the side of giddy.
It’s rich and atmospheric, with a beautifully claustrophobic setting that brings the pain and desperation of this shattered relationship into sharp relief. Within any story the setting would be amazing. The history of the Reduction and the gradual evolution away from that wholesale devestation creates a three-part society filled with conflict and responsibility. The delicate compromises made by the Luddites in order to keep their farms and lands functioning serve as stark contrast to the Posts’ willingness to adapt or invent technologies, but also show how finite their resources are, which makes extravagance painful to see. The nature of a society in such a severe rate of change is gorgeous.
Elliot is an amazing character, strong and resourceful, someone who genuinely cares about so much more than herself. I’m not sure if she’s more indicative or symptomatic of the changing times and sensibilities, but she’s caught between the Luddite Protocols by which she’s been raised- the same Protocols that instruct her to care for those who whose bloodlines have been devestated by the Reduction- and the drive to try new things in order to better care for those same people. She’s hard-working, willing (and able) to put the needs of others ahead of her own desires, and having made the decision to do just that four years ago, she faces the painful consequences every single day. Part of what makes her so fascinating- and so eminently likable- is how strong those conflicts are within her. She tries to take the high road- doesn’t always succeed- and tries desperately to reconcile the constant pain of Kai’s departure and his return as the very different Malakai with the knowledge of just how much she’s needed on the North estates. She made the right decision but that doesn’t make it easier to live with the consequences. She’s placed in the not-so-unique position faced by every teen when the tough choices come due. Elliot is a hero for a generation.
Kai is a little more problematic. His bitterness upon his return is completely understandable. His rage, his hurt, they make sense, but the way he constantly insults Elliot, the way he consistently and purposefully stomps on her when she’s down, it makes it hard to even like him, much less swoon for him. Except- oh, except- the chapters are interspersed with years of letters between Kai and Elliot as children, full of beautiful innocence and friendship that gradually evolves not only into a true friendship, but also shows how quickly and completely children can lose than innocence in a society so patently unequal. Kai becomes likable- even lovable- through the letters, and in the quieter moments when he’s startled or his guard is down, the moments where he genuinely sees Elliot, rather than the monster he’s created through four years of bitterness and hurt feelings. In those moments, he’s amazing. (and changing his name from Wentworth to Wentforth makes me geekily happy more than it probably should)
Most of the side characters are beautifully realized, given life and breath outside of the originals. In a retelling, there’s a difference between faithful and slavish, and this definitely comes out to the better of that line. Elliot’s older sister Tatiana is a wonderful amalgam of the oldest and youngest Elliot sisters from the original, with the additional virtue of having a few moments of genuine sympathy. She’s not a likable character- nor is she ever truly meant to be- but that we feel for her at any point is a superb bit of writing. The Posts are as richly varied as the Luddites, and with varying degrees of innovation (no pun intended) and daring. Most of them aren’t the first generation of Posts, but that gives many of them a sense of recklessness that goes hand in hand with the daring experiments carried out by their ancestors. Andromeda is cautious and prickly and protective- in some ways a more extreme version of Elliot’s own protectiveness- while her brother is gloomy and sorrow-burdened at times, at other times almost manic. The Innovations are a wonderful blend of Austen’s Crofts and, in the case of Mrs. Innovation, something new and terrifying and reassuring. Ro, a Reduced girl born the same day as Kai and Elliot, is sweet and sincere, with remarkable leaps of understanding that mark her as special without making her less than (or more than) Reduced. It gives her grace without taking away the reality of what she is. Dee, a Post woman who serves as the North’s foreman, is practical and compassionate, a wonderful mother figure for the motherless Elliot without ever feeling like she’s trying to replace anyone. She’s willing to give Elliot the hard truths, to puncture comforting illusions or beliefs in the name of helping Elliot become a stronger and better person. The neighbors are lively and intelligent, a good example of moderation in both Post and Luddite thinking. The wholly original character of the Boatwright, Elliot’s maternal grandfather, was gorgeous and moving.
