Two years ago, I wrote about how much I loved the cover for my forthcoming novel Surface Tension. In fact, I loved it so much that it helped me re-write the book. I loved the dreamy quality of the image, the muted colours, the hazy lack of clarity, the stylised but somehow childlike way the drowned town was represented.
When I was told that Candlewick wanted to re-jacket the book for its US release, I wondered what they could possibly come up with that could match it. To be honest, I was a little skeptical, a little apprehensive.
While they were designing, we talked about titles. They didn’t feel that Surface Tension was the best title for the book, given its middle-grade audience. And there was also another book on their Spring 13 list with a similar title. Given those two factors, they asked whether I was open to changing it. I was, but I really struggled to come up with alternatives.
There was much riffing along the lines of:
Atlantis/drowned town/sunken world/mermaid
We mulled it over for months. Eventually, I sent an email to my editor that read:
I’m leaning towards something like:
Secrets from the/a Drowned Town
Our Town, Drowned
The Town that Drowned (but oddly, I’ve just googled and discovered that a book came out in Canada last year with this exact title – about a town flooded to make way for a reservoir. You can’t beat the zeitgeist, can you?).
I think I like the ‘drowned town’ phrasing because it’s evocative and likely to make a potential reader curious. I don’t think we can use Atlantis without a qualifier, or we run the risk of misleading readers into thinking it’s an actual Atlantis story. I was thinking of something like “Secrets from a Sometime Atlantis”, but that feels a bit like it’s reaching too hard to me.
And after all this back and forth, the title we agreed on was …
Huh. You guys, I was a bit worried at first. I thought it was kind of flat, that it lacked energy, at least compared to the sorts of things I had been considering. But when I saw the title on the new jacket, I was immediately sold.
I think the title and the cover work really well together. I love the way the ‘O’ is rippling as Cassie swims through it, the way some of the other letters are slightly off centre, as if they’re floating. I love the deeper colours. I love the birds’ eye view of the lake. At the risk of loving far too many things, I really love the way that at first the town beneath isn’t obvious – it just looks like patches of shape, shades of colour. But the closer you look, the more is revealed, the more the shapes resolve themselves into something – something regular, planned, built.
This is perfect for the story, which is in essence a mystery, slowly revealed and explored. But it also fits really well with the way the very first seeds for the story were laid – when I was standing on the edge of the lake all those years ago, thinking I was standing on rocks, just like Cassie does in the book, then gradually realising they’re oddly flat, and orderly. And ah … a road? Going down into a lake?
So yes, I love it, for many reasons.
The other element to this cover that I really like is that both Cassie and Liam are there. Their friendship is so central to the story that it almost seems odd to me now that we only had one character (which one? ah, ambiguity!) on the cover of Surface Tension.
So there it is – my brand new cover, for my old new book. I felt that the Surface Tension cover was so right for the story that I couldn’t imagine the book with a different jacket. But somehow, as different as the Candlewick cover is, I find myself equally taken by it.
I can only hope it strikes a chord with US readers. Candlewick will release Below over there on 14 May.