Exclusive Q&A with the Wither Cover Designer: Part 2

Today we continue our three-day feature on the gorgeous cover of Wither by Lauren DeStefano, and the second half of our interview with Lizzy Bromley, Executive Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Make sure you catch part 1 of this interview, and tune in tomorrow for our exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the cover shoot!

Can you walk us through the process you went through in creating the cover?

After I scrapped my first approach it became all about showing Rhine and creating a set that spoke to Lauren’s story. The photographer, Ali, and I did a model casting looking for the perfect girl to pose as Rhine (Kristina O’Connor was her!). Then we combed antique stores and prop shops for objects to put in the shot. I had such a huge collection by the end! I had tree branches and stumps, tons of glass beakers and medicinebottles, birdcages, fancy chairs, old frames, a globe, dried up lilies, an hour glass and on and on. In the end so many of these things got cropped out, but it’s always better to have more to work with than less.

After that I gathered reference photos for the hair and makeup. We wanted Rhine to look pretty but also a little wild and fierce (hence that great full hair). I bought a lot of beautiful dresses but in the end the winner was the Oscar de la Renta gown that we rented from a dress house. (It was so gorgeous that we didn’t even do any back up shots with the other dresses.) The day of the shoot was crazy. I had to take a car service from my apartment in Brooklyn with all of the props and that great big dress. There was hours of time getting the objects placed just so on the set and then hours of shooting. Ali is so great to work with because she always makes awesome mixes for us to listen to while we work. And Kristina rocked amazing poses from start to finish.

The next couple of weeks were spent nailing down the design and choosing the perfect photo. I worked closely with our fantastic editor, Alexandra Cooper, to get it just right. Early versions were more sepia in tone and I had the type set in a more calligraphic font. It looked a bit old fashioned that way so I gave it the blue tint you see now, and added all the circles and lines to call attention to our props and to add a sort of science kind of feel. After a few rounds we had our cover!

Did you get to read any of the manuscript for WITHER before coming up with the cover design? If not, what information/material were you given to work with? 

Oh yes, I had the whole manuscript. I read it before I started in on my first approach, and then I read the whole thing again when we decided to go a different direction. It made all the difference to have the manuscript while I was working. So many of the objects were pulled directly from the story. I made tons of notes from Lauren’s text and in the end those notes were what inspired the cover.

What’s YOUR favorite part of the cover?

My favorite thing about the cover is that I think it really illustrates Lauren’s story and her style of writing. I like that there are lots of little things in the image to discover. I like that it is pretty and symbolic and a bit dark. And I love that pink foil with the blue.

What went into designing the store display? How did you translate the cover art into a 3D stand-up?

We worked closely with our marketing department on the display. It was tough because we wanted something striking and different. We tried variations with the girl, and others with birdcages and things pulled from our cover design, but they all just looked cluttered. In the end I decided it might be best to do something more graphic, like the withered branches on a tree, and that was the look that clicked.

What sort of feedback have you gotten about the cover and the store display?

We have gotten so much positive feedback on both the cover and the display. There have been tons of blog posts and write ups. It really is wonderful to hear that people like it so much. The book is so good that I was hoping the cover would come close to living up to it, and to know that it has been well received has made me one very happy art director.

They say not to judge a book by it’s cover … but many of us do just that. In your own words, why do YOU think a good cover is so important?

I don’t think you can ever hope to sum up a book in one image, so I like to think of the cover as a gateway to what’s inside.  A good cover helps the book make it’s way into the hands of those readers that will enjoy it.

Thanks once again to Lizzy and Chrissy at S&S! Don’t forget to check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the Wither cover shoot tomorrow!

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