the story of a book cover

 

Rachel Vale, the brilliant artist behind the cover design for the State of Grace, has written a blog post for me (I like this delegation lark – I should have been off having a painting day in exchange, but in fact I’ve been gardening) about the thought processes that led to the gorgeous cover…

the state of grace - rachael lucas

The cover for The State of Grace was a really great project to work on. As with all cover designs I kicked things off by reading the book – I absolutely loved it! We follow Grace, a teenage girl with Asperger’s, and see how she deals with everything life throws at her. It’s written with great humour, which I wanted to reflect within the design as well as sympathetically referencing Asperger’s. The story also raised questions for me over what is ‘normal’? A lot of the emotions, anxieties and questions Grace deals with feel relevant to absolutely everyone with regards to whether we ‘fit-in’.

So book read and notes made (my keyword list included cat, Doctor Who, pattern, horse . . .), I generated some typography. I knew immediately what I wanted this part of the cover to look like. I can’t quite explain why – sometimes it will take a few attempts and I’ll be working on the typography and image together so that they evolve as one creation. But even without any imagery, I already knew that this had to be big, bold and simple, and to look hand-drawn, therefore giving it a human element.

Typography done, I hit Google and Pinterest for research and image-collection. I wanted to find out more about Asperger’s, and if there was anything visual I could generate that may nod to the syndrome, along with finding a voice for Grace.

Repetitive pattern of behaviour and interests came up quite a lot. So a sort of repeat pattern felt like something I could definitely work with. I generated numerous ideas that included various themes. Some were better than others (as is often the way), but what they all seemed to be lacking was Grace. I needed to revisit her and her journey.

Grace experiences emotions around many different relationships, with her mum, sister, best friend and love interest. A lot of these are conducted to some degree via texting – something we all do and can all relate to. I use emoticons nearly as much as I use actual words whilst texting these days, so a visual take on that felt like something that could appeal to all. For me this idea felt like it relied on simplicity however, so the almost 3D nature of emoticons on modern mobile phones felt too complex – it was the emotion element that I needed, not a fancy rendered graphic.

Using a more ‘old skool’ approach of keyboard characters (brackets and semicolons, etc.) contained in a circle to resemble more recent emoticons felt much more like the right route. A smiley face for the main pattern made me think of Grace immediately. Grace is happy – she’s just a little confused sometimes, so a confused emoticon felt like the perfect way to suggest not fitting in. The change between the two emoticons is subtle (a closed bracket vs a forward slash depicting the mouth), which is perfect, as changes in human emotions can also be so subtle and difficult to read. Obviously I didn’t want this to be so hard to read that it was missed altogether though, so I highlighted it in a different colour. The typography from a couple of months earlier sat perfectly atop my pattern – it’s always nice when these things come together.

Some of the best book covers for me are the ones that don’t try too hard. They rely on a simple and clean concept, and the more you add means the less you actually say. For me The State of Grace does just that. At a quick glance you get it – well, I hope you do! I’ve a copy on the shelf next to my desk, and every time I catch a glimpse of it it makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you. 🙂

the state of grace by rachael lucas

 

The State of Grace is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on the 6th of April.

Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

A sweetly funny look at first love, family and faking it told from the perspective of a heroine with Asperger’s and her own particular way of looking at the world. (Red Magazine Online)

This brilliant coming of age novel for young adults is set to become a classic. (AGA Magazine)

Buy here:

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Hive

Book Depository (with free world wide delivery)

The one where I bin 35,000 words

It’s been a bit quiet round here of late. I’ve been on a mission, you see. I wrote The State of Grace in a whirl last year and it sold just before Bologna Book Fair. So with all that excitement over, I settled down to write my next adult book. 


I did the research. I wrote pages and pages of notes. I plotted and character sketched and doodled pictures of the horses who were a major part of the story. I’ve loved horses all my life, and the book was set in Wales, somewhere I’ve loved and visited many times since childhood. 

