Cover Design 101: Behind the Scenes of Scott Westerfeld’s Spill Zone Cover

Originally published on, our sister company.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we think the same can be said of publishing graphic novels. Spill Zone was written by Scott Westerfeld and the art was created by Alex Puvilland. Once the book was ready for publication, an entire team stepped in to create the cover and jacket. Andrew Arnold, the associate art director at the graphic novel publisher First Second, was part of that team. Here, he takes readers behind the scenes and shares the secrets of cover design.

Click each image for a closer look at the design!

Hello, comics fans! Here at First Second, we take a lot of pride in creating thoughtful and beautifully packaged books. One of our biggest design challenges is creating the cover, and the jacket for Spill Zone was no exception. Here’s an inside look at how this cover came to life, from its earliest stages to the final printed book.

Spill Zone was one of the first projects on my plate when I joined the First Second team last summer. The first thing I did to familiarize myself with the project was read the book, and wow, what a treat that was. Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland have created an incredibly rich world that feels movie-ready. It’s a sci-fi adventure, but also has some dark and twisted elements, and we wanted to make sure the cover conveyed both of those facets.

The process began with several thumbnails from Alex, artist extraordinaire, who had come up with some pretty thought-provoking and eye-catching sketches. At this stage, we like to say that nothing is off-limits. I often find that only a small portion of what we look at during this stage makes it onto the final book. It’s pretty fun to look back at an artist’s initial sketches to see what was originally on the table!

After Mark Siegel (First Second’s editorial director), Danielle Ceccolini (First Second’s designer), and I processed Alex’s thumbnails, we decided that the more graphic approaches were working better than the more illustrative ones.

Once we were all in agreement on the general direction, Alex started to think about the background art and color palette.

As the overall design started coming together, we began to focus in on the details. In the previous stage, we liked what Alex did with the environment, but wanted to see if he could tone it down a little. Sometimes, less is more.

We started to get pretty excited about where it was headed, so we gave Alex the green light to move to pencils, and very soon thereafter, inks.

Once the inks were in, we started exploring the color palette a little further. A good chunk of this story takes place in a radioactive-colored world, so a lot of these early explorations focus on that.

As we got closer and closer to a palette we liked, we delved into a variety of title treatments.

And before you know it, we had ourselves a final cover!

Once the cover is resolved, we start thinking about the rest of the jacket. How will the back cover interact with the front? How can we create an effective spine, with such a tiny piece of real estate? How can the flaps inform the reader with descriptive copy, but still look good?

And then there’s the pre-printed case design! This is the art you see under the jacket, which is glued to the book board.

As all of these elements were being finalized, we were simultaneously communicating with our production team to determine what printing materials and techniques would work best with the design. This includes paper stock, special inks, embossing plates, and lamination. For Spill Zone, we decided that metallic stock was a must-have, not only because it looked good with the art, but it made a direct reference to the radioactive element. Our senior production manager, Alexa Villanueva, worked closely with the printer to make sure the proofing process moved along smoothly. At this stage, we made any last minute text corrections and color adjustments, and made sure all the special effects and materials were printing properly.

From start to finish, this project took several months, but when the books arrived I could hardly contain my excitement. Collaborating with this wonderful group of bookmakers was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to relive it with their next book, Spill Zone: The Broken Vow.

Andrew Arnold is one of the co-authors of the Adventures in Cartooning series and moonlights [during the day] as a book designer for a children’s book publisher. His work has appeared in several publications, including Nickelodeon MagazineCambridge University Press, and Roaring Brook Press. Originally from Houston, TX, Andrew currently lives in New York City.


Signs It’s Time To Say “Boy, Bye”

Originally published on, our sister company.

Heather Demetrios’ latest young adult novel explores one girl’s realization that her boyfriend’s behavior has turned from attentive to abusive. Demetrios was in a similar relationship herself and knows just how common the problem is. Here, she shares warning signs that can help readers to recognize abusive behavior.

Most of the female readers I talk to who’ve read my new book, Bad Romance, tell me that the topic hits really close to home. I’m not surprised: One in three teens is affected by dating violence. Almost every single woman I know has been touched in some way by the epidemic. After spending over two years in my own bad romance, I’m pretty good at recognizing the signs. If you go to the book’s website, you’ll find tons of resources, including a quiz that will help you see if you’re in a healthy relationship or not.

