Kirsten Smith is a Hollywood screenwriter with more than a few big credits to her name: 10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, and Whip It, for example. She’s also the author of the fantastic novel-in-verse The Geography of Girlhood. Her new young adult novel, Trinkets, has a cover that made me stop and stare. Kirsten’s here to talk about the process that led to the final image:
“The first cover concept we explored was a riff on mug shots, but when we saw the first mockup, both my editor, Kate Sullivan, and I felt it suggested more jail-time or criminality than the book explored. So we went back to square one. I had been working with my friend Tavi Gevinson, so the editorial and visual style of her magazine Rookie was on my mind. I suggested to Little Brown that we work with them on something. With Tavi’s help, we could try to make a cover created literally by and for teenagers. Obviously, this was unusual, but if it worked, it could be really special.
“Tavi introduced me to 18-year-old photographer Petra Collins, whose work is beautiful, sexy, dreamy, and to designer/illustrator Kelly Abeln, and we were off and running. Kelly created mood boards for Little Brown before Petra went forward with the shoot, so everyone could have a shared vision.
“Petra, who’s based in Toronto, emailed tons of photos of models, most of them her friends or friends of friends. We went back and forth and finally picked three girls we liked, then decided on general locations (a bedroom, school hallway, shopping mall) that worked with the new concepts Kate and I had drummed up. Over two weekends, Petra did two photo shoots, which she styled and oversaw. After the photos were in, Kelly integrated them into some temp designs to present to the publisher. From there, Little Brown’s inventive and talented in-house designer Erin McMahon took over, focusing in one image, cropping and saturating it in an unexpected way so it almost recalls security camera images, and giving it an absolutely to-die-for title treatment.
“All told, it was a two-month endeavor that resulted in a cover created with materials from real teens and made collaboratively between them, myself, and my publisher. Now, for me, looking at the cover is an emotional experience. It’s not just seeing an evocative image with a cool title treatment; instead I see a beautiful collaboration between friends and young women who trusted each other and were willing to break the rules…which is what Trinkets is all about.”
Thanks, Kirsten! This cover made me instantly want to read the book. The image feels immediate, but also ethereal. I love the girls’ faces, the colors, and the realness that comes through.
What do you guys think of this cover?