This was going to be such an amazing story, I thought. And I started writing and it galloped along until I got to 35,000 words and then I stopped.


It’s nearly Christmas, I told myself. I’ll read some comfort books and let the plot carry on sorting itself out in my head and it’ll be fine. 

“How’s it going?” people started asking.

“Good,” I’d say, and change the subject.

It was a perfectly nice story, but I had this niggling feeling something was missing. And whatever the something was, it didn’t seem to be hiding in the millions of post it notes or the pages of research or the piles of notebooks. It was an intangible thing.

It’s fine, I thought. I’ll fix it in the next draft. Only the thought of the next draft made me feel a bit sick, and I started waking up thinking ugh, I don’t want to do this. And I agonised over what to do and didn’t listen to my own instincts (which were by this point parading around the sitting room on a protest march waving placards).


And then a voice in my head said this is supposed to be fun, remember? 

The missing thing was joy. Happiness. I felt like I was writing it because I was supposed to, and somewhere, right in the very heart of the story, it showed. Because the heart of the story was missing. I didn’t connect with the main character and if I did, how could I expect that from a reader? 

So I put all the notebooks in a little pile and shoved them in a file. And I left my messy desk and decided to stop thinking about books for a bit until my brain stops whirling. The words I’ve written might end up somewhere else, one day, but they might not. And that’s okay. 

It’s my birthday today and I’ve decided this will be a year of doing brave things and saying yes to things that scare me (and no, instead of politely going along with things, too). And getting back to writing here – even if it’s about not writing – is a good start. 

Here’s to blank pages. And all the words and pictures to come. 

Coming Up Roses – my new book is here!

Coming Up Roses has arrived…

buy now!
coming up roses by rachael lucas

Coming Up Roses is here! This week has been amazing – I got home from the school run (no glamorous launch parties here, just the usual early morning chaos) to find that #cominguproses was a trending topic on Twitter on release day. There has been lots of excitement all over the from Pan Macmillan Towers (where you can actually try out the first chapter of Coming Up Roses by visiting their site)

to authors like Rowan Coleman, Miranda Dickinson, and Jill Mansell (which is a pretty amazing sentence to write) all cheering on Coming Up Roses which was brilliant. The blogging community has also been its usual supportive self and I’ve had so many lovely reviews, all of which I’ll be linking to over the next few weeks.

There’s loads going on over the next week or two – I’ve got signings coming up at Broadhursts in Southport and a brilliant new books-and-coffee shop called Write Blend in Waterloo if you fancy coming along. You can also find me at Blogtacular on the 13th of June – there are just a handful of tickets left!

You can find reviews, interviews, and Q&A features on the brilliant blogs below as part of the Coming Up Roses promotional whirl – and you can download Coming Up Roses now whilst it’s available at the promotional price of just £1.89  – which is less than the cost of a cup of coffee!
coming up roses rachael lucas author southport

Coming Up Roses – my next book!

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? For that I blame the fact that I ended up slightly drowning in rewrites of my next book, which is out on the 21st of May. Turns out I’m not very good at just fixing this and that. I ended up pulling at the written equivalent of a loose thread and unravelling the whole jumper into a woolly mess and having to rewrite the WHOLE thing.

I could lie and say it was easy… but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’ve run a marathon, and had a 9lb+ baby at home with no pain relief, so I know lots about doing hard things, I think). I cried a lot. I threatened to give up writing. I contemplated breaking limbs or paying back my publishing advance. (Okay, I might be a bit of a drama queen…)

And then it all came together. I really love the story it became, thanks to my lovely agent Amanda and my equally lovely editor Caroline, both of whom could see the story that was lurking underneath, waiting to get out.

And so here we are: in May 2014, Coming Up Roses will be released to the world. Here’s the cover – isn’t it gorgeous?