In Bad Romance, my main character, Grace, falls for a boy who is charming and sweet, manipulative and cruel. She doesn’t realize that he’s bad news right away, and once she does wizen up, she’s in too deep. Here are some of the things that she gets woke about by the end of the book:

This is one of the ways that abusers control their significant others. My boyfriend told me I wasn’t as “deep” as him, that I was a “wet blanket.” He knew just how to hit me where it hurt. Making critical comments about your personality, appearance, intelligence, or beliefs is a major sign of abusive relationships. It might seem harmless, but over time these comments can lead to suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and generally crap self-worth.

Controlling behavior
This was something it took me a long time to notice. At first I thought my boyfriend just really loved me and wanted to be with me. Eventually I began to see that it was about power. He would insist on being given priority over my friends, control the guys I could talk to, and say which schools I applied to. Control also often turns to obsession: My boyfriend would watch me sleep at night and insist on reading my diary. He wanted me to account for my schedule, wanted to know who I ate lunch with, and who drove me home after rehearsal.

This one is huge. It can be so hard to see jealousy for what it is because it almost seems romantic, right? He loves you so much that he can’t bear to see you even talking to another guy because he’s so afraid of losing you. It’s the whole Edward and Bella thing. My boyfriend made a rule that we weren’t allowed to hug someone of the opposite sex. He would spy on me at work to make sure I wasn’t flirting with other guys. He brought a baseball bat on campus so that he could beat the shit out of a boy who liked me (thankfully, I was able to convince him this was a bad idea). This jealousy started out small, but grew over time. A little bit of jealousy here and there is nothing to worry about, but if jealousy plays a big role in your relationship, this is for sure something to look at. You’ve gotta watch this sign like a hawk.

This is where it starts to get serious. “I’ll kill myself if you break up with me.” “I’ll kill you if you break up with me.” “I’m going to kick his ass if I see you talking to him again.” “I’ll break up with you if you don’t have sex/go out/do these drugs with me.” If any of this sounds remotely familiar, run like hell in the opposite direction. This isn’t love—it’s about power and that other person’s severe psychological problems.

When I first started going out with my boyfriend, I had a huge group of friends and was very social. By the end, I’d dropped several friends, had major fights with my closest one (to the point that we weren’t speaking for months), pretty much left my church, and was ditching classes I loved because my boyfriend wanted to see more of me. I had never felt so alone in my life. It felt like no one could possibly understand what I was going through. When anyone tried to tell me I should break up with him, I built a wall between us—or my boyfriend did it for me. It was a very us-against-the-world mentality, and it was lonely and terrifying.

It’s hard to know when you’re being manipulated, and it usually takes a long time to get hip to how your partner is manipulating you. Usually this looks like making you feel bad if you want to do something with your friends or you want to do an activity that takes you away from your partner. Abusers might make you feel like you’re in the wrong when you confront them about something or convince you that you’re imagining things when they give you the cold shoulder or punish you in some way. This always looks like your boyfriend or girlfriend not taking personal responsibility for their own feelings and actions: They will make it seem like their reactions are normal, and that they’re only acting this way because you did X or said Y. Start paying attention, especially when you know they did something uncool, confront them, and then you wind up apologizing. This is a total mind game and it’s crazy-making.

These are just a few of the signs of an abusive relationship. If you even think you might be in a bad romance, please reach out to someone you trust. Tell them what’s going on. Don’t go through this alone. You need friends, a teacher, a sibling, or a cool aunt or parent to help you through. I promise that you will find the right person someday—someone who treats you with the love and respect you deserve.

Editor’s Note: If you or anyone you know needs help further identifying or escaping from an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) or chat with them online.

Heather Demetrios is the author of several critically acclaimed novels including Something Real and I’ll Meet You There. She is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she isn’t traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, she lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home.


NetGalley Author Interview: Gabe Hudson

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Gabe Hudson,” now! Here, we talk about his debut novel, Gork, The Teenage Dragon, staying in the science fiction genre and where the world of Gork is going next! You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and

Gork, the Teenage Dragon

Request It!

Pub Date: July 11, 2017
Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA
Published by Knopf

See More of Their Titles

Gork isn’t like the other dragons at WarWings Military Academy. He has a gigantic heart, two-inch horns, and an occasional problem with fainting. His nickname is Weak Sauce and his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious—the lowest in his class. But he is determined not to let any of this hold him back as he embarks on the most important mission of his life: tonight, on the eve of his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. If she says yes, they’ll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she says no, Gork becomes a slave.

Vying with Jocks, Nerds, Mutants, and Multi-Dimensioners to find his mate, Gork encounters an unforgettable cast of friends and foes, including Dr. Terrible, the mad scientist; Fribby, a robot dragon obsessed with death; and Metheldra, a healer specializing in acupuncture with swords. But finally it is Gork’s biggest perceived weakness, his huge heart, that will guide him through his epic quest and help him reach his ultimate destination: planet Earth.

