I am so excited to be part of this blog tour! Claire is such a lovely person and I can't wait to read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. I love creepy and middle grade, so it seems like I will LOVE this one.
After many topic changes (ily, Claire), we decided on an interview between Claire and her cover designer, Lucy Ruth Cummins. For those who don't know, Claire has already done a cover interview with me, but this interview gives us a deeper look at Cavendish's cover.
Lucy Ruth Cummins has designed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin's cover, along with the Hush, Hush saga by Becca Fitzpatrick, all of which are very, very gorgeous covers. Lucy is seriously talented, yo!
And let's get started, because this is a rather long post (Sorry about that! But if you stay, at the end there's a giveaway for The Cavendish Home of Boys and Girls!)
Interview with Lucy Ruth Cummins
Art Director at Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Lucy! First, can I just say how fabulous you are? Readers, Lucy is fabulous. She is kind of a fabuloso, in fact. Forsooth, I look up to her fabulosity.
So, if those reading this interview are anything like me, they know virtually nothing about how designing a book cover works or what being an art director at a publishing house means. (Yeah, because if y’all thought being a published author means that you suddenly know All the Things, you’re definitely wrong. It’s an ONGOING ADVENTURE.) Tell us a little about your job, Lucy. What’s a typical day in the life of an S&S art director like? How many projects are you working on at any given time? Most importantly, do you have minions?
I am fortunate enough to have what commonly know as “The Best Job in the World.” Everyday I make art. Everyday I read great books. Everyday I work with wonderful, talented, creative folks in every phase of a books production, from writers and illustrators, to editors, to copy editors, to the production managers who get the books made. Simon & Schuster is humming with so much book excitement and it’s totally contagious.
My typical day starts with lots of emailing, and loosens up around 11 am when I get to dig in to whatever projects I’m in the process of art directing. This can be anything from getting down to business on a title type treatment, making notes on a sketch, reading a manuscript and beginning the brainstorming process, or looking endlessly at Tumblrs for images that thrill my brain and inspire me. (You Tumblr folks drive me wild!!)
All day long I toggle between several projects, and chat and check in with my colleagues. But mainly? I get to make art. How cool is that??
(Oh man, I wish I had minions. I’d be such a good master! Lots of snacks. Apply within…)
How do you get started on a new project? Is it assigned to you? What are the first steps you take to “get to know” each new project? Do you make things like “inspiration boards,” kind of like Tumblr or Pinterest, only fancypantsier?
Each new project starts with a “cover art form” which offers me a synopsis of the book and its characters, a hint of the direction the editor sees for the cover, and a few comparable titles for reference. That’s the opener.
Then comes the manuscript, which I devour, because I get paired very often with titles that are very much my taste. As I’m reading, I keep a running list of objects, scenes, and ideas that pop into my head. Once I’ve finished my reading, I go back to these notes, and pare down the ideas to two or three that still feel powerful.
From there, I brainstorm—I go back to my Pinterest where I’ve pinned images that inspire me, I fire up all my Tumblr tabs, and I visit my cork board to see if there’s anything itching to make its way into the cover-stew. A lot of times, I literally sketch in pencil a few ideas. And that’s when I make the pitch to the editor for my vision for the project.
Once everyone’s on board, I lock in an artist or photographer and get cracking!
Now that we all understand what you do, let’s talk about CAVENDISH! As everyone can see in these photos, CAVENDISH is a beautifully packaged book. Let’s be real: That is alllllll you, and just another indicator of your fabulousness. Tell us: What was your first reaction to CAVENDISH? Did you write down any notes as you read the manuscript? If you have any sort of “inspiration board” for CAVENDISH, can you share those images/thoughts with us?
I had heard about CAVENDISH in a group meeting—editor Zareen Jaffrey was bubbling over with excitement for the project, and in listening to her describing it, I absolutely started crossing my fingers hoping I’d have it assigned to me.
From that little glimpse, I knew that there was something very different and very special about the world you were creating. And then when it did get assigned to me, and I got my hands on the manuscript? I was stoked. Not to mention thrilled when I saw how much super gorgeous exciting visual reference you’d amassed for inspiration.
A great manuscript is a gift to an art director, and a great manuscript that comes from an author with exquisite visual taste? That’s just ridiculous. I was immediately thrilled to carry out your vision, because it seemed pitch perfect.