The only side character I truly found problematic was Elliot’s father, Baron North. He’s cruel and menacing, but given that we never actually see him carry through any of his horrible threats- nor are even told of times previous to that, other than the burning, that he did so- the menace becomes almost comical in nature, like a punch clown who just snaps back up into place without a true reaction.
Within this shifting society, the setting poses more questions than it answers, but that’s actually okay- most of those questions are things we haven’t figured out for ourselves yet, so it seems like cheating to create a falsely simple solution and feed it through the characters. They’re not simple questions, and they’re ones that have been plaguing us for a long time. I really like that those questions- some practical, some ethical, some a little more esoteric- are explored without being sacrificed in the name of tidiness.
On its own or as a retelling, this is an amazing book with all the wonder, pain, and fragile hope of the original while taking a brave new world and a distinctly YA cast that makes this, in a word, unforgettable.
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund, absolutely not to be missed.
Until next time~
I finally found all the shreds of my courage, got it together, and dove headfirst into Scary New Project. It’s still terrifying and so strange to write, but I’m loving it.
So I’m spending all day buried in it up to my neck.
BUT- I am going to leave you with these clues about Scary New Project. It includes the following:
…okay, one of those is a lie.
But only one of them.
What inspires you?
Until next time~
So we’re about halfway done with 2012 and there have been SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS come out already this year, with so many more good ones to come. I was looking over my Goodreads list (oh hai! I’m on Goodreads- you can friend me, if you like!) and some of them just stick out so much in my mind, and I thought I’d share with you my list of Favorites So Far.
Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity
If you have not read this book yet, it is a problem. Remedy it. It’s funny and shattering and gorgeous and one of the most spectacular examples of distinctive voice, flawlessly researched, and utterly absorbing. This is a book that, once you open it, you CANNOT put down. This is one of those books that everyone needs to read. Elizabeth Wein is one of my new idols.
And speaking of shattering, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t reviewed this book for the simple reason that even now, five full months after reading it, I still can’t speak about it coherently. It’s rich and funny and tragic and glorious, heart-breaking and healing and one of the most beautifully, bizarrely hopeful books I’ve ever read. I laughed and cried in the same gulping breaths and it is SO HARD to tell people what this book is about. This is a book that doesn’t only change your life, it redefines it. If you read only one book this year (gah, what a terrifying thought!) make it this one.
Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probablity of Love at First Sight was a book that blew me away. It was completely out of my comfort zone in so many ways. It’s a contemp romance- not really my thing- and a very significant foundation of this story is parental divorce and remarriage- also not really my thing- and the combination of tense and perspective weirded me out the entire time. And I LOVED it. The characters were raw and real and wonderful, and it’s amazing how much can happen in twenty-four hours. It’s sweet and sad and silly and thought-provoking and doesn’t try to give everything easy answers. This was the book I was curious about but never expected to like, and to an extent that’s true. I didn’t like it- I loved it.
Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone was simply magical (and send congratulations her way- she just debuted at #8 on the NYT Bestsellers List!). It was rich and dark and atmospheric and a fantastic example of how strong you can make a setting without drowning in it. The world of the Grishas stepped outside of playing Russian and became something extraordinary, where the language was just alien enough that it melded with the familiar social heirarchies and human dramas that it became something both comfortable and exciting. It built just enough off of what we could recognize that it didn’t have to rely solely on those pieces anymore. It creates so many wonderful mysteries and opens up this huge world within a small space. This was not one to put down. In fact, I might have handed it to one of my co-workers and told her to buy it without actually telling her anything about it.
Want to laugh yourself into abdominal cramps? Then check out Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a look at what happens after the Happily Ever After for four princes who can’t quite manage to make the bards care about them. After all, the princesses are so much more interesting, and who wants to try to remember a prince’s name? Just call him Charming and be done with it. This book is a roaring adventure- and at least half of that roaring is laughter- full of dragons and giants and clever little sisters and boorish brothers and so much adventure. Do NOT read this while drinking or eating, or if you have liquids near your computer. Read it aloud, ogle the illustrations, and just enjoy this wonderful, fun-loving frolick.