A love story, a fantasy, and a coming-of-age story, Gork the Teenage Dragon is a wildly comic, beautifully imagined, and deeply heartfelt debut novel that shows us just how human a dragon can be.


Marcus Sedgwick on Borders, Ageless Characters, and Saint Death

Originally published on, our sister company.

Whether you’re new to Marcus Sedgwick or a longtime fan of his work, you’ve likely heard the buzz around his newest novel, Saint Death. It tells the story of Arturo, a young man living near the US-Mexico border. When an old friend shows up, begging for help after stealing from a violent gang, Arturo must decide if he’ll risk his own life to save his friend’s. All the while, the boys are watched by Saint Death. Here, Sedgwick chats with Bookish about his new novel, mortality, and choices.

Bookish: Can you take us through the research process for this book? Did you know much about Juárez before you decided to start writing about it?

Marcus Sedgwick: Although the book is set in Mexico, the idea behind it began when I saw firsthand migrants and refugees on the French coast, trying to get into the United Kingdom. A long series of reasons (which you can read in full here) made me realize that the story I wanted to tell would be better played out on the Mexico-US border. I knew a bit about Mexico; I knew very little about Juárez aside from where it was. So there was a lot of research for the book. I relied a lot on a friend of mine, a young Mexican academic and writer, who had first introduced me to the emerging folk saint: Santa Muerte. Obviously, I read a stack of books, not just about Mexico but countries to the south, and accounts of the US side of the border too. There were newspapers and magazine articles, not just about Juárez, but about things like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Santa Muerte, and so on.

It quickly became apparent, however, that some very basic facts were hard to come by–the reason being that the non-Mexican press doesn’t report from on the ground in a place like Juárez, and the Mexican press is unable to, because to do so will very often cost the journalist his or her life. Upsetting a narco-lord is a dangerous thing to do. Even to find out which cartel is currently “in charge” of Juárez was tricky–I found some answers by following a number of (anonymous) blogs by people living either side of the border. After about 18 months, I was finally able to make a trip to the city, and visit both Juárez and Anapra (the township just to the northwest of the city, where the book begins) in the care of two very different guides. Both were from the city: I spent some time with an oldish guy called Sergio and then, later, a younger man called Roberto. Each had a very different view of what was happening in Juárez; but it was Sergio’s testimony that I found closer to reality. I could go on, but this is getting long…

Bookish: Can you talk about your decision to write the novel in the Spanish style, using em dashes instead of quotation marks, and Spanish punctuation? As a writer, was it challenging to adapt to a new style?

MS: I wanted to signal to the English-speaking reader in a subtle(ish!) way that we’re in a Spanish-speaking world. Conversely, I didn’t want to italicize the words of Spanish that I include in the book, because this is Arturo and Faustino’s world, and Spanish is their language. But here’s the thing: All of fiction is artificial. People sometimes make the mistake (I think) of believing that realistic fiction is in some way actually real. What fiction has to do is tell the truth, but everything about a novel is actually a construct of some kind, especially dialogue. So in Saint Death I use a false construct of dialogue that is designed to suggest (paradoxically) both familiarity and otherness at the same time.

Bookish: The word “our” is used frequently in the prose, written to include the reader in this journey. It’s our town, our heartache, our fate. Why did you make that choice?

MS: Yes, you’re absolutely right, it’s a deliberate choice to include the reader in the world. One of the thoughts in the book is the belief that no matter how much we might be tempted to see the world as them and us, it’s just not true. Call it globalization or internationalism, the world we live in now is a connected one, and all our actions affect everyone, ultimately. This is why I chose the preface for the book, taken from a book by Charles Bowden: “This book is about other stories, that occur over there, across the river. The comfortable way to deal with these stories is to say they are about them. The way to understand these stories is to say they are about us.”

Bookish: In some ways, this book is about choices: What do we do at the crossroads, for ourselves or for others? It’s also about inevitability: “Don’t worry where you’re going; you will die where you have to.” What was the hardest thing about balancing these two elements?

MS: Yes, you’re right, both these things were in my mind as I wrote, but I like to balance opposites in my books, so it wasn’t too hard to do. One of the things that lies underneath lots of my books is trying to show that life is full of opposites–and that very often sanity lies in the position of balance, rather than extremes. As you say, there’s also the concept in the book of bridges–both literally (in terms of the border crossings) but also metaphorically– representing those moments when we move from one thing to another. The book features some thoughts of Carl Jung (hidden in the character of Carlos)–Jung saw the number five as symbolizing the bridge. Five is halfway from one to nine, after all, so I used the number five a lot in the book. Jung also wrote a lot about transformations, so there are many oppositional transformations depicted, most notably in the chapter called “Arturo’s Dream.”