Coming Up Roses Low Res

What’s it about? Well, here’s the official blurb:

 

Would-be gardening expert Daisy can’t believe her luck when her parents announce they’re off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden, much in need of her expert TLC. And coming just after a break up, some peace and quiet in the countryside is just what she needs. Only, village life turns out to be anything but – with nosey neighbours and greedy developers instantly stirring up trouble.

What Daisy really needs is a good friend, or two. So when she comes across Elaine and Jo, she’s relieved to have multiple shoulders to cry on. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own – a marriage in crisis, a family secret and managing the local gossips.

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something like beautiful order, can she get a grip on her new feelings for handsome Irish rogue George and stop her parents selling up to a developer?

 

You can already pre-order it here (or you can wait and buy a copy in the shops!)

but how does it FEEL? (the writer roller coaster)

I went on Facebook just now and saw this.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 17.25.35

And I started to write.

What’s on my mind Facebook

Is that I’ve been up since 5am. I’ve had a million and one tweets of congratulation from blogging friends and famous writers and people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve featured in newspapers and online interviews and in blog posts.

At lunchtime Amazon had already sold out of their stocks of the paperback of Sealed with a Kiss and they’ve ordered in more.

I’ve jumped 176,200 places in their paperback chart since yesterday and that’s amazing.

I had a long thinking sort of shower and the characters for my NEXT book, the one that isn’t even due until next year, were talking in my head because they’re desperate to get out.

I went to the bookshop and they looked at me blankly and didn’t have any copies ordered.

I felt a bit deflated and we went for coffee and to do the school run (because all that stuff still goes on)

Then I saw this photo my mum had sent – from Waterstones in Milton Keynes

IMG00021-20140508-1337

And that’s MY BOOK on a bookshelf. And I felt amazing.

And then I read a text from my mum which told me she was proud of me, and that my dad would be too. And I cried, in the school car park, in the rain.

And then lovely Waterstones at the Trafford Centre told us on Twitter that they’ve got copies and they’d love me to sign some and I felt like A Real Writer for a moment.

And people keep asking how does it feel. And the answer is it feels amazing and terrifying and scary and wonderful and exhausting.

And tomorrow I’ll get up and go and sign some books, and then I’ll get on with writing my book.

And that, Facebook, is what’s on my mind. A bit much for a status update, really, but it’s been a bit of a day.

You can order Sealed with a Kiss here and have it delivered to your local indie bookshop.
You can buy Sealed with a Kiss here for Kindle or in paperback
You can click and collect Sealed with a Kiss at Waterstones here
I don’t mind how you do it really – but I hope you like it.

Sealed with a Kiss vlog – the books arrive

The paperbacks are here! D’you want to have a look? My favourite bit about this is the “is this on” moment where I don’t say a word. Technology is not my friend.

Sealed with a Kiss, my romantic comedy set on a Scottish island is released by Pan Macmillan on May 8th. Keep up to date with my writing, get extracts from my next books and be first to hear about signings, free book giveaways and more –  Just sign up for my newsletter here

Or you can join me on Facebook or chat to me on Twitter

Cathy Bramley’s Ivy Lane – book news!

I’m writing madly on my Book Camp writing retreat and hopefully getting lots done, but meanwhile I wanted to grab a moment (and one of the scraps of internet access which are few and far between here, which is a blessing and a curse) to pop up a guest post by my writing friend Cathy, who has a book out today which looks fab.

IvyLane Spring Cathy Bramley

Last summer on a flight back to the UK after our summer holiday I fastened my safety belt, turned on my Kindle and gave a contented sigh. It was hubby’s turn to sit with our daughters; the three of them were in the row on the other side of the aisle and I sat alone. Hurrah.

For two and a half largely uninterrupted hours I read. For those of you who love reading and for those of you who love reading AND have children you will feel my bliss. The book I read was Sealed With A Kiss by Rachael Lucas.

Oh my word! I loved that story so much. I wanted to be on that island, in that cottage with that dog, building those holiday cottages…

Anyway, the flight ended, the holiday ended and it was back to work. I stalked googled Rachael, followed her on Twitter, read her blog etc. Because Rachael was living my dream.