Anyone who knows me knows I love faeries and faerie tales and faerie telling retellings. LOVE them. And Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted was everything I could have asked for. The sly references (and the sheer number of them!) to various stories was totally made of win, and the characters were unique and vibrant and richly flawed. It’s a world that, for all its magic and mystery, never quite steps apart from our own. It’s like walking down the street of your own town and suddenly discovering a wisp of wonder. It’s gorgeously written and it was physically painful to put down, with everything I love not just in a fairy tale but in a story.
What are some of your favorites so far of 2012?
Until next time~
As writers, we invest a lot in our manuscripts.
We’re only a little bit kidding when we call them our babies. We invest a lot of time, imagination, and work into finding the right words- and even more challenging, stringing the words into the right order. We fret over the characters like they really are our children, worrying every step of their progress, putting them through unimaginable pains and torments in the name of story. We weave the setting out of whole cloth and we dance our children through their journey like marionettes. We throw ourselves completely into this alternate reality, losing ourselves for hours at a time, and even when we withdraw back into the mundane world, our constructs linger within our minds, almost obsessively at points.
This can be a wonderful thing, but it also presents problems- well, not problems, let’s call them difficulties- down the road, mainly when it comes time for edits.
Edits are this amazing opportunity to take a sideways look at things, to discover the ‘why’ behind all the glorious accidents that happen during drafting. The thing is, writers very rarely have the ability to step back from their manuscripts enough to do the thorough editing that needs to be done.
I know I can’t.
We’re too invested in what we’ve created, so the idea of cutting or changing things would be like putting one of our children into plastic surgery. All of the flaws and problems and inconsistencies get glossed over as adorable and charming. We read through the manuscript and our brains just skip over all the things that we would notice in someone else’s.
If we’re lucky, and if we’re a little thick-skinned and pragmatic, we find someone who does have the necessary distance, someone who can go through it with a critical eye and- best of all- a passion to make your manuscript the best it can possibly be.
Would now be a good time to say that I have an amazing editor?
Going through all the notes, the comments, the questions forces me to look at every line- seriously, every line– and evaluate exactly what it does. I can’t gloss over something or pretend it doesn’t exist- every note needs to be thought about, addressed. And I love it. I may be one of the only people in the world who loves doing edits because of that sideways look at things.
It goes back to high school English classes. Teachers would tell us to analyze “what the author meant to do” and I hated it HATED IT because I pretty much figured English teachers on the whole were buying into a load of bull. (No offense, English teachers). The author meant to- no, no, the author just wrote the frickin sentence. The fact that it makes a vague allusion to something completely unconnected to the story that may or may not actually reinforce any of the themes is probably just an accident. As a reader I might have been willing to give into the theory, but as a writer? I didn’t believe it for a minute.
And working through my manuscript line by line, I’m still not sure I believe it.
What it did do was make me recognize all the accidents layered through the pages. Accidents I love, yes, but accidents nonetheless. Allusions I hadn’t realized I’d included, words that made unexpected parallels and resonances through the chapters.
Most of that is due to Andrew’s attention to detail. He notices things that I’ve become so used to reading that it doesn’t even occur to me. He questions even the small things, but addressing them makes such a better book. I’m getting to see entirely new sides of my characters, getting to know so much more about them, and it’s not because of anything I’m doing. It’s because of the questions Andrew asks, the challenges he makes.
It can be terrifying to give your story to someone else, to put it out there in the cold, hard world for someone to pick apart, but don’t be afraid.
Take a deep breath.
And prepare yourself for that sideways look, where your manuscript comes alive in totally new ways.
