Today's guest is Skila Brown. Skila holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. CAMINAR, her first novel, was published March 25th by Candlewick.
Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.
Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?
Nope. I tried really hard not to picture anything at all. Mostly this is because when I did try to picture something, I always thought What in the world could you put on a cover? And that kind of freaked me out. (Will they decide at the last minute they can’t publish the book after all because no one can think of what the cover should look like?) Clearly I am not a visual person.
How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?
10 months before my release date.
How was your cover revealed to you?
My editor sent a copy of two different cover drafts that they were considering, both very different. She asked for my input. She kept me abreast of the conversations that were going on in-house. First they were leaning towards one cover, then it looked like they were going to go with the other, then at the end it was back to the first cover.
Did you have any input on your cover?
Yes! I think anyone who is lucky enough to publish a book with Candlewick knows that means having a voice in all aspects of the process.
Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?
Not that I know of. My editor mentioned trying to keep it off grid until about three months before release, but I saw it out there in internet-land before then. Though, I don’t think there was a “big reveal.”
Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?
Well, I cheated and sent it to people who matter a lot to me but not a lot to the internet book community (i.e. my dad, my sister, and my brother.) Also I might have cheated even more and sent it to my critique group. But they can keep a secret so I’ve decided they don’t count either.
What surprised you most about the process?
The design itself was a huge surprise. Not only because I had no idea what it would look like, but also because it is so incredibly, deliciously, gorgeous that my eyes still can’t get enough of it. My friend (also a writer) said it best: “I want to wallpaper my house with that!” I had always hoped I would like my cover. I never expected to love it as much as I do. It has probably ruined all future book covers for me, because there’s no way my next book cover could ever be this stunning.
Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?
I think it’s important to remember that we are writers. Most of us aren’t visual artists, and we’re not in the business of attracting readers to a book. Which translates to: the people who do this know what they’re doing. I think it’s great to weigh in with an opinion, and absolutely we should speak up if something about the cover is inaccurate, but otherwise I think the best advice I can give is to try not to think about it. Try not to have something you’re picturing in your head. Wait for the surprise. If you hate it for good reason, speak up. But otherwise, go with it. (Easy for me to say, right? I loved my cover!)
In fact, Skila loved her cover so much, she sewed up some matching bookmarks. You can take a peek at those here.
As a special treat the cover designer, Matt Roeser, weighed in for the interview. What were the challenges of designing the cover for Caminar?
Since the book is in verse, I wanted to capture some of the beauty of Skila's poetry, but at the same time, hint at the horrific event that takes place. As I began thinking about designs, I kept coming back to a visual that stuck with me as I read the book; that of Carlos watching from the jungle as his village is burned. I tend not to like covers that have photographs of the protagonist on them, but instead try to create designs that are more graphic and abstract in nature. The pattern of the leaf shape seemed perfect for achieving this. Playing with bold pops of color such as orange and red mixed in with the greens of the jungle worked as symbolizing both flowers and embers of fire. Then, I slightly altered the leaf shape for his eyes so it still feels like part of the pattern. Probably the hardest part of designing the cover were those eyes, as I went through several iterations to get the right expression that hit between shock and sadness. Altogether, I think it achieves a good balance of being visually interesting and hinting at the darker elements of the story.
And Candlewick is offering up a giveaway copy of CAMINAR! (U.S. only.) Enter in the Rafflecopter below! And educators, be sure to check out Skila's site where there are educator guides!
a Rafflecopter giveaway