She was following the same path that I hoped to follow and I was desperately keen for her to succeed. Because if she did, then there was a chance I could do the same. Since then obviously Rachael has secured agency representation and signed a book deal with Pan Macmillan and I couldn’t be more pleased for her. She has works incredibly hard and deserves her success.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a pretty decent few months myself. I self-published my first novel Conditional Love in October and it became an Amazon best seller. I now have an agent and most excitingly, a book deal with Transworld.

 

Cathy Bramley MarshAgency

And today Thursday 3rd April is publication day for my new novel Ivy Lane!

Ivy Lane, will be comprised of four individual parts – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – which Transworld will publish as ebooks in their respective seasons (April, July, September, October). Ivy Lane tells the story of Tilly Parker, a young woman who moves to a new town for a fresh start. Tilly signs up for a plot at the local allotment on Ivy Lane and is drawn into the kind-hearted, funny and quirky cast of characters she meets there.

The paperback will follow next year, but the ebook is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo today!

Normally I would spend the day checking the Amazon charts, but I’m actually going to be on an aeroplane for six hours. With my Kindle fully-loaded, of course.

A massive thanks to you, Rachael for inviting me onto your blog today!

 

Author Interview – Paula Daly

As part of her blog tour I have an interview today with the brilliant Paula Daly. I was given a copy of her new book Keep Your Friends Close just before release and I devoured it in one day (you can read more about that here).

keep your friends close

Over to Paula’s answers…

Me: What’s your favourite comfort reading? Do you have old favourites you return to again and again?

I return to Kate Atkinson’s books over and over – not particularly comfort reading but I love the jaunty tone and rhythm of her language. I can read a paragraph and feel totally inspired. My one real comfort read is Anne of Green Gables. I will never tire of the story and my sixteen year old daughter and I re-watch the DVD together every Christmas. I think I am still trying to be Anne on some level.

Me: Do you read when you’re writing? (I know a lot of writers don’t tend to, and I’m always fascinated by this question. I’ve found I have to stick to different genres or I end up accidentally picking up writing characteristics by some kind of osmosis)

I am always reading. I read each morning in bed with a coffee (I treated myself to an espresso maker next to the bed when I got my book deal). I read when I’m cooking, in the bath each evening, in the car outside school. I’m not sure what I’d do with the chunks of time available when I’m writing if I wasn’t reading. I’d have to talk to people, I suppose…

Me: Where do you write? Do you have a routine?

I get the children off to school, put the washing machine on, walk the dog, and then start writing. I aim to write 800 – 1000 words before lunch and I generally don’t switch the Wi-Fi back on until I’m done. I have to be really strict about this as I know after one-thirty p.m. I’m pretty much brain dead. So I don’t answer the phone unless it’s one of the kids calling in distress or some other emergency.

I write in my bedroom overlooking Lake Windermere (although I have to pull the curtain across a little to shade the laptop screen). When I’m stuck I stare out the window and when I’m tired I have a sneaky nap. It is the BEST job.

Me: Your teenagers in Keep Your Friends Close were incredibly well written – do you think you’d ever consider writing a book in a different genre?

I can’t see myself writing in a different genre – thriller is my thing. And I’m not really turned on by YA. But never say never.

Me: When you’re not writing, do you keep a journal or do you have a break from writing altogether?

I have a break from writing altogether. That is, from the composition side of things. I find getting the words down the hardest part of the process, so I’m eager for a rest. What I don’t do is have a break from being a writer – if that makes sense. As soon as one book is done, I’m dreaming, planning and researching the next. I love doing this. There is nothing as exciting for me and I don’t think I could stop myself doing it if I wanted to.

Thanks to Paula for a fab interview – I’m feeling a bit of a slacker now, and I’m going to switch off the internet and get some writing done… more on that later this week.