Today on the Debutante Ball, we have the pleasure of young adult fiction author Katie Coyle’s company. Katie won the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize with her novel VIVIAN VERSUS THE APOCALYPSE, which will be available in the United States next year.
Katie has offered to send a copy of Vivian Versus the Apocalypse to one lucky commenter; details are at the end of this post.
Welcome to the Debutante Ball, Katie!
I am a writer and not a designer for a reason. I understand the world through words—stories and signs and snippets of conversation. I am a really boring person with whom to go to museums, and if for some reason you ever require somebody to draw you something other than an adequate stick figure, I am not your girl. If we should ever find ourselves together on a mountaintop, overlooking some majestic, otherworldly vista, you will recognize me as the woman standing off to one side, conspicuously eavesdropping on her fellow tourists, writing snippets of their dialogue in a notebook with a poorly-concealed look of glee on her face.
Which is all to say that when I found out that my first YA novel, VIVIAN VERSUS THE APOCALYPSE, was going to be an actual physical book rather than a Microsoft Word document lingering unread in my Dropbox, I really gave no thought to what the book would look like. Vivian is about a 17-year-old in a reactionary, religious alternate America, whose parents disappear in an apparent Rapture; she and her best friends set out to uncover what has really happened. It’s kind of a dystopian novel and kind of a road trip narrative; it’s partially a mystery and a little bit of a romance; it contains a fair amount of swearing and probably one too many Bible puns. When my design-impaired brain tried to picture the cover, all I could see were really stupid images. Perhaps a girl holding a magnifying glass, cowering in fear beneath a giant cross? Or, a girl behind the wheel of a car, her shoulders raised in a shrug, with a dialogue bubble containing the words, “Hey, where’d my parents go?”
These were terrible ideas, obviously. I knew that whatever the good people at Hot Key Books, my brilliant UK publisher, came up with would be better than these. But still I wasn’t prepared for the image that would greet me in my inbox in early April, when my editor sent over the prospective cover art, hoping that I’d like it.
I think it’s probably a bit uncouth to throw around words like “best” and “in human history” when talking about your own book cover, so I won’t. All I will say is that I immediately fell in love with it—I loved the striking blue of the title, the bold font, the strange and haunting image of the girl ascending. I love the shadow she casts below. It’s not a literal depiction of any scene from Vivian, but it captures exactly what I hoped it would: both the spooky unknown of Viv’s situation, and the strangely exhilarating thrill of being left behind. Most of all, I loved the random detail of the Chucks on the girl’s feet. They were my high school footwear of choice, and to see them there, on the cover of my first book, felt a little bit like how I imagine a parent must feel, looking into their kid’s face and seeing themselves. Like—oh, right! I made this! This is me!
My book will be published in the US next fall, and I haven’t seen the cover art yet. But I do know that I will always have a soft spot for this cover, so perfect for my first book, the result of a lot of hard work and eavesdropping, revisions and rejections, the Chucks-wearing girl I was in high school and all the people I’ve been since.
Have you ever bought a book just because you loved the cover art? What was it about the cover that grabbed you?
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by noon EST on Friday, December 20th, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Vivian Versus the Apocalypse. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Katie Coyle grew up in Fair Haven, New Jersey, and has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. Her debut novel Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was a 2012 winner of the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, The Southeast Review, Cobalt, and Critical Quarterly. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, and blogs at katiecoyle.tumblr.com. Follow her on Twitter at @krcoyle.