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Stephanie Moss: The interior design process is very collaborative and we work closely with the authors. When the manuscript is submitted to editorial, the authors also share art, design notes and reference material for the different types of pages throughout the book. Our first task is to then flesh out those ideas into the designs for the pages that appear most frequently. Afterward, we’ll focus on the more unique pages throughout the book. These pages often involve partnering with talented illustrators, like Marie Lu, Meinart and Stuart Wade, to create Hanna’s diary pages and the ship schematics and logos. Each set of designs is then shared with the editor and authors where we’ll discuss possible changes and finesse each idea until it best captures the vision for the book. After the main pages are approved, we’ll begin bringing all the different components together and lay out the entire book. This is also the time when we fine tune some of the one-off page designs.
Ray Shappell: Yes, indeed. The Illuminae Files are ultimately their brainchild, so our goal in designing the series was to enhance their unique storytelling with a one-of-a-kind package. This series is more technically complicated than any other, and requires a huge collaboration with everyone involved. Once editorial and design approve a cover, we share it with the authors and value their opinions through each step of the process.
Creating the cover for Gemina was actually a breeze, compared to the process for Illuminae, because I already had an established series design. When I start a new series, I always think about how the current design would work for a second and third book. (Or more if we’re lucky.) So when we finally nailed down the concept for book 1 in The Illuminae Files—a brightly colored explosion interacting with the redacted documents from the story through acetate and a printed case—I also had a rough proposal for Gemina and the third book in the series. When Jay and Amie were in the offices celebrating Illuminae’s launch last November, I shared the proposed visuals for Gemina and they loved it!!! Coincidentally, the color of the blue explosion fits perfectly with the description of a black hole in Gemina. And the proposed image for book three is…XXXXXXXXX (redacted).
What is your favorite part of your job?
Ray Shappell: My favorite part of the job is creative problem solving. After reading the manuscript, I have so many concepts and design ideas. I love sketching them all out—picking out typefaces, colors, textures, illustrations, hand lettering, or hiring an illustrator, photographer, or CG artists—all to match the tone of the story. But since I’m not the only one involved, there will be multiple moments throughout the cover design process that require finding a new solution that addresses the needs and concerns of everyone involved, while maintaining creative integrity of the original concept and design. This is extremely fun and rewarding when you are able to make a final piece of artwork that becomes the book jacket. The Illuminae Files is a great example of this working at it’s best – the end product is a much better version of the original concept.
Stephanie Moss: The best part of my job is collaborating with a lot of talented people. Particularly with Gemina, it was exciting to pull together everyone’s ideas then work with artists and a wonderful designer, Heather Kelly, and see those ideas get interpreted in really neat ways.
What would surprise a layman to know about your work?
Ray Shappell: I love keeping physical authenticity of design over digital effects when possible. So in the case of Gemina, I actually set the files up clean on the computer first. However, once copy is approved, I then print out the covers and take a bunch of Sharpie markers, highlighters and tracing paper over to a light box. I cross out everything, scribble over the redacted areas, and make it messy. Then I scan it back into the computer and continue to line up all if the sharpie marks over the type on a different layer. I think it looks more realistic than if I used a digital marker.
What did you most want this one to convey?
Ray Shappell: I think that a successful jacket does a few things:
- It intrigues you and draws you in, making you pick it up and want to learn more about the story.
- It has great design (visual balance of graphic elements, typography, artwork, color, etc.)
- It stands out from the competition in a new and fresh way
- It informs you about the content from a very quick glance.
For The Illuminae series, our goal was to portray as much of the interior as we could on the cover, since it’s such a creative and unique story telling experience. Using the acetate to reveal and redact text from the case underneath was our solution for showing pieces of the story—with layers of actual text and phrases—in a new and exciting manner. I hope you enjoy the secret messages that are printed in the negative of the opaque white ink!
How has your approach to designing covers changed over time?
Ray Shappell: I’m hoping to push what’s possible in our YA market. I know how to make covers that will be liked and approved easily. But I prefer the challenge to create covers that push the limits of what we have seen before. Yes, they may require extra convincing and more energy, but the end result is a cover that really stands out from the rest.
