Cover Stories: Tantalize, Kieren's Story

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a huge supporter of the YA writing community who truly rocks. I recently wrote a guest post for her awesome blog, Cynsations, about writing "true" vs. "likeable" characters. She also happens to be the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the Tantalize series: ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED, Gothic fantasies from Candlewick. TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY, illustrated by Ming Doyle, is a graphic edition in which Cynthia re-envisions her dark fantasy through Wolfish eyes. How cool is that? Here's Cynthia with the Cover Story for  TANTALIZE: KIEREN’S STORY:

"I anticipated that the cover would nod overtly to Kieren’s identity as a human werewolf-hybrid. We often see this with books that involve a shape-shifter protagonist. I tend to prefer those in which it’s more subtle, like Vivian’s wolf shadow on the original cover of Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate (right).

"Usually in shifter books, the transformation is a powerful moment in the story, and as a reader I prefer to experience that in my imagination rather than to be offered a visual up front. However, in my story, because Kieren is a hybrid (and has some issues with that), he doesn’t shapeshift as easily or completely as, say, his mother who has no known homo sapiens heritage.

"I was wary of the idea that the cover might suggest that Kieren would go full Wolf and managing that more delineated duality would be the book’s focus. The story is more of a murder mystery with strong romantic elements than a straight-up creature feature, though certainly creatures abound.

"My first thought when I saw the cover was, He’s a boy. Definitely a boy.

"The cover illustration of Kieren is very masculine at a time when depictions of boys in YA cover art tend to skew pretty. This feels authentic to Kieren, who’s determined not to be a danger to others but is still willing to go dominant when interacting with other shifters.

"He has a full head of hair and generous nose, both befitting a Wolf, but he’s still firmly human, too. This is important because it’s Kieren’s intelligence-- rather than his instincts—that he relies on most.

"I was somewhat surprised by the sensuality with which Quincie is depicted, especially since the story (while it definitely has a strong romantic subplot) is more driven by the mystery/suspense aspect. I think you can see the tip of her tongue there.

"At the same time, the juxtaposition is a strong image, and it certainly evokes her sensual nature. After that initial moment of surprise, I fell quickly in love with it, and reactions from YA readers have been overwhelming positive.

"We get that Kieren is a shifter from his transformed hands and forearms, and in my mythology, that’s where the change starts. It’s also the most significant area because—when startled by an oncoming train—his shift kicks in and his claws accidentally skewer the hand of his best friend and true love, Quincie. Though Kieren manages to pull himself together enough to save Quincie’s life, his guilt over that accident haunts him throughout the book and causes him, in part, to withdraw somewhat from that precious relationship.

"When this Candlewick graphic novel cover was presented to my U.K. publisher, Walker, the team liked it so much that they adopted the concept in repackaging the first three prose novels in the series (below)."

Thanks, Cynthia! It's definitely interesting that the cover combines the pretty of feminine lips iwth the masculinity of Kieran's form. I am also just so excited that your novel went graphic--such a fantastic shape shift in itself.

What do you guys think?

PS-Read the original Cover Stories for Eternal and Blessed.