Gathering up illustrator options for this project was incredibly fun—I knew we needed the perfect mix of classy, creepy, and very unique. I knew Sarah Watts had all that in spades. Being an art director is often like being a matchmaker: you’re trying to make the perfect match between a writer and an illustrator. Sarah’s work glowed with CAVENDISH-goodness. She had the perfect sense of humor, consummate class, and unbeatable style. I knew she would be the perfect bride!
What is your favorite detail of CAVENDISH’s packaging? Mine is probably the awesome end pages with the black and white bug print. When I got my first look at the finished copies, it was when I saw those endpapers that I started crying the ugly cries.
I have a hard time picking just one detail, because I think they all work in tandem to make a package I’m super, super proud of! Sarah gave me such nice elements to play with to make the package—the bug renderings were especially thrilling to me. But yeah, I think the endpapers kind of kill it!
Was there anything particularly challenging or fun about working on CAVENDISH, something unique to this project, something you hadn’t encountered before?
For one, I’m really excited that these days we’re seeing a resurgence in illustrated middle grade novels. This was the first one I’d had the pleasure of working on in what feels like way too long.
The second unique thing about this project are the story’s stakes. I like the uniquely dark tone of the book and artwork, which was distinctive. I love in middle grade when there’s a true sense of peril—real stakes for the characters—life and death—and lots of treachery. This book had that, and that definitely set it apart.
Who is your favorite character in CAVENDISH?
You’ve worked on some absolutely beautiful books—The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the Hush, Hush books, Cats’ Night Out (love this one!). Are there any other projects you’re particularly proud of and want to spotlight here?
The wonderful thing about working at Simon & Schuster is that I do get to work on such a range of projects, from picture books on up to teen. I’ve worked with some of the best, most inspiring talents out there. Those are titles I’m very, very proud of, for sure. I have great support here at S&S and got to take lots of interesting risks with their design and direction.
Which do you prefer, working with photographed or illustrated covers?
They are both really interesting and engaging in their own right. I love working with illustrators—there’s nothing like seeing someone execute their take on a story that an author has crafted, to see the characters brought to life, unrestrained. But photoshoots are absolutely one of the best parts of my job. I love putting together all the elements and then having a talented photographer capture my vision.
Do you like to listen to music while you work? Please share, if you do! I love music and am always looking for new stuff.
I always listen to music when I work. I’ll binge on a particular album relentlessly until I can’t ever listen to it again—this summer three albums occupied that rotation: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled 2005 album, Fiona Apple’s new album with the super long title, and The Dirty Projectors “Swing Lo Magellan.” I’ve also been dipping back into my favorite mainstream 90s rock very heavily—overplaying “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind in particular. And I can’t get enough of that Enrique Iglasias song “Tonight I’m Loving You.”
Aside from music, is there a certain environment you like when you work? Home? Office? Café? What about a favorite snack food for when you work? A favorite desk toy? A lucky hat? (During the winter, I like to wear this fuzzy knit hat with pom-poms so I can play with them while I think.)
I don’t have to confess this, since many of you will never see it, but my office is not what you would call…“unmessy.” (That’s judicious, right?) My only requirements for a workspace are a Caffeine Free Diet Coke, headphones, a Wacom tablet, and stylus. Everything else is incidental. (Although I do have handsome stuffed mole nearby at all times that I’ve named “Moley.”)
Last but not least, I see on your Simon & Schuster author page that you’re a fan of Britney Spears. ME TOO, LUCY. Man, the fab factor, it just keeps skyrocketing. What’s your favorite Britney Spears song? (Think carefully, Cummins.)
I’m at this very second gazing at my Britney Spears Circus tour poster, which hangs in my office—I’m for real! So, this seriously cannot be answered with a single song. Not by a long shot. But if I had to pick two—and you have to let me pick two— I’ll grumble and say that if it’s two, it’s “Slave” and “How I Roll.” Grumble-grumble…
Claire Legrand is a Texan living in New York City. She used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a full-time writer, Claire can often be found typing with purpose on her keyboard or spontaneously embarking upon adventures to lands unknown. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is her first novel, due out August 28 from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Her second novel, The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers, comes out August 2013. Her third novel, Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker, comes out Fall 2014.
These two, they make my heart happy. You check out the rest of the CAVENDISH Blog Tour here!
And now . . . GIVEAWAY TIME! I know this is why you guys stayed here, perhaps even just scrolled through the post? I understand; The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is seriously awesome looking.
To win a hardcover copy of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, fill out the form below! Contest is U.S./Canada only. Ends September 13th.
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