authorthoughts: heath gibson & gigged

After a few days of seeing me gush about my love for Gigged’s cover art and hearing directly from its talented creator, you’ve finally made it to my favorite part of this particular series of posts — an interview with Gigged’s author, Heath Gibson.

*Insert rounds of applause and confetti-throwing here*

TCG: First things first, regarding the title — for those who don’t know, can you explain what “gigged” means?

HG: A gig is a military demerit of sorts. Getting gigged means getting in trouble. It’s a punishment, a mark against you for not doing what is expected. J.T.’s expectations for himself are extreme, and no one punishes him more than he punishes himself.

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

HG: My editor did ask me to give him some ideas of what I’d like. We both wanted the cover to be fairly simple while also conveying the tone of the novel. I did have some ideas, although looking back, I don’t think they were very good. That could have been because I was so close to the book. It was difficult for me to step back and have the right kind of perspective. Plus, I really didn’t want to give my interpretation of the novel, but rather let someone else with a more objective point of view give the novel what it needed.

TCG: What was your very first reaction when you saw the final design?

HG: My editor told me that several different artists provided designs and he told them all to go back and try again. He didn’t show me any of the others. He simply sent this one and asked for my feedback. I loved it the first time I saw it. I thought it was perfect. And I have to say that I was a little overwhelmed seeing the story so well-represented visually. The artist nailed it.

TCG: Gigged’s cover made me stop and stare because of the title and the toy soldier’s position. There’s so much room for interpretation here, even though the message seems abundantly clear. How does this cover relate to the story? What’s your favorite part about the cover?

HG: The cover perfectly reflects the tone of the story – slightly child-like yet ominous. The toy soldier is alone on the cover, which illustrates that much of J.T.’s pain and suffering is something that he tries to shoulder by himself. That is related to one of the major themes of the novel – what happens when we place too much of a burden on ourselves and attempt to solve our own problems without the help of those who care about us. I love the toy soldier’s expression and position, the arms reaching up but nothing or no one there to pick him up.

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?

HG: I definitely think that covers should be thought-provoking. Attention is one thing, but giving the potential reader a sense of wonder about what is beyond the cover is more important. I don’t want the cover to spell it out for the reader. I want there to be that room for interpretation. It makes the reader become a participant even before they’ve read the first page. Attention for attention’s sake is no good. I wouldn’t want my readers to feel like the cover fooled them or cheated them in some way. That sense of tone and wonder must be delivered by the pages inside.

TCG: Beautifully said. Especially the part about a reader becoming a participant before opening the novel. I’ve never interpreted a cover that way before.

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

HG: IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY by Nick Vizzini because the map in the silhouette of the head just begs questions; GODLESS by Pete Hautman because of its slightly menacing feel; LOOKING FOR ALASKA for its symbolism – the lone candle put out with the smoke rising; LUNA by Julie Anne Peters for its simplicity and symbolism as well – the butterfly is just perfect; YOU DON’T KNOW ME by David Klass because it is just cool.

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?

HG: Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any covers lately that just make me take a step back. I will have to say I’ve seen more covers appear quite “commercialized” rather than thought-provoking, but there are still some good ones out there. LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles is one that comes to mind that I like.

TCG: Anything else you’d like to add regarding covers in general, or Gigged’s cover art?

HG: I guess the only thing I can say about the cover that I haven’t already is that I haven’t gotten tired of looking at it. It is one of those covers that can capture you for more than a few seconds. There is a lot going on is such a seemingly simply cover. And I’d like to believe that the story measures up to the how good the cover is.

Thanks so much for the interview, Heath! I’m so glad that Ellen Lawson nailed the cover art for you and that you feel it represents J.T.’s story perfectly. It’s definitely one of the most thought-provoking covers I’ve seen in awhile in YA literature. I hope you’re listening, publishers — can we get more love for thought-provoking covers, please? Regardless, Gigged’s cover art has me hooked, the story’s drawn me in, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the novel soon.

Want to know more? Be sure to check out a short excerpt on Heath’s website. GIGGED is now available.

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