Happy Monday, friends! Well, it’s a long weekend here in Canada and while I can think of few things that can further improve on an unexpected day off work to relax and (of course) read, being able to help a friend is certainly one of them. Today, I have the immense pleasure of hosting the exclusive cover reveal for debut author, McKelle George, and her forthcoming YA release, Speak Easy, Speak Love! Coming to a bookstore and library near you September 19th, 2017 from Greenwillow Books, Speak Easy, Speak Love is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing recommended for fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen. The cover of Speak Easy, Speak Love was illustrated by Chellie Carroll. Please read on to learn more about this clever, enchanting release, including the cover reveal and a personal note from the author about the novel’s origins and inspiration, as well as an exclusive interview between the author (George) and illustrator (Carroll) and an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy of Speak Easy, Speak Love.
Speak Easy, Speak Love is a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, but when I was a teen, I hated Shakespeare. Or rather, I didn’t understand Shakespeare after slogging through Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Ceasar in high school, and so hated him as an excuse for not understanding him. Where I went to university, English majors were required to take a course either on Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer — and I had already decided I’d be studying Milton.
But then I got accepted into a study abroad program where students essentially started in Scotland and hiked their way down to London, stopping at all literature related sites along the way. Because some of those stops involved Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born and died, and also places like the Globe Theater, it was required to study Shakespeare before going on the study abroad.
Thankfully, I had a wonderful professor who emphasized the wide array of interpretation Shakespeare’s plays allow, and then I got to see those plays enacted in the UK. Half a block from the church where Shakespeare is buried, I was splattered with stage blood at a performance of Titus Andronicus. When I watched from my “peasant” position at the Globe, leaning my arms on the stage, Puck was playfully almost dropped into the audience by a teasing Oberon — and during The Tempest, Antonio wrung out his soaked codpiece after being “shipwrecked” right by my head, and smirked (like the villain he is!).
Basically, I fell in love.
I wrote the first draft of what became Speak Easy, Speak Love the month after I returned, and my love for Shakespeare is directly tied to my love for England, so I was completely delighted that the artist who drew my cover illustration, Chellie Carroll, is from the UK.
For me, not only is it a beautiful piece of art by itself, but it also wonderfully encapsulates my book. I love the emotion in the illustration. It feels like the two characters are maybe going to stab each other…or kiss each other, and it’s perfect for Beatrice and Benedick.
Chellie has graciously endured my fangirling over her work, and agreed to answer a few questions about her process and the illustration.
McKelle: Did the design team at Greenwillow give you a specific template to work with? Or did they give you a general summary of the book and let you do what you wanted?
Chellie: Initially, I was sent the concept layouts that had already been mocked up for ‘Speak Easy Speak Love’ using artwork that I had already produced, along with the manuscript and general outline of the plot and characters. As a brief it was great as it straight away set in my head the modern and strong feel that Greenwillow were looking for. For me, it was a dream brief as the 20s is my favourite era!
I’m also really interested in your process. Could you talk us through that a little bit, from concept to final product?
Once I had received the brief my first steps were, research, reading and sketching and, hopefully, come up with a few initial sketches that I could put forward, to see if I was on the right track.
For me, waiting for feedback on the initial sketches is always the most nerve racking, as hopefully your interpretation is the right one.
Luckily, it was! Once I received the initial feedback I went forward and put together a series of more comprehensive roughs, tweaking colours and trying different compositions until I had a set of roughs that were ready to present at the editorial meeting. After the editorial meeting there is usually one favoured composition and with the feedback this rough then goes through more tweaking until the colour and composition is agreed.
When the final was agreed I got to go away and start artworking. I love this bit, all the tweaking is done and I now get to bring the image to life!
In your opinion, how important is the artwork on a book cover, in terms of sales and marketing?
I’m no expert on sales and marketing, but I think that the book cover is an important part of the book. It’s the books first impression to any potential reader, and hopefully, the hook that will get a new reader to pick it up and start reading. There are a lot of books out there competing for attention so the cover not only has to grab the attention but has to be true to the feel of the story inside.
Did you do any previous concepts that the design team didn’t use? If so, how many, and is the one we ended up with the one you personally would have chosen?
There were quite a few concepts that didn’t make it but, in my opinion, the final image chosen was definitely the right one. I think you instinctively know early on in the process which is the front runner, the ‘one’.
What other projects are you working on as an artist? (Sorry, I’ve been stalking your website, blog, etc. I really love your art…)
I have recently been lucky enough to have been working on quite an eclectic mix of work, a lot of decorative line work for various adult colouring in books and illustrations for a pre-teen fantasy/adventure series, ‘Guardians Of The Wild’.
Although I have been illustrating for many years I’m pretty new to book publishing and I’m really enjoying it! I am currently putting together some new story book concept pieces as well as working on some personal art pieces for print.
About McKelle George
McKelle George is an editor, reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). She currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.
Title Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author McKelle George
Pages 368 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
To Be Published September 19th, 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement — one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.
As an extra, exciting bonus, McKelle has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of Speak Easy, Speak Love as well as a copy of Pride and Prejudice: A Coloring Journal! This contest is open internationally and the prize will be distributed once ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!