Okay, I know I said my first and second blogs would be about how I got my book deal, but I have to postpone Part II of that story to tell you that...
I am SO EXCITED to share the US cover of The Ethan I Was Before with all of you, at long, long last! Here it is, in all its gorgeous glory!
I think every aspiring author likes to daydream about what the cover of their one-day book might look like. And when I got my deal for Ethan, it was one of the first things I thought about. I vacillated back and forth between kid-on-Christmas-morning excitement and oh-God-what-if-Mom-only-got-me-socks-this-year dread. (What if it ended up being a Photoshop hatchet job? What if they used comic sans font for the title? There were so many ways it could go wrong...)
When I first saw Matt's incredible cover, it finally hit me that I had written a real book that I would one day really get to hold in my hands. (And that hopefully other people will, too...). There is something so special about realizing that an artist has taken the time to read the story you created and reimagined it visually. And to have it rendered in such stunning detail (have you seen those trees? Have you SEEN THEM?) was really overwhelming.
I don't have a great capacity for visualization, so in a way, looking at the cover was also like getting to actually see the characters and the world I created for the first time.
Perhaps because I lack that capacity for visualization, when my editorial team at HarperCollins first asked me for any ideas I had about a cover back in September, I was kind of stumped. In many ways, Ethan is not a linear story. I have always struggled with writing pitches and blurbs for it because it spreads out in many directions. It is, at its core, about a boy who is trying to recover after a tragic accident. But it's also a mystery, an adventure, a coming of age story, an ode to friendship and to life in a small southern town. How could one cover possibly convey all this?
I finally told them that I liked covers with "whimsy and mystery and lots of contrast to them." And also, silhouettes. Who doesn't love a good silhouette? That was the best I could explain at the time how I wanted my cover to make people feel. I also spent a lot of time looking at covers for middle grade books and sent them a few that I liked: Jacqueline Wilson's Brown Girl Dreaming, Robert Beatty's Serafina and the Black Cloak, and Thanhai Lai's Inside Out & Back Again.
There are some similarities between those covers and Ethan's. I got my silhouette wish, for one, and beautiful contrasts. And who can say what secrets are hiding in those trees (again, I say, have you SEEN THOSE TREES?). To me, Ethan's cover is dripping with mystery.
But it doesn't have the same whimsicality of the covers I initially asked for--there are no bleary pastels, soft clouds, or blowing wisps of grass.
Thank God. Not because those covers aren't extremely beautiful--they are--but because I have realized since giving my initial input that Ethan is not a whimsical story. It's a story grounded in the turmoil we feel after we lose someone we love, and it's about how that loss makes the world dark and gives it sharp edges that wound. It's about the uncertainty we feel when the veil of our grief starts to lift, and a new, strange world comes into focus. And we have no choice but to take a good look around, and step inside.
To me, that's exactly what this cover, with its dark edges and long shadows, bleeding orange and turquoise water and bright white sun (or is it moon? you decide!) evoke: the darkness that's come before, the uncertain light that shines ahead, and the precarious space in between.
So a huge thank you to Matt Saunders for bringing my story to life through this cover! Please do visit his website at www.mattsaunders.ink to see more of his work, including his designs for Pottermore and his cover for Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, one of my all time favorites and a huge inspiration for Ethan. And check out the picturebook he illustrated, coming this summer, which looks amazing!