Monday, July 19, 2010

Interview with Shiver/ Linger Cover Designer

So ever since I got my cover for SHIVER, I've been agitating to interview Christopher Stengel, the man behind the mask. My cover designer. Such a thing proved more difficult than I expected, as cover designers apparently have packs of ninjas protecting their offices. It seemed I would never have answers to my probing questions: why silhouettes? Why blue? Can I have a pony on the third book?

Anyway, a year later, the interview finally came to fruition. I have the first two questions here and then Scholastic's On Our Minds has the rest of the interview. Hope you enjoy!

1. So, Chris. You are an artistic demigod. I could ask you deep and probing questions about how you came to be a cover designer, but I'm pretty self-involved and all I really what I want to know about is how the Shiver and Linger covers came about. Talk to me about the process. How far in advance did start the Shiver cover process? Did you read the novel or just a description? For Linger?

At first, I began reading the manuscript and got a good feel for the characters and plot.  Before I finished, I wanted to get the creative ball rolling, so I had a few conversations with the editor.  By the time manuscripts come to me, the editorial staff has had a lot more time to spend with the content, so I'm always very interested to hear their thoughts.  Sometimes, a person takes something away from a story that you may have either missed or interpreted differently.

The editorial conversations did not end up leading to the approach for this particular jacket.  Obviously, the single word in the title evokes a cold feeling, and there was no question that an icy cold had to make its way into the design.  A number of special effects were discussed, but given the age range for this book, it felt appropriate to find something more interesting, tasteful, and different.  It took a while, but one lonely autumn evening, at a crappy roadside motel in Stockbridge, Mass, I found myself stepping out for a burger in town.  I opened the door out to the parking lot, and this is what I found...

HeartLeaf_to accompany designer Chris Stengel's blog post

... The gears in my head started to speed up and I immediately snapped a photo and made my way back to New York a few days later.  Once I was back in the office, I found some decorative branches that were abandoned in a vacant office.  Once again, photos were snapped and a jacket image began to take form.

As far as Linger was concerned, it seemed that everyone really wanted to see a "Shiver: Part II."  Once again, I met with the editor to go over plot points, however, this time, the schedule was a bit accelerated and I didn't even have the opportunity to read the manuscript!  After some time, we figured out the appropriate scene/feeling.  Since Spring follows Winter, I knew from the get-go that things had to be keyed to green.  It just makes sense!

2. A metric ton of YA covers these days are photo-based. Shiver's cover is definitely not -- it's clean, stark, graphically impressive. (Similar to the gorgeous cover of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, actually, which you also did). Is this your style in general, or was it a direction you went specifically for Shiver?

That's hard to say!  In this field, one of the challenges is to play the role of a commercial designer, however, at the same time you want to have some fun and put a little bit of yourself into the jackets as well.  Sometimes photography is the correct approach for a certain book depending on the age range and content, and other times, an iconic and graphic direction is needed.  It's a matter of picking the right tool(s) for the job, I guess.  While Shiver may be a YA title, it felt like it truly deserved to be set apart from the many photo-based covers on the shelves.

For the rest of the Q&A and for a revolting cool t-shirt giveaway, please visit:


Anonymous said...

GREAT interview!

He is truly an artistic demi-god.

Zoƫ Marriott said...

Now I'm consumed - *consumed* I tell you - with the desire to know where the blood will be on Forever's cover. The O? As a full stop, or maybe an ellipse after the word Forever?? Dripping from one letter??? Nmmkkghlkk!?!

Becca said...

I always thought you made the covers! The art is similar to your stop motion trailers. But the covers do set the books apart, and they are beutiful! I am from Western Mass, and have been to Stockbridge. There are a couple of crappy motels, but really central and western Massachusetts are beutiful, espicially in fall. (And winter can be similar to Mercy Falls) Love how he got his insperation! :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...


@I hope -- that was deliberate, I did the first stop motion trailer to be in the same "look" as the cover of SHIVER.

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