Below: The Cover

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
diving/swimming/drowning/floating/holding breath
still waters/underwater/waterproof

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.

7 thoughts on “Below: The Cover

  1. Laura

    I love the cover for “Below” so much that I'm putting it on my blog on Thursday, in a list of my favorite book covers! Something I can't seem to find anywhere, though – the name of the designer! Do you know who it is? Thanks! Congratulations on the success of your book!


  2. Meg McKinlay

    Thanks, Laura. I'm afraid I don't know the name of the designer; it's not something that seems to come up often for some reason. I could probably ask Candlewick if you like? Not sure if I would have a reply by Thursday but we can always cross fingers.


  3. Laura

    Thanks so much for the offer, Meg! I actually did some rearranging of posts and put the list up today – you can check it out here, if you would like: . I've just left out the name of the designer for now – if you have the time to get in touch with Candlewick, that would be wonderful (I can always update the post whenever, so there's no need to rush it)- but if not, don't worry about it! It's a pretty new blog, so I don't think anyone will be up in arms about the omission…! Thanks again for your help!


  4. Meg McKinlay

    Thanks again, Laura. The post looks great. I do love looking at covers! And wow – it is quite something to see my cover there alongside some real classics. Candlewick have now advised that the designer for Below was Matt Roeser; it would be wonderful if you could acknowledge him there too. Thanks so much!



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