Until next time~
Alina Starkov came from nowhere, an orphan on the wars raised on the charity of a duke’s estate and trained as an army cartographer. The only thing that makes her anything, at least in her mind, is her friendship with Mal, skilled tracker and ladies’ man extraordinaire. Until the Fold, until the attack, until the blaze of light that comes from her and marks her as a rare form of Grisha. Then she’s whisked away, the hope of an entire nation, and taught to use her unfamiliar magic, lost within a world of luxury and beauty every bit as dangerous as the Fold, for where there’s hope, there’s also despair and expectation, and there are always those who try to use power to their own advantage. Alina will not only have to learn to use her strange new skills, but decide who she can trust.
Being the hope of all of Ravka? Kind of sucks.
Oh, guys. GUYS. This is such an amazing book. It immediately transports you into a world that’s alien and familiar at once, a pseudo-Russian setting that comes alive around you in so many ways. Clothing, architecture, language, food, it all wraps around you and just immerses you in this rich, atmospheric land. It’s detailed but not a slavish reproduction; it’s an homage that’s accessible and relatable and recognizable, but also stands easily on its own. It’s a Russia that’s still steeped in magic, but it’s also a time of significant change, as the old ways are fading before the new.
I love Alina. She’s a fantastic character, strong and achingly vulnerable, prickly and passionate, fiercely loyal to people who are often less than loyal to her in return. She’s got this deep well of inner strength that gives her the fortitude to weather deep pains, as well as the courage to face them again. This is a girl accustomed to being abandoned, but who faces that with minimal bitterness. Minimal- she’s too intelligent to forget the wrongs done her, too practical to hold a grudge, and too sharp not to make at least a few withering comments about it. She knows her place, has had it reinforced over and over and over again in her life, but she’s not discontent in that- it’s comforting in a way, because at least that one thing is a reliable foundation. She’s sometimes a little passive, letting others pull her this way and that, but it’s never in a way that’s disconcerting or irritating. It always fits the circumstances. And I mean, come on, if we were under those conditions- overwhelmed, hunted, confused, and with minimal training, how well would any of us do?
I think what I may love best about Alina is her stubbornness. She has to be dragged kicking and screaming into anything she doesn’t want to do, but once she’s in there, she’ll do her best to stay afloat. She doesn’t forgive easily and she’s not above taking a certain petty satisfaction in the discomfort of those who give her trouble. Which, let’s face it, is really appealing to me. I like a certain amount of snarly.
The Darkling, the uber-powerful and uber-attractive head of the Grisha is a a supremely interesting character. I frickin’ love him. He’s complex and contradictory, he’s menacing even at his most open and relaxed, and consistently enigmatic. He understands people very, very well and doesn’t hesitate to use that knowledge, and despite how alluring he can be, despite the draw of his power and physical beauty, there’s never a moment when we don’t know he’s dangerous. He is the ultimate mystery in a world that Alina doesn’t fully understand. That danger, that edge of the unknown, underscores everything he does. We never learn his name and his history, while vital, comes to us in tiny increments that don’t so much illuminate as obfuscate.
The Grisha are the magic-users, born not made, and they come from every class of Ravka society. Once they’re tested and found, however, they become something else entirely, separated from their well-compensated families. Grisha are a rank apart from the rest of society, but they have their own heirarchy. At its head is the Darkling, as good as a king within his own domain, but things break down from there into several broad categories, broken down further into specifics. They’re regarded with a high degree of superstition by the common folk, so Alina starts out knowing very little about the realities of the Grisha. She has to learn the truth and their history along the way, which lets us learn it at the same time without either her or the audience looking like idiots. They’re a fascinating group and there was a part of me that was desperate to know more- to know about their history and all the details of the different subsets and the way they work within the heirarchy- but I was also very grateful that it wasn’t there because this story was so well-paced that I didn’t want to worry about the distractions. (maybe a compendium? maybe? maybe?- this is me begging, if it’s not obvious)
This story get such a fantastic balance of danger in the midst of luxury, ugliness as an inherent part of beauty, and mercy in the midst of savagery. Some of these dangers sometimes seem a little underdeveloped and uneven, but there are two other installments to follow- while many of the threads come closer to resolution, some have to stay open for the future books. I love that very frequently, luxury and beauty feel like an active threat, a danger. It seems like it should be something everyone wants, but to those accustomed to a certain starkness (starkness? Starkov? Ha! I see what you did there!) it’s every bit as unsettling as the sudden lack would be to anyone else.