Bookish: We never find out exactly how old Arturo is. He shows incredible maturity at points, but then we’re reminded through other characters that he is young, not a kid, not quite a man yet. Why did you choose to not disclose his age?

MS: I have always resisted the belief that we need to give a precise age to our characters. Obviously sometimes it’s necessary, but mostly I don’t think it is. I could write an essay about this deceptively simple question, but I’ll try to keep it short! For one thing, it’s not necessary to know exactly how old Arturo, Faustino, and Eva are; we know they’re young people, not little kids, on the way to being adults. There’s a concept called “masking” in the comic book world which argues that an illustrative style that shows characters’ faces more simply (and less “realistically”) enables the reader to project themselves into the shoes of those characters. In addition, I don’t think someone’s age is the most interesting thing about them, it’s enough to have a rough idea. In the same way, I rarely give much physical description of how my characters look–how someone looks is again (very often) the least interesting thing about them. What makes people people, and what makes characters become real, is seeing what they think, what they say, how they interact with others, and so on. In Arturo’s case, I often find young people in difficult situations show unbelievable maturity—because they have to—but then again, he is still just a kid, after all.

Bookish: Santa Muerte never speaks or takes corporeal form, but she is a character in this book—one that is awed, feared, and respected. Were there challenges to writing characters, like Arturo, who are constantly aware of their own mortality?

MS: There’s a long relationship with Death in Mexico, stretching way back to the form of worship of the Aztecs and so on. In the modern world, we have the Days of the Dead, the worship of Santa Muerte (small but rising rapidly) and the image of Catrina (depictions of a pretty, skull-faced lady). Some people argued that it’s because Mexican people are less afraid of Death, some that it’s because they’re more afraid of Death. Whatever the truth of that, it’s certainly the case that Mexico has a more open dialogue with Death than many other cultures. So I found it “fun” (because I like thinking about Death) to have my characters pondering mortality, which is a common enough thing in a violent world, as well as having Santa Muerte drifting in and out of the book, and their lives. By the way, if you want the best account of this subject, I recommend Death and the Idea of Mexico by Claudio Lomnitz.

Bookish: This novel tackles a number of complicated topics (everything from American-funded cartels to immigration to environmental change), but it never feels overstuffed. How did you go about weaving these together without overwhelming the story or the reader?

MS: It was important to me that the book was more than just a tragedy set on the border. I wanted the reader to have a sense at least of the context of events which is causing problems in these areas, because I want the reader to get the sense that we will be seeing many more such flashpoints around the world (and often close to home) unless we start to take a radically different view of how the world should be composed. In order to do that successfully in a traditional manner, I would have had to write a book that was five times as long, and which probably very few people would have read. Instead I used a sort of Greek chorus of small (less than one page) chapters, which are interspersed between the main chapters of the book: These offer a range of views about all sorts of things that have and are affecting the borderland.

Bookish: We see two figures being referred to as kings in this book: Jesus and Arturo. Is that because you see Arturo as a Christ-figure or more because Jesus represents the humanity in God?

MS: I had a long conversation with someone about this when the book first appeared in the UK. Her view was that the book could either be read as a condemnation of the idea of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, or, in fact, an endorsement of it. I agree with her view. I called Arturo the King because of the decisions he is faced with taking, but I cannot say more without giving away very large spoilers!

Bookish: Siggy says to Arturo at one point, “You are at the hardest point of all. You are not a kid. You are not a man. You are somewhere in the middle.” What do you think it is that makes life so difficult when you’re at that point?

MS: Being a teenager is a pretty intense experience for most people. For some it’s a breeze, yes, but for many more people it’s a crazy time in which your body changes, your mind changes, in which you almost literally become a new person. It’s also accompanied by lots of new thoughts and experiences: things like sex, thoughts about mortality maybe. This time of life is that bridge I was talking about earlier—it’s the bridge between childhood and adulthood. And the kind of adult we become is very dependent on how we survived our teenage years. I believe many adults neglect that fact, intentionally or otherwise, but if we are really to understand who we are as adults, we can do no better than see how we got there.

Bookish: The book explores one of the reasons for the refugee crisis, while also explaining that natural disasters (resulting from climate change) will cause more displacement in the future. What is a resource that you recommend for readers wanting to educate themselves about these problems, and get involved in finding solutions?

