authorthoughts: rainbow rowell and eleanor & park

Step 1: Check out the Bookmark Binge feature on a lovely new-to-me-blog, Young Adult Anonymous.

Step 2: Stare a little longer at new-to-me cover for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.

Step 2.5: Stare a little more.

Step 3: Realize that this is the same author of Attachments, the same book that’s been given high praise from two bloggers I love, Alea and Sarah.

Step 3.5: Tweet Alea and Sarah the following, because I like to be an informative Twitter friend:

Step 4: Wonder if author Rainbow Rowell would be willing to come on the blog for an interview. Wonder some more.

Step 5: Email Rainbow Rowell and try not to represent self as a stalker.

Step 6: Realize that Rainbow Rowell is such a nice person over email and think, Man I’m glad she doesn’t think I’m weird for wanting to talk up her cover.

Step 6.5: Read about the cover design process for the US cover on Rainbow’s blog. Repeat a few more times.

Step 7: Come up with a hopefully non-boring way to introduce her interview part of this post.

Voila.

Okay, in all seriousness, when I did see the US cover for Eleanor & Park, I immediately wanted to read it. After checking out Rainbow’s website, I discovered the UK cover for Eleanor & Park, which was also a stunning cover, and I fell in love with them both. (Yes, you can fall in love with inanimate objects.) In an email to Rainbow, I summarize my thoughts about how they make me feel (“sigh”) and that they’re both laced with a sweet sense of wonder and whimsy in the best possible way. In hindsight, those words may have come across as a little too saccharine, but there’s no denying that both of these covers are alluring in their own way. They don’t beg to be interpreted incorrectly – you know there’s romance involved, right there on the cover. There’s a sense of serendipity on the UK cover that I love, too. Both covers feature a balance of vivid and muted colors, and that ampersand on the US cover just…like I said, “sigh.”

Many thanks for Rainbow for coming on the blog today. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!

TCG: Were you involved in the cover design process at all for either cover?

RR: With both Orion in London and St. Martin’s Press here in the U.S., they first involved me in the process by showing me what they had in mind. Everything went really quickly with Orion because we all loved the cover immediately; the same illustrator, Debbie Powell, also worked on the gorgeous UK paperback cover for Attachments.

(Side note: I dare anyone to click on the link to Debbie’s work and not fawn over everything she does. Seriously.)

The task is more difficult for St. Martin’s because Eleanor & Park is a YA book here, and my first YA book. It’s more like launching a first-time author. Also, the subject matter is challenging. How do you make a love story feel different from every other love story?
 
My editor first showed me a cover idea back in March. The initial concepts were all about Eleanor’s red hair and Park’s tennis shoes. An illustrator even worked up a few roughs of that direction. Then the art director/designer, Olga Grlic, tried a few new ideas — including some more photo-based covers — and we all talked about those. 
 
I felt really fortunate to be a part of these discussions. Often, an author doesn’t see a cover until it’s completely done.
 
I can understand why publishers handle it that way; they’re professionals, this is what they do. But, as the author, a book cover feels so personal . . . (This book for me is especially personal.) You pour yourself into a story, and the cover is the face it wears out into the world. It can be agonizing to be shut out of the process.
 
Anyway. My editor at St. Martin’s, Sara Goodman, was great. She was always confident that we’d get to a cover that everyone loved, and SHE WAS RIGHT.
 
I love Olga’s concept. I love Harriet Russell’s illustration. 
 
I LOVE THAT AMPERSAND.
 
Me too. ME. TOO. What was your first reaction to both covers? What aspects of each resonated the most with you?
 
With the UK cover, it was the colors. I am cuckoo in love with those colors. And I absolutely loved the way they handled my name. There’s this melancholy feeling about this cover that really, really suits the story. My first book, Attachments, is a big romantic comedy of errors. But Eleanor & Park is smaller and tighter and achier. And there’s something achy about this cover.
 
