Cover Stories: Like Mandarin

Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin came out in the spring to great buzz. Read bibliophile brouhaha's review for taste of that. The cover always intrigued me for its use of white space and pastels. I think it's lovely. Here's Kirsten to talk about how it came to be:

"I've always felt like the most iconic images in Like Mandarin are wild girl Mandarin Ramey's long black hair, and the Wyoming badlands where the book takes place. My publisher did offer me input, and I made note of a few covers I really liked, and described the sort of black hair, badlands scene I'd always imagined on the cover of Like Mandarin.

"There's a part in Like Mandarin where Grace's thoughts blank out, then come back as a series of exclamation points instead of words. That's pretty much what happened when I saw my cover. It was taped to the bookshelf in my editor's office the first time I met her. I didn't expect to see it -- nor what I saw! It contained none of the elements I'd suggested, but it was so strong, and simple, and beautiful.

"Interestingly, my editor pulled out the image of another cover they'd been working on: a dark-haired girl from behind, against a backdrop of badlands. If I remember correctly, it was in black and white, and the font (a different one) was some bright color, like pink. It looked like an album cover, while the cover we went with looks almost like a movie poster -- just stronger overall.

"Although my first reaction was surprise, I adored my cover -- the white space, the moodiness, offset by the quirkiness of the title font and colors. However, I had one problem with it: who was the cover girl supposed to be? You'd assume she was Mandarin, right? But like I mentioned above, the most iconic part of Mandarin, to me, has always been her long black hair. And the cover girl's hair isn't black. It's more the color of Grace's hair -- but then, she looks a little old to be 14-year-old Grace.

"When I voiced my concerns, the designer tried to darken the girl's hair, but it took away the beautiful brightness of the photo. We all agreed it looked better the way it was before.

"I came to terms with the cover girl by thinking her of Grace, trying to be like Mandarin -- which is what the story is about. Grace, the way she wants to be seen. And you know what? Nobody has ever asked me who the girl is supposed to be. It goes to show the beauty of a cover is more important than the tiny details.

"Bonus story: there wasn't a photo shoot for my cover image, but it's not stock either. Random House found the image on an art-sharing site, and bought the rights to it. A few months ago, the girl who photographed the cover found me on Facebook, and informed me the girl in the picture is her twin sister. As a twin myself, I just loved every part of that."

Thanks, Kirsten! I love that too. And I do think the cover suggests a strongly character-driven book, which I adore.

What do you guys think of this one?