I also have been incorporating more technology into my designs. I’ve created animated gif covers for Illuminae and Gemina, but I just finished working with a CG studio to create a fully animated cover for an upcoming series. Along with an augmented reality app, it brings the print book to life! It’s AMAZING and should be out shortly!!illuminaefiles.com
Janet Stark: It’s funny, many people I meet in daily life don’t understand what an audiobook producer does. Senior Producer is on my business card. We producers are a bit like casting directors working in collaboration with authors. Hiring actors, scheduling recording studios, basically managing a group of contributors (directors, sound editors, sound design people), all the way to QC notes and delivering the final audio. The production process always begins with reaching out to the author or authors to get a sense of ideas or expectations for the audio, and take it from there.
Patrick Billard: I’m the Audio Engineer here at Penguin Random House studios in Los Angeles. Our facility is made up of 10 recording studios designed for the purpose of recording audio books. I setup recording sessions and make sure our actors have good recording levels that match our specs, I assist the directors with any issues they may be having during the recording process, I maintain the studios to make sure they are clean and in working order and I book actors to come back to the studios after recording is finish to do pick-up sessions to fix any outstanding issues that remain after the books have been edited and proofed.
How did Gemina sessions compare to the usual audiobook session setups?
Patrick Billard: The Gemina session was quite different from our typical session here at PRH Studios where most books have one to two readers at most. Gemina was a large project with many actors so our setup was tweaked to have 3 microphones ready to record in our largest booth. Working with Ok Hee Kolwitz, Assistant Director of Technology and Post Production, we spent a couple days setting up the studio to accommodate the 3 mic setup, which required pulling backup gear from our storage closets and arranging the mics, chairs and music stands for optimal audio quality and sight lines for the actors. Erin Spencer, the director for Gemina, was amazing and did so much prep work to make the session run smoothly. We had to work on the fly as actors were going in and out of the studio to do their lines and we had to keep the levels consistent so we always had a good match
How long did it take to cast this book?
Janet Stark: The best way to describe Gemina: a casting marathon. Amie & Jay provided character descriptions for the primary characters. Secondary voices, maybe ten more, were cast as the book was taken apart page by page. Erin Spencer was project director, and she and I spent long meetings with the pages to nail down the session strategy. Separating out individual page sets for each role, using Gemina’s chat style format of multiple characters per page, we more or less dissected the book to make the most of each actor’s time. Then came the many minor voices with only a few lines each. People in the studio’s vicinity were being asked to get behind the mic for a line or two, resulting in a long list of uncredited voices. Being in the moment during sessions, ready for the unexpected, was basic to this production.
What was your favorite part of this project?
Janet Stark: Recording the pop song snippets! Amie & Jay put the lyrics in the text, then the music actually found me as I listened to a blast of new selections. The melody sung by Erin, well, I can’t imagine a session more fun than that.
Patrick Billard: Engineering the pop song part of the session was fun for me since my background is as a recording engineer at music studios in Manhattan for the past 10 years before moving to Los Angeles and starting to work here at PRH studios. Janet Stark, the producer for Gemina, also has a background in music studio engineering so we worked together during the session. I used my extensive experience tracking vocals for pop songs to coach Erin to get good takes and to help hone the parts as the song was being tweaked during the recording process, which is quite typical for most vocal tracking sessions for pop songs. We all had a lot of fun recording the pop song.
How long does an audiobook of this complex take to produce? Is that similar to a standard audiobook production?
Janet Stark: Comparing the complexity of Gemina to a standard audiobook, I’d have to say it was more like producing a film on audio. So many voices, evolving characters, sound effects, it all adds up to an experience I hope people enjoy.
Were you comfortable contributing voices here & there? Had you done something like that before?
Patrick Billard: Yes, Erin and Janet recruited most of the staff here at PRH to do wild lines and it was a lot of fun. For me it was a good experience being on the other side of the glass, as it makes me realize what it’s like to be a voice actor and that it’s not nearly as easy as it may look or sound. It also made me appreciate Erin’s skill as a director- she really knew what she was going for with my lines and did her part coaching me through the process. My particular lines were rather loud and vulgar which made me step out of my comfort zone which was exciting.