And if you get hooked on this one (fabulous book- you will), keep an eye out for Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.
Until next time~
It’s been a little while since I did one of these, but there have been some FANTASTIC covers recently that I just have to gush over.
This one was just revealed today, and oh my God I’m in love. It’s gorgeous! It’s also thoroughly eerie and creepy, and inviting and intriguing and everything you want a book cover to be. The blues are soft and mysterious, colors of secrets and sadness and somehow also calm and deep, like the bottom of a lake. The key, because it’s bright and a very different color than the rest of the background, stands out, but it’s not just a symbol of secrets- keys are also authority and things that should be kept away, and also things that are about to emerge. Funny thing about keys is that they have a way of getting used. The girl’s face emerges from the smoke and fog of the key, like she’s shrouded in mystery, like her entire life is birthed from the mysteries of that key and everything it can stand for. Behind her stretches walls with what looks like names- which calls to mind the Vietnam Memorial and it’s lists of the dead- but the walls also seem to close in behind her, both protective and claustrophobic. This is a cover I could happily study for hours at a time, and it leads so beautifully into the description. The Archived by Victoria Schwab- can’t wait.
I love Rick Riordan covers. The artwork is fantastic and if I’m honest, I love the fact that he’s the only author I know that can successfully get pre-adolescent and adolescent boys to read books with pink covers. Throne of Fire anyone? And now he’s released the cover for Mark of Athena and I love it like cake (even though I hate the color pink). Obviously the most immediately striking things about the cover is the owl’s face, specifically its eyes. They’re piercing and direct, and being the totem of Athena, and given that Athena isn’t too fond of Percy, it’s hard to tell if that’s meant to be menacing or protective. Then your eye goes down and you notice the two boys on horses apparently about to kill each other. Um…problem? Even there it’s distinct, with different shirts, different hair colors, even different types of magical horses. You really want to hope the boys are actually working together against a common enemy, but…well, the Greeks and Romans don’t really get along, do they? Expect LOTS of conflict in this one, especially as it’s the middle book of the series.
It’s no seccret that I love this book. I can gush about this book for WEEKS. I’m fairly sure all my co-workers are fairly sick of hearing me talk about it. But my God even the cover is fantastic! The background is black- stark, unforgiving, and entirely devoid of comfort. But because of the way the eye travels, at first we only see it as a background for the left image: arms reaching from opposite directions, bound with twine at the wrists, clasping each other. It’s hard to know which piece makes the strong impact. The way they’re holding each other isn’t casual- clasping at the wrist is a rescue hold, a support hold. It offers more strength, does less damage- and is a lot less likely to be pulled apart. They’re holding each other, so the bonds are voluntary. Yet there’s the twine. Twine is an interesting material, coarse and uncomfortable, easy to find but leaves a lasting impact with fabric splinters and rashes and scratches. They’ve chosen to hold each other but external forces also bind them. This may be hard to see in the photo, but there’s actually writing superimposed on the skin. We hold our secrets so close to the surface; scratch the skin and the emerge. It’s a gorgeous cover that draws out the
fiercest elements of the story. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
Another recent cover reveal was for Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight, sequel to last year’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It closely parallels the original cover, focusing on the eyes and the space around it. The mask- in this case the patterns painted around them- are striking and draw the attention in on an otherwise grey-scale cover. The first cover was blue- relaxing, bright, reminscent of Karou’s hair and her easy manner- but here the focus has shifted. Here we have flames and blood and the deep menace associated with that color, BUT, if you look through the letters, you can also see just a slight hint of a smile. Not much of one, and not a very nice smile, but it’s there, and it makes you remember that red is also a color of seduction and of passion. They’re exotic markings, and it’s only when comparing it to the first cover (and the first story) that you start to wonder if they’re actually painted on or if they’re somehow more inherent than that.
Any covers that you’re looking forward to?
Until next time~