How do you create a book cover for a contemporary fairy tale? That's the challenge debut author Jeremy Tarr and illustrator Katy Smail faced with (S)mythology. Here's how they tackled the challenge:


"Katy and I spent a lot of time sending photos that inspired us back and forth. We stared at hundreds of book covers looking for images to fall in love with. Some of our favorites were the Ruben Toledo covers for Penguin (below). We also loved a clever concept interpretation by a young artist called Sarah Petruska for The Wizard of Oz. The illustration on the cover of Alain de Botton's On Seeing and Noticing also struck our brains.



"It was always intended that Katy do an original illustration for the cover. (S)mythology has 64 illustrations by Katy, but we still wanted something original and unique. We knew that Sophie, the heroine of the novel, had to stand front-and-center, though it took us some time to figure out what the hell she ought to be doing. Katy drew a beautiful illustration of Sophie -- and though I'd seen many illustrations of Sophie, this was by far my favorite. There was something naively whimsical about her expression. It so perfectly captured the character. Once that image was created we brainstormed the remainder of the cover.


"We had no one to please but ourselves, we were the final judges of the cover, so we worked until we were happy. We played around with different ideas. Around last Thanksgiving, we came up with the idea of Sophie being surrounded by statues of people in her life. Sophie has the unfortunate habit -- due to a curse -- of turning those that love her into stone. So we played up on that.


"The first time Katy sent me a somewhat roughed out scan of the complete illustration, a smile crossed my face. It was as though words that had been on the tip of my tongue, words that I hadn't been able to phrase, hadn't been able to form into sentences, suddenly lived. It made sense to me. Katy's work, in general, strikes me that way. Sometimes words don't do it. 


"Other elements were added to the illustration. Once the text was inserted -- all of the fonts, by the way, are Katy's handwriting -- it was lost amongst the illustration. So the red bars were added. The patterns that Katy designed for the statue columns were used for the spine and the back.


"I love [the final cover]. When we were finished with the book, Katy gave me the cover illustration. It now hangs in my house -- it's one of my favorite things in the world. I also have a framed poster of the finished cover. I stare at them every day. They make me smile. I'm terribly in love with the book -- I don't mean to sound conceited -- but I'm extremely proud of it and proud of the work that Katy did, and the cover represents all of our efforts and all of the passion we poured forth into (S)mythology.


Katy says: "For me, the cover definitely came last. I feel like I was only able to capture Sophie's story in one image after spending a year with her and her world. (S)mythology is Sophie's tale so the cover was always going to be all about her, and for me it was really important to try and capture her hope, anguish and capacity for love in one image. The concept grew quite naturally whilst talking to Jeremy about it; our fairytale heads are in such step with each other that every decision felt like it was arrived at together. For me, the biggest challenge was holding on to the fragility of Sophie whilst making a strong and eye-catching cover. The tension between old-fashioned romance and contemporary wit is the glory of the novel, so it was important to strike a similar balance with the cover (for example, the delicate line alongside the vivid red). I wanted Sophie to appear as a symbol of tainted innocence and aching love amongst a sometimes dark and shadowy world; a reflection of strength and loveliness of her character."


Thanks, Jeremy! I love an illustrated cover and I think Katy's characters are wonderful. 


What do you guys think of this one?


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Melissa Walker is the author of five Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy, Lovestruck Summer and the just-published Small Town Sinners. She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily and the awkward-stage blog Before You Were Hot, as well as the blogger for Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is

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