Project Director Erin Spencer’s take on the process:
Erin Spencer: Working on Gemina was a truly unique experience and unlike any other audiobook that I have directed. To begin, I read the entire book to get an overall sense of storyline and character arc. From there, it’s a matter of going over each page individually to see what is happening in each ‘scene’, which characters are speaking and how the art work and graphics can be adapted into an audio format.
We needed upwards of 20 actors for Gemina – with only a handful recurring from Illuminae, so it was up to Janet Stark and me to find the right actors for the roles we had available. Casting is very important and it’s a lot of fun to have so many actors on one title!
Studio time is really the most fun but equally the most stressful time for me, the project director. We had up to three actors in the recording studio at one time because Gemina was recorded as if we were doing scenes in a movie. The actors are able to engage and play off of one another, which really brings a sense of realism and keeps the tone very organic. As the director, I ran a very tight schedule each day. I may have had 15 actors coming in to read in a single day and the organization and scheduling had to be precise. My mantra on those days is TRUST! Trust that I did all the prep work needed to ensure we have every page covered, that all the actors are prepared with their pages, and that I have done everything I can do to make the process smooth and that the end product will be amazing! We don’t read this book like you would do with other books – in order, page by page. It’s read completely out of order based on which actors I have scheduled together that day. So, I have to trust that it’s all there. And honestly, when it’s all over, it’s simultaneously a relief and a little grief at the same time!
After Illuminae came out, I received the CDs so I could listen to it on my commute to the studio. I literally cried when I heard it. Cried out of sheer pride for all the actors who worked so hard, for the editor who did such a phenomenal job and in my mind has one of the toughest jobs of all, cried for the post-production team, and especially for Janet Stark who pulled it all together. I can’t wait to cry over Gemina, too.Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com
“Not only is this an amazing series, the books themselves are works of art. Jay & Amie weave crazy, intertwining stories that all take place in deep space. Gemina keeps you on your toes from start to finish and makes you question everything you thought you knew. One of my favorite series!” –Madison Duckworth, Liberty Bay Books
“Love this space opera series, from the page layouts to the drama between people- Hannah and Malikov, BeiTech team members with Ella…” –Suzanne Droppert, Liberty Bay Books
“Illuminae was one of my favorite reads of 2015, so when I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of Gemina I was simultaneously thrilled and nervous. Nervous because my expectations were high, and I didn’t know if the particular magic that was Illuminae could be recaptured. Guess what? This book did not meet my soaringly high expectations, it exceeded them. Somehow Kaufman and Kristoff have managed to not only recapture the breakneck speed and engrossing storytelling they introduced in Illuminae, but they have also managed to introduce two new main characters so captivating I didn’t mind leaving the old ones behind. If anything I think I like Nik & Hanna even more than Kady & Ezra. Told in the same format as the previous book, through chat logs, found footage, and mixed media, this book is nearly impossible to put down.
It had me turning pages well past my bedtime, and stretching every second of my lunch break. Imagine, if you will, Die Hard set on a space station with creepy aliens slithering around, and an unlikely duo of teenagers in the starring roles. That’s Gemina. And I loved every minute of it. My one point of angst now is waiting for the third book, as this only made me hungry for more. I can’t wait until Gemina hits the shelves in October so I can buy a finished copy for myself and see all the fantastic art I know will be included. A huge thank you to Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for lugging an advanced copy through the airport to gift to my store, and to Random House for providing the ARC in the first place. You have a lifelong fan.” –Tara Soulen, Book Shop of Fort Collins
“Somehow even better than Illuminae! Wow. Way more action, plus flesh-eating aliens instead of a zombie virus this time. I loved Hanna even more than Kady, and got attached to some members of the murderous BeiTech squad??? Can’t wait to see Hanna’s drawings in the finished book. More emotional whiplash than Illuminae too. HOW??? Amazing.” –Allison Senecal, Old Firehouse Books
Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFilesFollow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com