MS: I guess I’m not alone in feeling that the world is in an especially fine mess at the moment. It can feel hopeless and as a result, it can feel depressing. But I think that ironically it also means we are in a time when it might be possible to change things. If you look at how close the elections in the US and the UK last year were, how close the French election is turning out to be, a couple of percent either way can make all the difference. Even if you’re not old enough to vote yet, you can have conversations with people who are; engage them, debate with them. I think part of the reason we’ve come to this place is that too many people haven’t been engaged with politics (in the broadest sense of the word). Now, we’re seeing a rise in membership and grassroots funding of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to give just one example; an example that shows that people are realizing not only that we have to try and make a difference, but that we can, too. To do that, we have to educate ourselves: read quality newspapers and join organizations like Amnesty International, and so help them raise funds; or in the case of climate change, follow the work that NASA has been doing. There are lots of good sources for news about the climate and theirs is among the best.

Marcus Sedgwick was born and raised in Kent in South East England, but now lives in the French Alps. His books have won and been shortlisted for many awards; most notably, he has been shortlisted for Britain’s Carnegie Medal six times, has received two Printz Honors, for Revolver and Ghosts of Heaven, and in 2013 won the Printz Award for Midwinterblood.


NetGalley Author Interview: Sara Ella

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Sara Ella,” now! Here, we talk about her latest release in The Unblemished Trilogy, Unraveling, world building and how she got so attached to stories with a HEA (Happily Ever After)! You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and


Request It!

Pub Date: July 11, 2017
Teens & YA
Published by Thomas Nelson

See More of Their Titles

What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua’s finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?


Exclusive Interview with Jeff Giles

We’re excited to share this special Q&A with Jeff Giles about his book, The Edge of Everything, and something exciting he’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by Jeff Giles, featuring an exclusive, annotated copy of The Edge of Everything, an action-packed fantastical thriller. Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by Giles that inspired him as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for YA book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by January 27th to get this box and use the discount mentioned below.)

NetGalley Author Interview

The Edge of Everything

Request It!

Pub Date: Jan 31, 2017
Teens & YA
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?

I grew up in Massachusetts in a pretty loud, unhappy family, so I spent a lot of time holed up in my room with my baseball cards and my guitar and my fantasy novels. I wasn’t much of a baseball player, and I was really bad at guitar (I still play and I’m STILL bad, actually). So I guess what I’m saying is: writing was the only thing I loved that I didn’t suck at. I tried writing all kinds of things when I was young: plays, song lyrics, short stories, poems. By the time I went to college, I’d decided to try being a journalist. My dream was that I’d write articles for a living until I wrote a novel good enough to be published. That took MANY more years than I thought it would!

What is your favorite novel of all time?

Please don’t make me answer this! It’s too hard to choose!

Let me try this: My favorite YA novel right this second is Still Life with Tornado (A.S. King).
My favorite novel to recommend to “grown-ups” is Bel Canto (Ann Patchett). My favorite funny novel is Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple). My favorite weird novel is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami). My favorite sci fi novel is Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).

In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?

I know this will be controversial, but I actually think there are a lot. It usually happens with action and suspense, because those genres are just MADE for the big screen. One really old example is “Jaws.” I’m sure the novel was a fun summer read, but Steven Spielberg’s movie was the first blockbuster and changed Hollywood forever. I won’t say that Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies are BETTER than the Tolkien novels—mostly because I don’t want all your subscribers to hate me—but I do think they’re every bit as good, and maybe even more exciting.

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

J.K. Rowling, because obviously! Charles Dickens, because J.K. Rowling would love to meet him, I bet. And E.M. Forester, because I love his novels—and I think Dickens would feel bad if he were the only dead guy there.

Your debut novel, The Edge of Everything, has a leading female protagonist, how did you get into character and develop her voice throughout the novel?

I began writing the novel while I was living in Brooklyn, and I finished it after we’d moved to Montana, so Zoe is sort of a combination of what I love most about both places: the funny-smart/take-no-crap NYC thing mixed with the outdoorsy, self-reliant western thing. More importantly, my daughter is a big reader, and I knew she’d read the novel some day. There is NO WAY she would approve of a female character who wasn’t tough and brave and badass. Zoe sort of has my sense of humor, but she’s cooler than me in every other way.

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Tons! Try to write on a regular schedule. Turn off the WiFi or you won’t get anything done. Read everything you write out loud—both to yourself and others. There’s no better way to tell if something flows and makes sense and if you’re proud of it. Remember that absolutely everyone writes a lot of bad stuff on the way to writing good stuff. Make sure there are enough snacks in the house.

What was the thought process behind curating your Literary YA Box?

I had so much fun! I wanted to share books about girls with real purpose—and who were in the midst of figuring out who they were. Then I picked some cool odds and ends to make the whole reading experience a little brighter, warmer and more special.

