Melissa Walker

Friday, April 18th, 2014 Melissa Walker

finallifeafter_cover.jpeg.jpgSarah Darer Littman‘s latest novel, Life, After, came out last week. I’ve been looking at this gorgeous cover for six months, and I can finally share the story behind it. Here’s Sarah:
“Because one of the underlying themes of the book was that on 9/11, our country finally began to understand the kinds of terrorist threats that the rest of the world had been dealing with for decades, I wondered if they might incorporate the Twin Towers on the cover. The initial cover design did.
“I wasn’t sure I was that crazy about that first cover. It was very subdued and to be honest, a little depressing, which is more the mood of the first part of the book when Daniela, the main character, and her family are living in extremely difficult circumstances during the economic crisis in Argentina. But to me, it didn’t capture the hope and the optimism at the core of the story — that a terrorist act shatters lives, but we cannot let it conquer our spirit; that with courage, faith and love, we will prevail.
“I was a bit uneasy about using the images of the Towers. I’d sent the cover design to Claudette Greene, to whom the book is dedicated. Claudette lost her husband on United 93 and she expressed concern. The other thing that didn’t work for me was that the background image was supposed to be Buenos Aires, but there was nothing that made that apparent. As far as I was concerned, it could have been Queens.
“Fortunately, my editor was very responsive to my concerns. I said that if we were going to use the Buenos Aires background, I thought there there had to be some recognizable landmark. I did some research and sent them a bunch of images from Google. But the problem is that Buenos Aires doesn’t have a landmark that would be known to a world wide audience in the way that Paris has the Eiffel Tower or New York has the Statue of Liberty. The most major landmark, The Obelisk, looks too much like the Washington Monument. I could see that it was going to be problematic trying to create that distinction in a way that would be recognizable to an American teen audience.
“I’m happy to say that the art department took my concerns to heart; the cover changed completely. Unbeknownst to me, they went back to the drawing board and did a complete redesign. I was absolutely thrilled with the result. It was a much brighter, cleaner and more inviting cover than the original design, and I love the way it’s been carried through to the inside of the book, with leafy designs on each chapter heading.
“The illustration is from IStock. I love it! I think it’s a more hopeful and optimistic image than the cover than was first proposed. The cover image draws from an actual tree that’s important to Daniela in the story but is also symbolizes two themes of the novel: roots, torn up when families are forced to immigrate from their native country to be replanted in new ground, and rebirth – after the devastation of a terrorist attack, and when starting life in a a different land and culture.”
Thanks, Sarah! I’m so, so glad this cover ended up where it did. The final version is beautiful.
Here’s the trailer for the book:

What do you guys think of the cover?
PS-You must watch this StoryCorps animation of Sarah talking to her son Josh. It’s touching, funny and true.

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