Yesterday you got to meet Gladys, and today we bring you the illustrator who brought Gladys to life on the ALL FOUR STARS cover. Please welcome cover artist and illustrator Kelly Murphy!
LAT: Thanks so much for joining us this week to celebrate the ALL FOUR STARS launch, Kelly! Can you tell us what the process was like to get it there?
KM: Book covers are some of my favorite illustration projects. It’s that one image that you have to create to entice an audience but be careful not to reveal too much. It’s being able to visualize the voice of the author, creating an important balance between narrative and emotion.
LAT: What do you consider when deciding whether or not to take on a project?
KM: Honestly? TIME. Can I finish this on time. That’s always my number one question. Juggling a few books, teaching, and trying to sustain a remotely healthy sleeping schedule can be pretty tricky. Secondly, I really listen to the editor’s synopsis, and the overall mood they’re looking for. There’s a reason why they came knocking on my door, and I love to hear how the editor made the connection between my artwork and the novel. I had heard about this novel a month or so before it came into my inbox. I was speaking at 2013’s Whispering Pines winter retreat in Southern Rhode Island, where I met with Shauna Rossaro. She hinted that she thought my sense of color and character would be perfect for a foodie middle grade novel. My eyes widened and kept my fingers crossed. I consider myself a rather reclusive illustrator, therefore it’s very rare to meet in person with editors and art directors. So, not only was I very flattered, it was one of the first instances of productive face to face networking for me! I hope my eagerness didn’t scare Shauna too much! And a few months later, I received that happy email!
LAT: I can totally relate to the reclusive networker thing, and I’m so glad you didn’t scare her off! What did you think when you first saw the ALL FOUR STARS manuscript?
KM: ALL FOUR STARS really hones in on the spunk and passion that young minds have. Gladys has this “never say die” approach to the problems set in front of her, and she knows what she really wants. It was great to be able to bring that character into visualization. While a lot of my work typically has a period feel to it, I was excited to work on a contemporary middle grade novel.
LAT: It sounds like you really “get” Gladys. Do you usually read the whole manuscript for a project, or just a synopsis?
KM: Whenever I can, I read the whole manuscript. To really understand and then draw the characters I need to know all of the subtleties. I love imagining the whole world around them. Often I will draw them in their favorite place or bedroom, even if it isn’t described.
LAT: That makes me even more curious! What were the first images/ideas you had? How many initial designs did you propose? How did those get refined over time into the final product?
KM: Gladys has an extremely active mind, and I knew I wanted to have the composition reflect that. My first ideas were of her surrounded by all of the pastries in the story. I was toying with the idea of having the cover framed, particularly by a window. I felt as though not only was it a good compositional device, but it could also reflect Gladys’ struggle to achieve her goals. In essence, stop window shopping and finally walk into the restaurant. I typically like to sketch up to three or four ideas. For ALL FOUR STARS, the ideas were similar, but just presented in a different manner.
LAT: There are so many fun details in the ALL FOUR STARS cover. I keep noticing new things every time I see it. Can you give us any insight into your thinking about some of those specifics: Gladys’ striped shirt, for example, or the swirl that she is sitting on, or the jello molds on the table? How did you make those decisions?
KM: Tara did such an amazing job bringing Gladys to life. I love writers who weave small details about the character throughout the whole book. Most of the details were mentioned throughout the text. Some details are taken from my fascination with French patisseries and all of their delights. It made perfect sense to then subtly invite art nouveau lines and curves to frame Gladys.
LAT: Oh, I love that! What’s your favorite thing about the ALL FOUR STARS cover? Is there anything you wish you could go back and tweak?
KM: I really enjoyed painting the fine details, and working with such a bold color palette. I always wish I had more time to tinker and perfect, but if I dwell too long on what could have or should have done, I may never move on to the next painting!
LAT: I wouldn’t change a thing. I think you nailed it! How was ALL FOUR STARS different from your other cover work, either in your own creative process or in terms of production? Were there any surprises, funny anecdotes, or unusual challenges or frustrations?
KM: Initially, the cover was approved and painted with a confining border, and the text broken in different blocks. Ultimately, each word in the title did become too segmented and did not unify together nicely. It was a good idea to change and manipulate the border to let the whole composition breathe a bit. Overall, it changed the dominant color to a much more pleasing and appropriate butter color.
LAT: Wow, that’s fascinating! What are you working on next?
KM: I’m already working away on the companion to ALL FOUR STARS! I’ll be finishing up the painting this week!
LAT: I’ll be looking forward to reading it… AND seeing the cover! Thanks again, Kelly. It’s been such a treat to hear the “inside story” behind a absolutely fabulous book cover!
Remember, you can get your own copy of ALL FOUR STARS from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Penguin, Powell’s, B&N, or Amazon.
And, don’t forget, comment on any post this week for a chance to win a signed copy!