Click here to get Jeff Giles’ Literary YA Box, complete with an exclusive, annotated copy of The Edge of Everything! (Plus! As a NetGalley member, you get an exclusive 10% discount! Just enter the code: NETGALLEY10 at checkout.)

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

I sent an advance copy of The Edge of Everything on a little “tour” of other YA authors, and they all wrote and doodled all over it and told me what they liked best. One friend, the middle grade author Melanie Conklin, even drew a great picture of my leading man X’s tattooed arm. It was the first piece of fan art I ever got, and it really made me glow.


Exclusive Interview with S.J. Kincaid

The+Diabolic+YA+boxWe’re excited to share this special Q&A with S.J. Kincaid about her book, The Diabolic, and something cool she’s doing with Quarterly:

This quarter’s box is curated by S.J. Kincaid, featuring an exclusive, annotated copy of The Diabolic, an action-packed psychological thriller/fantasy. Also find in the box two more books, handpicked by Kincaid that inspired her as an author, plus awesome bookish goods — perfect for YA book lovers. (Psst: Act fast, subscribe by November 7th to get this box.)

NetGalley Author Interview

The Diabolic

Request It!

Pub Date: Nov 1, 2016
Teens & YA
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

See More of Their Titles

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?

I’m originally from Alabama, but I’ve spent most of my life moving between California and Chicago. I’ve written as a hobby ever since I was very young, mostly because my older sister was a writer, and I liked to do everything she did (and I still am! We’re both professional writers now!) Before getting published, though, I moved between several different jobs, and then went to nursing school. I was not a very good nurse.

What is your favorite novel of all time?

It has to be Legacy by Susan Kay. It was a hugely influential novel for me. This is a book I can say literally changed the course of my life, because it ignited a fascination with Tudor history that became the first of many intellectual pursuits born purely out of curiosity, not just because I was assigned research for school.

In your opinion, has there ever been a movie that is better than the book?

I think this could be incredibly subjective, but for me personally, Starship Troopers the movie was more to my taste than the book. They were drastically different, actually, and I saw the movie first. Science fiction purists will probably mock me for this, but I can take it. I just really enjoyed the campiness, and some parody aspects of it. (The good guys in the movie basically could be interpreted as pretty evil fascists vs. the book with a different theme.)

Which three authors would you invite to a dinner party?

Whoa, tricky question. There are so many possibilities. Can I choose dead people? I think I’d invite Howard Zinn who wrote A People’s History of the United States, and then Ayn Rand who wrote Atlas Shrugged, and then just stay totally silent and let them argue and maybe film it and put it on YouTube. Third author I’d invite would be my sister, so she could argue along with me.

How did you come up with this new fascinating world with Diabolics?

The primary thing I had in mind was that this future is set so far from now that the automatization we are already facing (human jobs supplanted by machines) has progressed to a point where the mechanical underpinnings of society are totally self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. That means a few things 1) it’s not critical for people to be able to understand how the machines work, once they totally sustain themselves, and 2) people are relatively extraneous, and unnecessary. Since I wanted an I, Claudius type of story, I envisioned an Empire with these conditions. Power would exist among those who ultimately had control over the machines, and the fact that most people are extraneous and unnecessary would reduce their status immensely. And if the great mass of humanity is deemed ‘Excess’ because they aren’t viewed as important, then it made sense that there’d be no compunctions about creating humans with certain qualities just for the service of ‘real’ people. Those factors, all together, sort of led to the universe of The Diabolic as I imagined it.

If you could visit one fictional world, which would you chose?

Star Trek! Their future is my idea of a utopia. Of course, in that universe, I’d probably spend all my time in the holodeck.

Do you have any advice for young writers?

Read a lot and write a lot! Also: I was a very sensitive person easily hurt by rejection—and yet I overcame that when it comes to writing by trying again and again and again, and failing over and over. My advice is, if you want to do this for a living: get used to bashing your head against the same wall time and again, because everyone gets rejected. A lot. It took seven books for me to sell one, and then several more to sell another. If you grow a thick skin, you will make it.

What was the thought process behind curating your Literary YA Box?

I gave a lot of thought to what might interest the same readers of The Diabolic, yet also prove relevant to the themes of the story. I am so thrilled, also, that I managed to get a card game in there!

Click here to get S.J.’s Literary YA Box, complete with an
exclusive, annotated copy of The Diabolic!

What is your favorite thing that you have received in the mail?

Of all time? It was when I got into the school of my choice. My dad picked me up, handed me a thin envelope and said, “Well, you got a thin letter from [this school I didn’t really care about]… And a thick one from here!” Most delightful mail of my life.

