I am so excited today to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton — a stunning new book that’s in stores now. (Meet one of the characters & enter another awesome contest HERE, too!) Today, Dhonielle stops by to share her thoughts on the first time she saw this GORGEOUS (and if we’re being honest, pretty groundbreaking) cover. This actually might be one of my favorite author posts I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing; you’re in for a real treat today.
Plus, keep reading to learn more about The Belles and enter for your chance to win a copy.
The cover for The Belles is something out of a dream. The brilliant Disney design team lead by the wonderful Marci Senders has been responsible for some of my favorite covers over the past few years – These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufmann and Meagan Spooner, Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, A Thousand Nights by EK Johnston, and more. I am always slightly nervous about covers, but usually have faith that if I’ve done my part correctly that the designers will see my vision of the world and characters.
However, the cover for The Belles had me terrified. I didn’t know where they’d start. I couldn’t guess a direction they’d take. At first, I didn’t want a person or face on my cover. I wanted a symbol like all the other notable fantasy books. I thought I’d get a very girly and feminine version of Victoria Aveyard’s wonderful Red Queen cover or a cool cityscape like Leigh Bardugo’s fantastic Shadow and Bone. But when my awesome editor Kieran Viola said they’d like to put a girl in a dress on the front cover, I was in sheer panic. A thousand questions flew through my head: Would it get lost in the deluge of white girls in ball gowns YA cover trend? Would there be backlash against the trend of the girl on the cover? Would racist and bigoted people not pick it up because of the brown face on the cover? Would non-brown readers feel like this book wasn’t for them based on the girl?
My heart was torn.
But then, Marci and Kieran invited me to come to the photo shoot. I saw the beautiful model in a dress made specifically from the world of Orléans. They even had the house socks the girls wear inside. I realized that I’ve never seen a black woman in a ball gown before.
Not in films. Not on TV. Not on fantasy book covers.
I knew that this was the right direction. Bigots be damned. Little brown girls with frizzy hair deserved to see themselves depicted as beautiful and powerful. Images and iconography are important.
If The Belles cover shows little brown girls that they are beautiful and powerful, then the cover has succeeded. If it allows them to get excited about reading, then we’ve done our job.
This cover will hopefully bring black girl magic into the lives of so many who need it.
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
She hails from the Washington, D.C. suburbs on the Maryland side, but now lives in New York City. She was an extremely fussy and particular child with an undying love for Cheerios (honey nut only), pink lemonade, and frosted animal cookies. A self-proclaimed school nerd, she loved covering her books with brown paper and filled her locker with Lisa Frank stickers. She loved putting headings on her homework, odd-looking pens and freshly sharpened pencils, and numerous notebooks to fill with her research. On most Saturdays you could find her with her equally nerdy Dad at Crown Books and then the comic bookstore where she stocked up on her weekly reading material. Plus, she was so spoiled that her grandfather took her to the library after school almost daily.
She attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School because her parents thought Catholic school would keep her out of trouble. She went to Wake Forest University, and studied pre-med until she received a fateful F in Chemistry. This setback prompted her to change her major to English, and earned a BA. She rediscovered her love of children’s fiction by re-reading Harriet the Spy, which pushed her to earn an MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University and an MFA Writing for Children at the New School.
She taught secondary school for several years – at a pre-professional ballet academy and a private K-8 school. She spent most of her twenties in and out of America – living in London, Paris, a small Japanese town, Bermuda – and wandering the planet. She’s been on five out of seven continents, and has grand plans to reach all of them.
She is a former elementary and middle school librarian, and co-founder of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent – and decidedly diverse – literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers. She is also COO of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books.
What’s next? She will be enrolling in culinary school in New York City and plans to open up a restaurant in the city of her soul, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Ends on February 20th at Midnight EST!
- 2/5/2018- Adventures of a Book Junkie– Interview
- 2/6/2018- The Young Folks– Review
- 2/7/2018- YA Bibliophile– Review
- 2/8/2018- YA Books Central– Interview
- 2/9/2018- Ex Libris– Review