Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath.This final post in the series features a podcast interview with Celeste Ng all about her book, and the designer responsible for the beautiful cover, Jaya Miceli. Listen to Celeste talk about family, secrets, empathy, and activism: A Q&A with the designer behind Little Fires Everywhere’s beautiful cover art:
Did you interact with Ng when planning your design?
I worked closely with the art director, Darren Haggar. We bounced around ideas and tried to figure out a mood/setting that would best capture the closeness and secrets in this particular town. I came across Amy Bennett’s artwork and we both felt we’d hit upon something.
What were some ideas for this book that you didn’t end up using?
Some of the ideas were very abstract and some were too specific to the book. I painted some tudor homes.
What is your favorite part of your job? What’s the hardest?
I love reading the manuscripts. The hardest part is creating a cover that fits the tone of the book and that is also visually striking.
How has your approach to designing covers changed over time? What did you most want this cover to convey?
I was especially pulled into Ng’s book. I really loved the compellingly intricate and complex storyline and characters. The hard part is the process. I do a lot of art/photo research and sometimes create my own illustrations or hand-lettering, which can all take time. For this particular cover, finding Amy Bennett’s artwork was a perfect fit for Ng’s book. The evening hues, the aerial view of winding roads and the light in the homes, the idyllic sweet suburban street. You know that all can’t be right here.
Thank you so much for following along with The Life of A Book! Be sure to grab a copy of Little Fires Everywhere, especially now you know all the behind-the-scenes work that has shaped it.
Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath.In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself!This week’s interview is with Assistant Director of Publicity at the Penguin Press, Juliana Kiyan.What do you think is special or unique about LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE? Why will readers want to get their hands on it?
I think I can only start with its author, the wonderful Celeste Ng. She’s an incredibly thoughtful and keen observer, expert craftsman, and indefatigable worker. These qualities all shine through in Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s just as important to note that she embodies them off the page as well. (I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t say to check her out at @pronounced_ing!) She’s been a terrific partner to all of us at Penguin Press and PRH since the early days of Everything I Never Told You, and it’s a thrill to be a part of this next step in her long career. Celeste is a bona fide talent, and Little Fires Everywhere is a seriously unputdownable read.
How did you market this book differently from Everything I Never Told You?
Launching a second novel is a very different process from a debut. With a debut, the goal is to introduce a new literary voice to a wide audience and persuade people to take a chance on the book. We were fortunate to achieve this with Everything I Never Told You, as readers from all over were just as taken with Celeste’s gorgeous writing and the Lee family as we were. With a second novel, we certainly want to reach the fans of the first book and expand upon that, while also making it clear this isn’t Everything I Never Told You 2.0. The reasons why you fell in love with the first book are in the DNA in Little Fires Everywhere, but this is a wholly new story. In terms of publicity, the first item on my check list was easy, thankfully: people were eager to read the new book! Celeste’s profile has risen since her first book published, and many were looking forward to her next work.
How would you describe your job and how you worked on this book to a layman? What are some of the steps you take when you first start working on a title?
Ultimately my job is to help get a book out into the wider world in ways that compel readers to check it out and hopefully buy it. As a publicist, I work on connecting with media and with booksellers. On the media front, we aim to secure reviews and interviews with outlets that people know and trust and that have a wide reach. We line up as much media as we can at publication in order to get the book in front of a wide range of potential readers, and we continually build on those opportunities from there. With booksellers, we plan events that bring the author out to different parts of the country to connect directly with fans and customers. Booksellers are among a book’s earliest readers, and it’s incredibly exciting to hear from a bookseller who fell in love with a book and is eager to support it by hosting an event, by handselling, by writing a staff recommendation. My colleagues and I pursue all these avenues and more to, essentially, get the word out.
With a beloved author like Celeste, this was all a lot of fun. We began working on the publicity and marketing campaigns for Little Fires Everywhere relatively early, maybe about nine or ten months before publication in earnest. We had a rich foundation from our experiences with her first book, and we laid out our top goals and priorities. Early on in the year, Celeste visited the office, and that was the first of many productive discussions we’ve had as a team. It’s hard to believe we’re finally at publication.
Describe the book in one sentence.
Through the lens of the placid suburb of Shaker Heights and a deeply human cast of characters, Little Fires Everywhere is a finely observed examination of privilege and identity, words and action, secrets and belonging, and what it means to be a mother.
How closely do you work with the editor, art department, etc. when working on a title?
We all work very closely together. Both Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You were true team efforts from beginning to end. The publicity and marketing generally come in closer to the book’s pub date, but in the case of Little Fires Everywhere it was all hands on deck from the day of acquisition. We all loved the first book and couldn’t wait to dive in right away. Celeste’s editor, Ginny Smith Younce, and I have spoken and emailed more about this book than either of us could ever count—we always want to make sure we’re on the same page. Same with our marketing team: Matt Boyd, Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, and Grace Fisher. Marketing and publicity are very intertwined, and it’s important that we connect regularly since our efforts play off of and benefit each other. Marketing is also doing the crucial job of working with sales to make sure booksellers and accounts have everything they need as we approach publication. We’re all on Team Celeste and proud by association.
Anything else you think would be interesting for readers to know?
If it ever comes up in casual conversation, perhaps ask Celeste about her former career as a miniaturist. She is a fountain of information when it comes to teeny tiny physical recreations of objects from everyday life.
Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath.In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself!This week’s interview is with sales manager Megan Sullivan.
When you describe Little Fires Everywhere to book buyers, what is your hook? What is memorable or unique about the book? Why would they want it in their store?
First a little back story. I had been a buyer and bookseller at Harvard Book Store for many years and when I was hired to be his co-rep in New England, Karl Krueger invited me to an author dinner with Celeste and a bunch of booksellers even before I was a rep. I was excited to meet her as she lives just minutes away from me. Her book Everything I Never Told You was the first book I read as a PRH rep and is special to me for all this, so when I heard she had a new book coming, I hounded the editor (okay, asked politely a lot). I read Little Fires Everywhere as soon as the manuscript was posted, about 4 months before sales conference and I was immediately hooked. A sophomore novel can often slump a bit relative to an author’s first book. Not so this one—it dazzles. Rich characters and sense of place, Celeste is able to make you see the story from a variety of perspectives. I told my stores that this will be one of the biggest books in the fall and they should pile it up.
What do you like about this new book? Do you have a favorite moment or line? Were you surprised by anything?
I think the character development is richer in Little Fires Everywhere. And there are so many moments to pause and think that I don’t have a favorite. Elena Richardson, the mother of the Richardson clan, surprised me. She could have been written as a cookie-cutter wealthy woman, unaware of her privilege, but I felt Celeste wrote her with some compassion.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? What would surprise a layman to know?
I love getting to read books so early! It’s so much fun to talk with booksellers when you know one of their favorite authors has a book coming. I often feel like I’m a bookseller still just in a slightly different role.
Do you have a favorite bookstore in the Boston/Cambridge area?
I love all the stores around here, but I spent 14 years at Harvard Book Store and it’s part of my DNA now.
Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees. Take a look at the first post in this series here. Ever wonder how an audiobook gets made? Especially one as complicated and visual as Gemina? Read on for interviews with Audiobook Producer Janet Stark, Project Director Erin Spencer, and Audio Engineer Patrick Billard. You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version. Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles
Listen to an excerpt of the audio book now!What is your job title, and what does that mean for your daily work?
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.
We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more. If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you. Take a look at the first post in this series here. Today, we’re going further afield – independent booksellers from bookstores across the country want to share why they’re so excited about Gemina. You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version.
“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