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The Clues in the Cover, a guest post by Betty Culley

Yes, my book covers make me cry! I’m not an artist but it’s magic to me how an artist can draw a vision I can only express in words. When I saw Chris Kwon’s cover art for my first YA verse novel, THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE, I got weepy. Part of my inspiration for the book, the mighty Kennebec River that runs through the small towns near me, was depicted with such beauty.

When I saw the cover for my debut middle-grade book, DOWN TO EARTH, I was equally amazed. One reason was that Henry’s house was eerily like my own house, right down to the attic window and the double chimney! And the trees rimming the land are just like the fir and hemlocks on my land. I hadn’t ever sent anyone at Crown Books for Young Readers photos of where I lived, but there it was.

The other thing that amazed me was the way the artist, Robert Frank Hunter, put significant objects from the book in the fireball on the cover. Some of those are: a dowsing stick, a sandhill crane, a compass, a notebook, a tusk, a tie, a slice of pie, and a rubber boot.

The dowsing stick is what Henry uses to find out if he is a water dowser or not. He comes from a long line of well drillers and water dowsers, who use a dowsing stick to find water deep underground. When they pass over water, the stick points downward. Henry doesn’t know if he has inherited this gift or not.

The tusk represents a 10,000-year-old wooly mammoth tusk Henry sees in the Maine State Museum. Unfortunately, in order to study and date it, the tusk was destroyed. Seeing this at the museum makes Henry worry what will happen to the meteorite that falls in his family’s field. It is much, much older than the tusk he saw.

Hints about the other objects in the fireball. The boots — Henry’s little sister. The tie— a visitor who brings a very unusual gift. The compass—saved from a flood.

This is the back of the cover. It has a quote from inside the book of what Henry is thinking when he’s standing on the roof of his house watching the fireball. He considers how big the universe is. That is part of my inspiration for the story—considering how vast the universe is myself and wondering what would happen if a meteorite from far outside our solar system landed here on earth.

Back cover says:
“I know scientists aren’t sure if there’s an end to the universe. I read that you can travel at the speed of light forever without reaching an edge of it. But when I was balanced on top of the roof watching the light burst over me, it felt real, how big the universe is.”

Seeing my covers reminds me how inspiration is everywhere. A book can inspire a drawing. A drawing can inspire a book. A river or a rock can be the seed of a story.  My next middle-grade novel The Natural Genius of Ants is partly inspired by something we usually walk by without noticing- ants. My next YA verse novel The Name She Gave Me is inspired by my own adoption history. Both books are coming out next year. I’ve seen cover sketches, and yes, there were some more tears!

Meet the author

Betty Culley’s debut YA novel in verse, THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick and on the ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List. Her first middle-grade novel is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s worked as a pediatric nurse and lives in a small town in central Maine.

Website: www.bettyculley.com

Twitter: @Betty_Culley

Instagram: @bettyculley

Facebook: @bettyculleywrites

About Down to Earth

Counting by 7s meets See You in the Cosmos in this heartwarming coming-of-age story perfect for the budding geologists and those fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.

Henry has always been fascinated by rocks. As a homeschooler, he pours through the R volume of the encyclopedia (to help him identify the rocks he finds). So, when a meteorite falls in his family’s field, who better to investigate than this rock enthusiast—with his best friend, James, and his little sister, Birdie, in tow, of course. 

But soon after the meteorite’s arrival, the water in Henry’s small Maine town starts drying up. It’s not long before news spreads that the space rock and Henry’s family might be to blame. Henry is determined to defend his newest discovery, but his knowledge of geology could not have prepared him for how much this stone from the sky would change his community, his family, and even himself.

Science and wonder abound in this middle-grade debut about an inquisitive boy and the massive rock that came down to Earth to reshape his life.