What is your longest running subscription?

Publishers Marketplace. I always vowed before I sold a book that I wasn’t going to spend any money on writing type stuff (conferences, membership to places) until I sold, because I couldn’t yet justify it. I always broke this rule when I had a book about to go on submission. I’d subscribe to PM for a month and look up all the recent sales, editors, etc. Once I finally sold Insignia, I had no reason to end my subscription. It’s not really necessary for me, but I just love checking it every day and seeing what’s coming in the book world.


Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Book Addict’s Guide
Your name: Brittany Smith

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Mystery & Thrillers, and why did you start?

This is a really fun question because mysteries and thrillers really were my origin! I started my blog in April of 2012 after my friend and I started haunting a local used book store. I was really into adult cozy mysteries at the time and my shelves are still filled with all of the cozies I bought there! I wanted my own place for my reviews outside of Goodreads so I had decided to start a blog. I really wanted to share what I liked or didn’t like about a book and really help people find some good recommendations. I also “discovered” YA around this time with the dystopian trend and I quickly started devouring young adult books as well! My blog quickly became a combination of adult mystery and anything YA, although now it definitely has a strong YA focus.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I used to not be a fantasy reader (I know!!) because I just hadn’t found the right books for me and now I truly can’t get enough! I used to immediately say no to magical realism because again, I hadn’t read the right books for me, but when it’s done well, it’s SO incredible.

I’m also really excited to see a lot more mystery/thrillers in YA now because there was a long while where I really couldn’t find many, or they at least weren’t getting a good spotlight. And I cannot get enough books about heists/spies/espionage!! (And can we just say how AMAZING it is when heists & fantasy meet? It’s all of my loves together!)

I used to be so in love with dystopian but I think that’s really fizzled out and I totally burned myself out on it for the time being.

Do you have a preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?

My review style has totally changed since I first started blogging! My very first reviews are so embarrassing! I basically wrote a few sentences and called it a review. I mean, there’s no “right” way to write a review but now I really get into plot, world building, development, and even have sections talking about characters and specific points that I really enjoyed or conversely, things I was missing. I hope my reviews are helpful tools for people who are looking to find some spoiler-free feedback on a book because that was the whole reason I started my blog!

I used to try to take notes about what I read or marking quotes but I found that stopping to write things down really took me out of that reading experience, but I do still update Goodreads along the way! It took me a while to find my own personal reviewing groove but I’ve been sticking with this one for the past couple years and it’s really worked well for me!

On your blog, you publish a “Book Title Buzzwords” series, as well as other features. Can you briefly explain how you came up with these, and how they help structure your blog, which titles to review, etc.?

Book Title Buzzwords is one of the newer features on my blog. I came up with it after noticing some title trends in titles to include similar words, especially within the YA community, and thought it would be fun to talk about titles that featured them, both old and new! It was a great way for me to bring up some older titles, titles that I had just read and not yet reviewed, and titles that I planned to read in the future.

I also have some other staple features like Book and a Beverage, which is a blogger (and sometimes author) spotlight feature! I found myself frequently photographing my current read with my current beverage and I figured other people did too! I invite bloggers to share their current book and beverage as well as some things about themselves & their blogs.

I love the different features because it brings something new to my blog. I’ve been blogging for over four years and as much as reviews will always be a staple, I like having a different way to talk about books that’s a little something different and keeps the conversation fresh!

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

My wish was just granted for The Bear and the Nightingale and I’m so excited! I’m also loving the covers for Caraval and The Bone Witch and can’t wait to read those too!

The Bear and the Nightingale    Caraval    The Bone Witch

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

A place to share bookish obsessions. A happy mix of reviews and fun features.

Your favorite snack(s) to eat while reading:

Popcorn! Mmmm

The 1 book you wish was never-ending:

Just one!? Ummm. THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater because I wish the series would never end.

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Can I take two? (Do people totally always cheat on these questions?) I would take a road trip with Maggie Stiefvater because 1) she’s so much fun, 2) she has amazing cars, and 3) she knows really cool places. I’d also love to take a road trip with Leigh Bardugo because I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her several times and she’s one of my favorite authors to talk with and meet in person! She’s so kind, really cracks me up, and I bet between her, Maggie Stiefvater, and myself, we could discover a whole lot of interesting places in our travels that we never knew existed!

Thanks so much Brittany, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out The Book Addict’s Guide and more Teens & YA available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret


Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Intellectual Recreation
Blog URL:
Your name: JoLee

Let’s begin with your blogger origin story - how long have you been blogging about books and why did you start?

