Today on the blog I’m delighted to have with me the always fabulous Laurie Morrison, another of my splendid Secret Gardener classmates. Laurie is here to talk about the cover of her upcoming middle grade novel, Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs (Abrams/Amulet Books). Laurie is represented by Sara Crowe.
Feast your eyes!
Here is the synopsis:
A thoughtful middle-grade novel about caring for others and for yourself—and what it truly means to be kind and vulnerable
Thirteen-year-old Ivy Campbell has always been a good kid: She supports her soccer-star brother, bakes with her nana, and puts her friends’ needs before her own. So of course, Ivy is 100 percent supportive when her mom decides to be a gestational surrogate. But when Ivy finds out the surrogacy treatment worked and her mom is pregnant—and has been for weeks—she’s shocked that she’s jealous and worried about what others will think. And most of all, she’s ashamed that she isn’t reacting to this news in the right way. The Ivy way. Ivy is determined to prove to herself that she’s just as unselfish as she’s always believed, and she gets the chance to do that when she receives an anonymous email from someone who needs her help. But the more Ivy dives into helping this anonymous person, the further she gets from the people she loves—and from the person who she wants to be.
El Space: When Saint Ivy was accepted for publication, what thoughts, if any, did you have about what the cover might look like? How involved were you in the cover process?
Laurie: I didn’t have a concrete vision for the cover, but I figured my publishing team would want it to pair well with the cover for my last novel, Up for Air. So I thought this cover would also have bold, bright colors, and I assumed it would be illustrated, rather than using a photo as some MG covers do. I was right about those things! But I also thought it might have more than one character on it. I was vaguely picturing Ivy in the middle with other characters around her. A lot of the plot is centered around some anonymous emails Ivy receives, and at different points in the book, she thinks different people might be the mystery emailer. So I thought maybe the characters she thinks could be emailing her would be surrounding her in the middle or something like that. But I love what they went with instead!
I wasn’t involved in coming up with the concept, but I was asked to provide a list of character descriptions back at the beginning of 2020, before the book had gone through edits, so that the team knew what all the characters looked like when they began cover discussions. And then I saw a few different versions once they’d settled on the concept, and my agent and I gave some feedback about Ivy’s appearance and the color scheme. The designer and illustrator made some great tweaks to accommodate our feedback, and it came together really well!
El Space: I love the cover! Who designed it? Who illustrated it?
Laurie: Thank you, me too! Jason Ford did the illustrations and Marcie Lawrence is the designer.
El Space: What was your reaction to the cover?
Laurie: From the first time I saw an early version, I loved the concept. I thought it was so smart, fun, and fresh. My editor and I had gone back and forth a lot about whether Saint Ivy was the right title for the book, because it’s not a book about religion. It fits the book well in a lot of ways, but we wanted to make sure the title wouldn’t give the wrong idea about the story. I’m so happy with the way the cover leans into the “saint” idea and plays around with it. The inspiration was to create a “lives of the saints” style fresco, but with fun modern objects that relate to Ivy’s story instead of religious iconography. I love the illustration style, which reminds me of the style for Up for Air even though it’s a different illustrator, and I think it’s really intriguing to have all those objects around Ivy because it raises questions about how they all fit together. As a reader, I would look at the cover and be eager to find out what all the items mean—if I hadn’t already read the book 500 thousand times, that is 😊. I also love Ivy’s hair—which is a lot like mine!—and her outfit. The first version I saw wasn’t yellow, and when I saw the final version with the color change, I was excited. It’s so vibrant!
El Space: When can we expect to see Saint Ivy out in the world?
Laurie: It’s coming out on May 18, 2021! And the paperback of Up for Air will release the month before, on April 13, with a sneak peek at the beginning of Saint Ivy inside.
El Space: Yay! I understand you have some other great book news. Please share!
Laurie: Yes, thank you! I’ve been working on an upper middle grade softball book called Coming Up Short, and it sold to my wonderful editor, Maggie Lehrman, and is slated to come out in spring 2022. Here’s the short pitch: After her father’s very public fall from grace, thirteen-year-old Bea self-destructs during the biggest game of her life. She doesn’t know how to connect with her dad if she isn’t a star shortstop, so she sets off on a summer trip to stay with her estranged aunt and attend a softball camp where she’s determined to fix her throw to first base and, hopefully, her family.
It partly takes place in a fictionalized New Jersey town that’s a lot like where I grew up, and it partly takes place in Gray Island, the setting from Up for Air! I’m very excited and grateful to get to keep working with Maggie and the whole team at Abrams, and this story is especially personal and important to me. Plus, I just love writing about girls playing sports!
El Space: Thank you for being my guest, Laurie!
Laurie: Thanks so much for having me and for your awesome questions!
And while you wait for Saint Ivy to debut, check out Laurie’s other books.
Comment below to be entered into a drawing for a preorder of Saint Ivy! Winner to be announced some time next week (once I make my deadline).
Author photo and book covers courtesy of Laurie Morrison. Author photo credit: Laura Billingham.