With the U.S. cover, I was thrilled by how DIFFERENT it is. Just so simple and clean. And the way the designer emphasized the ampersand — the way the ampersand ties the two characters together in this intimate way . . . (They’re in each other’s heads!) I was struck by how this cover says LOVE STORY without being saccharine or cloying (which I hope the book does, too).
 
Also, the colors on the U.S. cover match the Attachments cover and the colors on my website. Which wasn’t intentional. Maybe that’s a sign that I need to wear blue, cream and orange all the time.

This is one of the greatest blog headers I’ve ever seen.

Covers make an impact on an unknowing reader, whether it’s conscious or not. What would you hope that a potential reader would think about Eleanor & Park, looking solely at its cover? And what kind of cover makes you want to pick up a book?
 
I hope readers get that this is a love story. Maybe not a traditional romance, but a love story. I like the symbolism of the characters looking away from you — like you have to dive in to find out who they really are. And I like how the cover isolates the two of them, just as the story does. Eleanor and Park create a bubble for themselves in the book, where nothing else matters but them and music.
 
Personally — I’m a sucker for great type. (I worked as a creative director at an ad agency for four years, and geeked out daily over my talented colleagues.) So, for me, it’s always type and illustrations and great design. 

There’s a ton of YA covers that all look alike, and very few that actually stick out. What are 3 of your favorite covers of all time, or that you’ve seen lately – and why?

I think, in any business, there’s a temptation to play it safe. To go with what’s worked in the past and what’s working for everyone else. I’m always bummed out when a book I love has a generic or — worse, dumbwashed — cover. 
 
I went crazy for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars cover. Bold and arresting and happy somehow. It was designed by Rodrigo Corral, who also did the excellent The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao cover.
 
I’m also a big fan of gray318 who designed the U.S. Attachments cover. (Google gray318; they’re alllllll good.)

(Inserts pause for a moment for fangirly squealing re: gray318.)

 
And I’ve always loved the cover to Mrs. and Mrs. Bo Jo Joneswhich is a teen pregnancy story from 1967. I can’t even explain why.

Thank you so much for stopping by TCG today, Rainbow! If you need more Rainbow in your life (I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist) you can also follow her on Twitter.

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30 thoughts on “authorthoughts: rainbow rowell and eleanor & park

  1. FUN!! I didn’t realize I guess that Eleanor & Park was going to be YA. That’s not bad at all!! That means I can buy it for myself and my library. 😀 What a fun interview. I like seeing that cover from 1967. It actually stands out despite being just text.

    • I love the play on the pink and blue in the title. Fellow type fan here, too.

      I’ll let you and Alea know when I read Attachments, since I’ve ordered it now. =)

  2. I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH!!! I really what you said about the Eleanor and Park cover, it really is sweet and whimsy without being over the top. I gasped out loud when I realised there was an ampersand! I was all set to order the book until I saw it was being released in March 2013. That’s too far away. 😦 I also loved all the cover designers you mentioned, I bookmark cover designers and like to just stare at their portfolio. I agree with Rainbow over those covers, I think they’re all excellent I know YA isn’t the market for these covers normally so I really, really adore Eleanor and Park because it’s just my type (hee).

    • So glad you loved the post, Elena! Great pun there, too. If you’re antsy to read E&P, you could always order it from Fishpondworld.com, like I did last night. 😉

      Debbie Powell! Rodrigo Corral! Lots of visual talent in today’s post, seriously. Glad I could help add to your bookmark list.

  3. Can we talk about how amazing her name is and why the fresh hell is rainbow not my name? (I’ll settle for dolly) also, both of these books sound amazing and I am currently in the midst of a full blown love affair with YAA – i am pretty sure Maggie and Noelle will end up getting a restraining order against me because I JUST LOVE THEM TOO MUCH and regularly harass them on twitter and goodreads.

  4. I’d only seen the UK version but the US version is JUST as lovely, which is rare! It must be so good to have some input as the author. Great post, C!

  5. p.s. I loved your post so much, I went to the author’s website and loved it! So glad you featured her book!

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