I had been a really active member of Goodreads for years, and, when I finished graduate school, I decided that I wanted to put all of that effort into a blog. This was about four years ago, but Intellectual Recreation really took off a couple of years later when I brought my sister on board and started coming up with different blog series. Our first series kind of started by accident. I just happened to read five young adult books that had some tie to Russia right in a row, and I decided to put them all together in one post that I called “Reading on a Theme: Russia and YA.” The “Reading on a Theme” series quickly became the backbone of our blog, inspiring us to feature more than one book in almost every post.

What genres and subgenres does your blog focus on? Are there any trends within these that you’re excited to see, or would like to see disappear?

Our blog focuses primarily on young adult fiction, but, we read all types of books so occasionally we’ll feature adult fiction, non-fiction, and middle-grade books. There’s been a lot of ink spilled lately about how adults are reading young adult fiction and why that is and whether or not that’s a good thing. Personally, I’m all for adults reading YA (obviously), and I think the reason we are is simply because there is more exceptional young adult literature out there than ever before! I love how vast the genre is becoming.

How has being a NetGalley member and having access to digital galleys impacted your blogging?

It’s been huge. I don’t think that we’d be able to do what we do without NetGalley. Because we organize our content thematically, it’s very important for me to be able to see what types of books are coming out so that I can know how to organize the galleys that we receive. Also, I think NetGalley helps us to stay current. It’s given us the chance to read books and authors we might not have found otherwise. Plus, I love reading on my Kindle!

On your blog, you publish book roundups, a “Long-Distance Book Club” series, as well as other blog series. Can you briefly explain how you came up with these, and how they help structure your blog, which titles to review, etc.?

Our entire blog is structured around our blog series and most of them developed pretty organically. We wanted to feature more than one book in nearly every post, so we came up with series like “Reading on a Theme” and “Pair It With” to serve as our review posts. The blog was kind of becoming a long-distance book club for Paige and me, so we decided to formalize that with our “Long-Distance Book Club” series. That’s a fun one for us to because we get to read the same book at the same time, discuss it, and come up with book club questions together. We wanted to talk about bookish things like bedtime stories and star ratings so we started the “A Few Thoughts” series. One of my favorite series is our “Most Read Author” series. Those post are very nostalgic for me as they allow me to think back on all the books I have read by a particular author and what I was doing in my life when I read them. They are also a lot of fun because Paige and I work on them together. Perhaps unsurprisingly many of our most read authors are the same.

Do you have any advice for book bloggers who are just starting out? Perhaps advice about co-blogging, and how to come up with a structure and schedule that works best?

Do what works for you. Find a structure that suits your needs. Don’t feel like you have to do what you think everyone else is doing. A unique format will make you stand out. For example, we each started out doing our own posts but then found that, for us, working on posts together actually worked a lot better. That means that we spend some time every week talking about what posts we need to work on and dividing up the reading. It works great for us because we like talking and planning, but I know that wouldn’t necessarily work best for a lot of people.

Are there any titles on NetGalley that you’re looking forward to reading/reviewing?

I’m really looking forward to reading Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley. It’s a story about the Brontë siblings and their vivid imaginations. And speaking of the Brontë’s, I’m also really excited about Stone Field by Christy Lenzi. It’s a reimagining of Wuthering Heights set in Civil War era Missouri. For something completely different, I’m eager to read Jennifer Longo’s Up to This Pointe. I love books about ballet dancers, and I’m interested to see how this dancer ends up in Antarctica.

cover73739-medium    cover74948-medium    cover70949-medium

Lightning Round!

Your favorite snack(s) to eat while reading:

No snack is the best snack. Eating gets in the way of reading!

Your current favorite authors:

Kasie West – Reading a book by Kasie is like giving yourself a little reward.

Rachel Hartman – Seraphina and Shadow Scale are 5-star fantasies.

Maggie Stiefvater – I’ve read everything she’s written.

Your blog, in 2 sentences:

We’re sisters who love to read. We share what we are reading in thematic posts that feature multiple books with similar topics.

The 1 book you wish was never-ending:

Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. I want to read a new story about Lockwood, Lucy, and George every Halloween season for the rest of my life.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Definitely Shannon Hale. First of all, I love Shannon’s books. The finale to the Princess Academy series was just divine. Secondly, I really admire everything that Shannon has said and done about erasing the boundaries between “boy books” and “girl books.” Finally, Shannon is really funny, and I want to be her friend.

Thanks so much for spending some time with us and answering our questions JoLee!
Please make sure to check out Intellectual Recreation and the Teens & YA titles now available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret