Epic KINDLE Giveaway + Cover Reveal for Meredith McCardle’s The Eighth Guardian + Interview with the Art Director of Amazon Children’s Publishing

So the ladies at Pub(lishing) Crawl and I (Susan) are super excited for exactly 4 reasons today. Those reasons are:

It’s Friday the 13th, which is freaky and awesome.

We have the very lucky honor of revealing the cover for one of my most FAVORITE BOOKS!! What is that book? It’s The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle.

We have an amazing interview with the designer of Meredith’s cover—who also happens to be the Art Director at Amazon Children’s Publishing! Katrina Damkoehler has given us a fascinating inside look at what designers do. But more on the epic cover and the epic book in a moment…

Because I need to share the FOURTH amazing reason we’re excited today.

Wait for it…wait for ITTTTTTT…

4. You can win a Kindle Paperwhite in today’s post!!

I know, right? Right?! Isn’t that just out-of-this-world insane? Meredith and her publisher (Skyscape) have donated a Kindle Paperwhite to help spread the word about The Eighth Guardian, and we are so thrilled that we get to be the ones to spread that word!

Now, in case you’re wondering what The Eighth Guardian is—you know, to get you super hyped up for the beautiful cover (and wow, WHAT a cover)—here’s a brief summary of the book:

Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.

It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.

But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.

Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

And guys, I’m not exaggerating when I say this book is one of my favorites. I was lucky enough to read it years ago, and I fell in love. The characters, the world, the edge-of-your-seat action, the humor—this book seriously has it all, and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a final version.1

Now, before we reveal the cover, we want to share this awesome interview we have with Katrina Damkoehler, who isn’t just a designer with Skyscape and Amazon but the Art Director of all Amazon Children’s Publishing.

Thanks so much for joining us, Katrina! To start, can you talk a little bit about your  process for coming up with cover designs? Do you read the book or rely on a summary? How much input do you get from the editor in the early stages?

First, I have to say that I was more of a concept developer and type designer on this cover than a true cover designer. The amazing illustrator, Cliff Nielsen, created all of the visual framework you see. Before art directing any cover, I always read at least the first few chapters of book (more if I have time)—enough to get a good sense of the tone of voice and pacing of the book. I also rely on a summary of important plot points, settings, symbols, and characters from the book’s editor to brainstorm cover ideas—usually in the form of a cover/design brief. Every designer works differently, but I tend to spend a lot of time at the beginning of a new project doing comparison cover and genre research, photo research, and jotting down ideas for what to communicate on the cover (and bouncing those ideas off the Editor). This early planning creates a roadmap for the rest of design process.

Wow. I never realized how much research went into it—though it definitely makes sense. For The Eighth Guardian, how many concepts did you consider? And how did you decide on a winner?

I generally ask to see (or create) at least 3 directions for a cover. This book was unusual because I went into it with a clear sense of what I wanted to see. Around the same time I was reading the draft, I came across Macoto Murayama’s flower illustrations: https://www.google.com/search?q=macoto+murayama+flowers&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=yvSoUrfVJc63kQek5oHACQ&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1412&bih=968. I loved the beautiful colors and sci-fi feeling they have. I kept imagining a technique like this for The Eighth Guardian. I described a concept inspired by these images to the Editor, and our Sales & Marketing team, and everyone liked it.

I LOVE that the cover features a scene from the book. In the book, Iris goes back in time to several major historical events. How did you decide on picking the Boston Massacre for the cover rather than some of the other historical options?

The Boston Massacre scene made the most sense to us because it’s both significant to the story, and instantly recognizable as a historic event in America—it can quickly get the historic side of the book across to potential readers. There’s also something really fun about a fresh, futuristic approach to a familiar scene many of us have seen throughout our lives in history books.

I agree that the Massacre is iconic—and you can definitely get that US history vibe just from glancing at the cover. Well done!! So once you had a plan, how did the design process for this cover work specifically? How many drafts did it go through?

I’ve worked with Cliff Nielsen several times. He’s a master at taking something imagined and making it real. I described what we were hoping to see on the cover to him before work was begun and sent a rough layout for composition guidance. I initially imagined creating series branding for the book in the form of an emblem myself. Once I got to work, I realized I didn’t have the 3D modeling skills to do the emblem justice, and a flat icon would look out of place against Cliff’s lush “time travel” scene. Cliff went on to create both the background art and the emblem. After the first sketch, most of the revision rounds were just tweaking contrast and the order things pop out to the viewer (we wanted the emblem and title to pop out first, establishing series branding, followed by the historic setting).

You can see the general progression of the cover here, but scroll down to see the final, glorious image!

1_Eighth Guardian_rough layout guide_6-24-13
2_Eighth Guardian_1st color_9-6-13
3_Eighth Guardian_3rd color tech review_11-14-13

Well, I love the emblem (I want it on a patch that I can put on my backpack. Not even joking). So since The Eighth Guardian is the first book in a series, did that affect the design in any way?

Definitely. Whatever ideas or visual approach we come up with has to be flexible enough to modify and re-use on future titles in the series. The idea for The Annum Guard is to use the emblem design and title font as the imagery that ties all of the titles together, but have fun with new scenes and colors in each background.

Makes sense, and I have to say, Katrina—the cover turned out perfect. It fits everything about the book and evokes all the elements I loved most: the adventure, the time travel, the technology, and of course, the danger…

The Eighth Guardian

What do you guys think? Stunning, isn’t it? It definitely makes me want to pick up the series.

Now, to end this absolutely incredible post, we must now share the…dun, dun, dunnnnn! The giveaway!! (Honestly, guys, we still can’t believe Skyscape would donate something so huge and awesome! Clearly Meredith and her publishing team are amazing!)

To be eligible to win the Kindle Paperwhite, you must fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway is only available in the US (I’m sorry!), and we will announce the winner next Friday in our end-of-the-year, happy-holidays post!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meredith McCardleMEREDITH MCCARDLE is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Like her main character, she has a fondness for strong coffee, comfortable pants, and jumping to the wrong conclusions. Unlike her main character, she cannot travel through time. Sadly. Her debut, The Eighth Guardian, will be published by Skyscape/Amazon Children’s on May 6, 2014.

  1. I should note that I am not just gushing for the sake of gushing. I absolutely love this series. I read The Eighth Guardian in one sitting on a Christmas Eve two years ago, and for days after, I had a reader hangover. Plus, I felt like a writing hack for WEEKS. Meredith knows how to write, and her characters are so, so, SO vivid. Plus the plot? Non-stop action and mystery. It totally threw me for a loop  in the best possible way. You guys should seriously preorder this book right now.

76 Responses to Epic KINDLE Giveaway + Cover Reveal for Meredith McCardle’s The Eighth Guardian + Interview with the Art Director of Amazon Children’s Publishing

  1. Jim Stitzel Dec 13 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Sounds like an interesting book, and it’s a lovely cover!

  2. Patchi Dec 13 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Beautiful cover! I love the historic elements with a sci-fi twist. If I could go back in time it wouldn’t be for a historic event, but just to experience everyday life in the different time periods.

  3. Ashley Norris Dec 13 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Great post!!

    I would go back to the ’80s to wear those bright pink, off-the-shoulder tops and comfy bottoms! Looking fashionable today isn’t always as comfortable as the popular ’80s attire!

  4. Hope Clark Dec 13 2013 at 8:10 am #

    The blurb caught my interest. I love federal law enforcement stories being married to an agent. But the cover is savvy! I love the versatility of it. Sure the colors are fabulous, and ordinarily I’d call such a cover busy, but it’s really not. It draws me in to understand the artwork’s meaning in the background. Very cool indeed. Congrats!

  5. Stacy L Dec 13 2013 at 8:15 am #

    This book sounds great! I love secret society stories! And the cover is super cool: I love the owl in the badge! I am definitely looking forward to reading this one when it’s released!

  6. Stacy L Dec 13 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Gosh, that’s a tough question! I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one time! So here are my top places:
    1. Medieval England
    2. Renaissance Italy
    3. Paris during the French Revolution (I wouldn’t necessarily want to be there for the fighting, but it would be cool to be in Paris when French were at their most passionate!)
    4. Victorian England
    5. Mexico under Aztec rule (just to see what it really looked like before it was almost all destroyed)

    I could go on and on. I love history, so there are so many time periods I’d love to visit, just to see if what the history books say is actually accurate. I’m interested to see which time periods McCardle chooses to include in this book!

  7. Marta Dec 13 2013 at 8:26 am #

    I can’t wait to read!!! Congrats Mer!!

  8. Brooke Dec 13 2013 at 8:38 am #

    1800s for sure. I just love that era. And I’m toatlly into Steampunk!

  9. Carl Dec 13 2013 at 8:44 am #

    I wouldn’t go back very far at all, just a little trip to the good old 1960s. Peace, love and good vibes, baby!

  10. Tim Dec 13 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I’m not sure I would go back tbh. We’re not perfect, but we are making large achievements.

  11. Anne Ivins Dec 13 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Can’t wait to read this book!!!

  12. Katrina Brin Dec 13 2013 at 8:55 am #

    If I could go back I would probably go back to renaissance Italy. Love the history of it. I can’t wait to read the book Meredith and the cover is awesome! It’s going to be a huge success!

  13. Michelle Schusterman Dec 13 2013 at 9:24 am #

    LOOOVE this cover!!! I’d go back to…oh man, this is hard…the 1920s. Hit up a few speakeasies, take a ride in an airship…

  14. Rachael Dec 13 2013 at 9:26 am #

    There are so many time periods I would love to see-probably the Victorian England era would be my first choice.

  15. JoSVolpe Dec 13 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Gorgeous cover!

  16. Alana Dec 13 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Beautiful cover! Congratulations Meredith!! 🙂

  17. Angie Dec 13 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Swooning all over that cover and the book sounds amazing. Can’t wait to read it.

  18. Debbie Allen Dec 13 2013 at 10:04 am #

    I love time travel books. Looks great!

  19. a/k/a Nadine Dec 13 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I’d rather go into the future to some time in the 2100s maybe. I’d also be interested to visit early America or the 1960s.

  20. Elizabeth Briggs Dec 13 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Wow, cool cover! Love the colors!

  21. Jessica Naccari Dec 13 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Love the cover! It’s neat to see the process!

  22. Jessica Naccari Dec 13 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Also, I’d go back and trace my family’s history.

  23. Stella Myers Dec 13 2013 at 11:45 am #

    From this cover alone, I would read this book. I love all that this purports to be: sci-fy, mystery, adventure and romance.

  24. Sarah S Dec 13 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    I love the cover, and the book sounds amazing! Can’t wait to read it. If I could time travel, I’d probably want to go to Victorian England.

  25. Crissy Dec 13 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I’d like to visit the Shakespearean Era. Also, such a great cover!!

  26. Catherine F Dec 13 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I’d go back to when dinosaurs walked the earth cause really, how awesome would it be to see them in the flesh. Also, love the cover! It’s so shiny and colorful. Plus all the details in the back with the soldiers are so cool!

  27. Robin Mullet Dec 13 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I would go back and attend Woodstock. I was too timid in the late 60’s and early 70’s (I blossomed late) to really be a part of that whole “scene”. Who knows where I would have ended up? The cover for The Eighth Guardian is absolutely stunning. Thanks for going over the process with us.

  28. June Weiss Dec 13 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I am so excited to read this – time travel books are among my all time favorites. What age group they’re intended for matters not a bit to me!

  29. Edi Ojeda Dec 13 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    I can’t wait to read . Luv time travel books! And thanks for a behind the scenes look.

  30. Bridgid Gallagher Dec 13 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    That cover is beautiful and the story sounds fantastic! I love time travel stories.

    If I could go back in time … I’d go back about ten years ago, and spend more time with two dear friends who I have since lost to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Not very exciting, but I would love just a few more visits with those friends.

    Thank you for the amazing giveaway! Best of luck to Meredith with her book launch!

  31. Marianna Dec 13 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    It’s such a pretty cover!

  32. Darryl Dec 13 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    I’d visit the funky 70s!

  33. Jaime Dec 13 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    I’ve become incredibly obsessed with ancient rome – my recent viewing of Spartacus is totally to blame for this, I think it would be incredibly interesting to visit that time period!!

    The cover is gorgeous and I can’t wait to read this!!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  34. Jeff Chen Dec 13 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Awesome emblem! So eye-catching.

    If I could go back in time, I’d go to tomorrow.

  35. Krista Dec 13 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Sounds like an awesome book.

  36. Stacy Couch Dec 13 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Give up everything to join the government? Sounds hair-raising. Did I mention I used to live near DC?

    Lovely cover art, too. My friend just started doing cover art, and it’s great to get insight into the process.

  37. Katy Upperman Dec 13 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I feel so lucky to have read an early draft of this book — it’s amazing! I’m thrilled that the cover suits it perfectly. Thank you for the giveaway!

  38. Dorena Dec 13 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    The roaring 20’s.

  39. Erin Dec 13 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Tudor England – I love, love, love history and am strangely drawn to that time period.

    Thanks for the giveaway and I can’t wait to read this one!

  40. Andrea Dec 13 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    What a gorgeous cover! I grew up in Boston and I love that old State House nestled among all those skyscrapers. (Or, at least, tall, modern buildings.) I also can’t help but wonder what Katrina thinks about the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
    Great interview!

  41. Brianne Dec 13 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    So excited!! I would go back to the Victorian age!

  42. Anna J. Boll Dec 13 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I love the inverted color so you get the negative of the original positive image. Really cool. I’d go to Seneca Falls in 1848 to be a part of the writing/unveiling of the Declaration of Sentiments!

  43. Christina Dec 13 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I also can’t pick just one time travel destination so here are my top five:
    1. Victorian England
    2. Italian Renaissance
    3. Medieval Europe
    4. Ancient Egypt
    5. American Revolution

  44. Nichole Dec 13 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I don’t think that I’d actually want to go back to another time exactly. I’d either want to go back and talk to my younger self or go see my mom when she was growing up. Cheesy, but true!

  45. Krystle Yanagihara Dec 13 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    I would totally love to go back in time to either the Regency area to see the beautiful dresses, Ancient Hawai’i to see firsthand how my ancestors lived, or the 70s or 20s to see some of the glorious racehorses the horse racing world has ever seen.

  46. van p. Dec 13 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    If I can go back in time, I’d choose 1800 London or ancient Egypt.

  47. Larissa Dec 13 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Ooh! I don’t know when I’d visit. Maybe the 1920’s? I do know I can’t wait to read this book, though!
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  48. Kelly L. Dec 13 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    I’ll love to visit the Titanic and see the beautiful ship right in front of my very own eyes. :D<3

  49. Vivien Dec 13 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    French Revolution!

  50. Erica Dec 13 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    I would go back to the early 80’s! There’s just something about leggings, side ponytails and neon that makes me feel nostalgic!

  51. Aubree Holsapple Dec 13 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Book sounds really good!

  52. Tiffany H. Dec 13 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    That was really cool seeing the progression of the cover. Loved that! If I were to time travel, I”d go back to the medieval or Renaissance period. I’d travel through Europe and into Korea just to see everything! 🙂

  53. Nicole Dec 14 2013 at 12:34 am #

    If I could go back in time I would probably choose the 1960s

  54. symphony Dec 14 2013 at 11:14 am #

    If I could go back in time, I would choose the 40s!

  55. Veronika Naumova Dec 14 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    I’d go back to the 80’s. I love everything 80’s related, although I’m only 15. :))

  56. J Palermo Dec 14 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Time travel is a favorite genre of mine and I can’t wait to read this book!

  57. Kate Tilton Dec 14 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    If I could go back in time I’d love to go to the middle ages and visit the castles 🙂

  58. Dee Dec 14 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I would love to go back to the roaring twenties to witness the hype and fashion firsthand! 🙂

  59. Alaa Dec 14 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    This book sounds awesome! I would visit the ancient Middle East 😉

  60. Peggy Eddleman Dec 15 2013 at 1:15 am #

    This post is fascinating! And that cover is INCREDIBLE.

    If I could go back in time, I’d visit our founding fathers. 🙂

  61. Ashley C Dec 15 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I’d pick the victorian era, it has always fascinated me!


  62. Kelly Q Dec 16 2013 at 4:35 am #

    If I could go back in time, I would go back to a time in Ancient China so I could meet my ancestors.

  63. Kelly Q Dec 16 2013 at 4:37 am #

    Sorry let me clarify: I would like to go the Zhou Dynasty during the rule of female Emperor, Empress Wu.

  64. Ghenet Myrthil Dec 16 2013 at 11:19 am #

    Such a gorgeous cover! I love hearing about how cover concepts are decided. I’m so excited to read this book!

  65. Kat Dec 16 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    If I could go back in time, I’d love to travel to Victorian England. The dresses, the balls, and the lack of constantly texting teenagers are just a few reasons why I fancy that period in time.

  66. Sandy Dec 17 2013 at 11:34 am #

    I love learning how a cover came to be and the design process and all the work that goes into making a cover. I have dream to be a part of that some day -cross fingers-.

    Thank-you for this very interesting interview and the giveaway ahhh I want that paperwhite but even if I don’t get it I am definitely picking up The Eighth Guardian.

    Answer to Question:

    If I could go back in time I would probably go back to February 9, 1986 in a nice remote region with no light pollution to see Halley’s Comet.

  67. Brian Dec 17 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    That seriously is a baller cover.

  68. Jessica @ Step Into Dec 17 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Honestly, if we’re not talking about my life time, I’d want to go back to the late 1800’s, I think. That era really speaks to me, which is really weird since all ladies did was wear dresses and I never do but it’s just so . . . sophisticated and it really speaks to me. Now, if it were during my life time I’d want to go back, shockingly, to my teenage years and maybe open myself up to reading more, since I didn’t do that much as a youngen 😉

    The cover looks fantastic! Very eye catching!

  69. Julia Dec 18 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    This book sounds awesome! I love the cover! I added it to my to-read list!

    • Julia Dec 18 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      Oh! I forgot to add that if I could go back in time I think I would visit either the late 1800’s or 1920’s. Those times seem very elegant and romantic…at least in novels! 😉

  70. Regina Dec 18 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    I’d like to visit mid 19th century England and meet Charles Dickens.

    • Edi Ojeda Dec 18 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      Now that you say that, I ‘d love to meet Jane Austen!

  71. Mike Dalton Dec 19 2013 at 7:37 am #

    I’d go back to London in the early 1900’s 🙂

  72. HollyB Dec 19 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Before I get to the question you actually asked us to comment on, there are a few things I must say. First, OMG I LOVE THIS COVER! Seriously! I think it perfectly achieves the goals Ms. Damkoehler hoped it would. I think it’s so important to brand a series, and can I just say THANK YOU for thinking about all of that BEFORE the first book drops, and not changing the covers mid-series?! 😉 Second, based on the blurb and the interview, I am ALL IN for this book! It is totally the kind of thing I’d enjoy. Seeing Susan’s exuberance over it, though, just pushes it to the next level! And yes, I pre-ordered, so what if it doesn’t release for six more months?!

    Okay, on to the question of where I would want to go if I could travel back in time: whenever I’m asked this question, I always say Elizabethan England. I would love to somehow be able to meet Queen Elizabeth, with whom I have always been slightly obsessed.

    Thanks for the giveaway, but more importantly, thanks for introducing us to this book! I am thrilled to hear about it and be among the first to see the cover. I will be anticipating this for the next six months!

  73. Shae/Shelver Dec 19 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Ooh I do love time travel. I think I’d like to visit Biblical times. You know, what did so-and-so REALLY look like/sound like?

  74. surb Dec 19 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    If I could go back in time, I would love to visit Paris during the 1920s. I would the clothes, hairstyles, and the social changes that occurred during that time.

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