Amy Spalding on Cover Art, The Reece Malcolm List and Matt Saracen

If you’ve ever checked out our policies page, you’ve probably noticed that we generally don’t take part in blog tours and cover reveals—it’s just not our thing. However, Amy Spalding made us a pitch we couldn’t refuse, in which she mentioned that both Friday Night Lights and Something Like Normal are favorites of hers. And then she told us her story of art directing the cover for her own book, The Reece Malcolm List. We’re all extremely interested in cover design (and have a lot of opinions about it), so it was great to chat with Amy about this project. We’ll be revisiting Amy on the 13th to see what the final cover looks like. 

First off, I know your book, the Reece Malcolm List, won’t be released by Entangled Teen until next year, but I’d love to hear a little bit about your debut young adult contemporary novel.

Absolutely! The Reece Malcolm List is about Devan, who—after the death of her father—is sent off to Los Angeles to live with the mother she’s never known. And, oh right, who’s a bestselling and semi-reclusive author. Figuring out her new family situation is tough, but at least she’s attending a performing arts high school where she lands one of the leads in the fall musical. And of course there are new friends, enemies, and boys to deal with, as she tries to figure out the seemingly impossibly-complicated Reece Malcolm. 

What prompted you to go out a limb and ask to art direct/produce your own cover for The Reece Malcolm List?

For one thing, I’m a huge control freak! I was so determined to have a great cover that once I had a clear idea I figured it couldn’t hurt just to ask. I’ve made it a habit to ask whenever I can; there are so many opportunities that can arise just from being the person who thought to ask. Also I knew I had a talented photographer on my side who could produce something really beautiful and professional.

What were you hoping to convey with your cover?

Mainly I wanted to set the right tone. Even though some of The Reece Malcolm List is serious, there are a lot of lighter moments, and I wanted the cover to capture the tone. I also wanted a reflection of the Southern California setting without anything cliched (like palm trees or the Hollywood sign!). It was incredibly important to me that Devan, who is really obsessed with fashion and style, was actually styled to live up to that. And lastly—and probably most importantly—I wanted the titular Reece Malcolm List, or the notebook Devan keeps it in, to somehow make an appearance.

Were there any cover trends or themes you were hoping to avoid?

Okay, so, I know a lot of people are sick of covers with heads or other body parts cut off. I’m actually not—I totally get it! I don’t really want to see clear pictures of characters; I want to make my own mind up about how they look. But I know it’s a worn-out theme at this point. So I was determined to figure out a compromise. I also—even though there are two very cute boys in the book—didn’t want to focus on the romance, but more on Devan and her journey.

Was there anything that surprised you about the process of creating the cover for The Reece Malcolm List?

I was so lucky to have photographer Jessie Weinberg working on this, because she thought of EVERYTHING. She knew how the notebook had to look, she knew that the styling would look a certain way, she knew at what angle the sun needed to be for a good shot. I seriously had no idea to even THINK about that stuff, but the attention to detail really paid off. It was also interesting to me, as someone who doesn’t know much about photography, how different real life and a photo can be. The nail polish we originally thought would be best looked less like a rock ‘n roll pink and more like a 1980s neon nightmare in the test shot. And I’m pretty sure no one could pull off wearing so many accessories in real life but I had to add more during the shoot because it didn’t look “finished” enough. So it really comes down to little details that I had no idea would make such a difference.

You have a background in advertising and marketing, right? Was it any different working on what’s essentially a marketing project for your own work? I imagine it would be pretty tough!

It’s seriously really weird! I spend every day working on marketing other people’s films, and then have to make decisions about my own book. And on one hand I know I’m at least qualified to do this professionally, but on the other of course I can’t be FULLY objective about my book. So I’m glad that I had other people around who were willing to tell me when I was wrong or crazy about things. That’s really my life advice too: surround yourself with people who will call you out on your crazy.

Okay, one last super-important question: Who’s your favorite Friday Night Lights character and why?

This is a pretty much impossible question, because I love everyone in their own way. Landry is the guy I would have been friends with but secretly-crushed-on-SO-HARD in high school. Tyra went from being someone I couldn’t relate to in any way but whose ultimate achievements probably made me cheer the loudest. And of course Tami Taylor is one of the best-written female characters on television, period, because she’s so strong and smart and warm and brave and gutsy. Bonus points go to Matt Saracen because last year ON MY BIRTHDAY my friends and I ended up one table away from Zach Gilford at one of my favorite restaurants. Happy birthday to me.

Oh, man… I know Laura is going to be insanely jealous of Amy’s close encounter with Matt Saracen! Thanks so much to Amy for stopping by Clear Eyes, Full Shelves. Make sure to visit all the stops on Amy’s tour (you can find them on her blog) to learn about the interesting process of creating her book’s cover. And, swing back by CEFS on Wednesday to see the finished product.

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