ISBN-13: 9780593175736
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 08/24/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Judge a Book By Its Cover — Sometimes, a guest post by Pintip Dunn

“Never judge a book by a cover,” the old saying goes. After all, a book and its cover are two separate works of art. They’re usually created by two different individuals. A beautiful cover doesn’t necessarily mean a beautiful story and vice versa. And yet, since I’ve been in the publishing industry, I’ve noticed a few curious phenomena: 

1) Readers will gladly admit that they’ve bought books based on the cover alone; 

2) Authors routinely receive the advice to change their covers if their books aren’t selling; 

3) When I’m complimented on my own book covers, I beam and exclaim, “Thank you so much!” — even though I had little to no say in their actual design.

What accounts for these events?

First, I don’t think it’s fair to claim that covers are wholly independent from the stories inside. After all, if the designer did their job properly, then they would’ve been inspired by the manuscript itself. Even if the details aren’t exact — I’ve been known to change my story to match the cover! — the designer should’ve tried to capture the feel and vibe of the novel. 

Moreover, covers are the ambassadors of books, a quick and easy visual representation that tells readers in an instant what to expect. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one of my book covers is worth…70k to 90k words. I seek, within those words, to create an experience for my reader, to whisk them away to another world, to bottle up emotion and preserve it. And yet, I don’t have thousands of words to convince a reader to give my book a try. My only tools are the cover and a brief synopsis.

Finally, every once in a while, a cover comes along that transcends all of the above, that creates meaning in and of itself.

I’ve had some beautiful, knock-out book covers over the years. I’ve heard, on more than one occasion, that I’ve been blessed by the cover gods. And yet, none of them have touched me in the same way as the cover of DATING MAKES PERFECT.

I am a first-generation Thai American who grew up in a tiny town in southeast Kansas. While I visited my family in Thailand every summer, I spent the rest of the year in Midwest America, where I hardly saw anyone who looked like me — in books, on the television, or in person. Rightly or wrongly, from my own insecurity as well as my peers’ micro- and outright aggressions, I came to believe that I was “other.” And because I was “other,” I was therefore ugly. 

At the same time, I’ve known ever since I was six years old that I wanted to be an author. Because of my childhood experiences, however, I fully believed that in order for me to achieve my dream, I would have to write books about white characters.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The strides the publishing industry has made over the last few years have been tremendous. To be sure, a lot more needs to be done, but even a few years ago, there was immense pushback about having an Asian girl on a book cover.

The twelve-year-old me never dreamed that I could one day have a book cover like this, and it would’ve meant everything for young Pintip to have seen this gorgeous cover centering a gorgeous Thai girl. 

Dating Makes Perfect

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt like such an alien in my own skin. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone through my childhood feeling like I didn’t belong — could never belong. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken until well after college for me to feel attractive. 

Or maybe, I would’ve just owned a book with a beautiful cover. But when that sixth-grade boy sneered in my face, laughed at my “squinty” eyes, and asked how anyone could be so ugly, at least I could’ve gone home and hugged this book close to my heart. At least this cover would’ve given me hope that life would one day be different, be better.

This story is for the teenage me — and for every other teenager who feels like they don’t belong. I wish I could go back in time and tell twelve-year-old Pintip, “Your story matters, too. Your existence has value. Your difference is something to be celebrated and embraced.”

I can’t, and so this book – and its cover – is the next best thing.

So, yeah. Maybe it’s okay to judge a book by its cover — at least some of the time.

Purchase a copy of DATING MAKES PERFECT at my local indie bookstore, ONE MORE PAGE!

Meet Pintip Dunn

A first-generation Thai American, Pintip Dunn grew up in a tiny town in Kansas. She went on to graduate from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and to receive her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip is a two-time RITA® award winner and a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. 

She’s obsessed with penguins, and her childhood dream was to marry someone whose last name is “Gwynn” — so that her name could be “Pin Gwynn.” Alas, she got stuck with Dunn instead, but her husband and three children are worth the sacrifice. 

They all visit Thailand yearly in order to stay connected with her family.

Social Media Links:

Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Goodreads

About Dating Makes Perfect

Dating Makes Perfect

The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.

Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

ISBN-13: 9781682814970
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 08/18/2020
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years