Happy Monday, friends! Over the last three years of Pop! Goes The Reader’s history, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given a great number of really wonderful opportunities to work with talented, creative, inspiring individuals in the literary community. Today’s post has to be one of the coolest yet. I’ve been looking forward to Whitney Gardner’s 2017 YA debut, You’re Welcome, Universe ever since I first discovered it on Goodreads and haven’t stopped talking about it to anyone who would listen since. So, you can likely imagine my excitement when Whitney approached me to ask if I could host the exclusive cover reveal here on Pop! Goes The Reader! Even cooler? Whitney is an illustrator in addition to being an author (She has an illustrated YA novel and a MG graphic novel scheduled to be released in 2018! See? THE COOLEST.) and was able to work in tandem with cover designer Ray Shappell to create You’re Welcome, Universe‘s cover! Regular readers will know what a magpie I am for beautiful book design, and it’s absolutely an honour to share one of Whitney’s gorgeous creations on Pop! Goes The Reader today.
Scheduled to be published March 7, 2017 by Knopf, You’re Welcome, Universe follows the story of Julia, a deaf teen artist who becomes unintentionally embroiled in a graffiti war with a fellow vandal. Please read on learn more about this promising young adult debut, including an exclusive cover reveal, an interview with Whitney about the novel and its unique design history, as well as a one-of-a-kind opportunity to enter to win a very special ARC of You’re Welcome, Universe!
About Whitney Gardner
Whitney is an author, illustrator, and coffee addict. Originally from New York, she studied design and worked as an art teacher and school librarian before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she lives by a bridge with her husband and two pugs. In the rare moment Whitney isn’t writing or drawing, she’s likely to be reading comics, knitting, and tending her garden or apiary. You’re Welcome, Universe is her debut novel.
Title You’re Welcome, Universe
Author Whitney Gardner
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published March 7, 2017 by Knopf
Find It On Goodreads
Friends are a liability.
Julia learns this the hard way when she covers up a slur about her best friend with a beautiful (albeit illegal) mural, sprayed right across the gymnasium of the Kingston School for the Deaf.
Her (supposed) best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her mom’s set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student.
Out in the ‘burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. A tag on a sign, a piece on an overpass. But soon Julia leans that she’s not the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off – and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a graffiti war.
Now Julia must risk arrest and expulsion to go toe to toe with her rival…or face losing the only piece of her identity that still makes sense.
01. Hi Whitney! Thank you so much for giving Pop! Goes The Reader the honour of revealing the cover of You’re Welcome, Universe today and agreeing to chat with me about your debut and the book’s rather unique design history! If you could describe You’re Welcome, Universe in only five words, what would they be?
Making marks, friends, and enemies.
02. I’d love to learn a little more about You’re Welcome, Universe! What inspired you to write this particular story? How much, or how little, is based on personal experience? If there was one thing you could share with readers about your novel, what would it be?
Well, there is only so much I can admit to, because I’ve certainly, definitely, absolutely never done any sort of graffiti in my life. Of course not. Stop looking at me like that.
I will say that two important lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life are knowing who your true friends are, and how to fit in or stand out on your own terms. I want readers to know that it’s okay to be blindingly angry. It’s okay to make mistakes. Not everyone has to be your friend, but try to show forgiveness to those who are.
03. You’re an illustrator as well as an author! Who are some of your artistic influences? Are there any artists or pieces you find particularly inspiring?
Shel Silverstein has inspired me since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’ve always loved writers and illustrators who break rules, who are mischievous. His art, his poems, are like that. My art isn’t similar to his, but he taught me to be okay with being loose. To not seek perfection. To have fun.
04. So, in just about the coolest turn of events ever, you illustrated the cover for You’re Welcome, Universe! How did you become involved in your book’s cover design?
It was all very exciting! When my cover arrived in my inbox, I was expecting something completely different than what I got. What I got was a sketch from my amazing cover designer Ray Shappell and his blessing to complete his design in my own style!
05. Please tell us a little more about the design process! Was there any aspect of the story you absolutely knew you wanted to include in the final product?
We knew we wanted to get Julia’s tag on the wall, but we didn’t want to distract from the title. Ray came up with the idea to layer the tag over and over again so they would create a pattern, and I came up with the idea for the whitewashing over her tags. For Julia herself, we all knew that a stock photo wasn’t going to cut it. We wanted her to look just right. I was over the moon to learn my publisher was arranging a photo shoot. For me, that was the best part, because we get to see Julia in her element and sporting her yellow Doc Martens, a detail I begged my editor to include.
06. As a design project, do you think it was easier or more difficult to undertake given your extremely personal connection to the characters and story being conveyed?
It was really difficult. I kept thinking, “this is your cover, don’t $%&* it up!” There were moments where I was in love with it, and moments where…not so much. The scariest part was writing my name on the cover. Such pressure! In the end it was all worth it. I’m so proud of how it turned out.
07. In addition to You’re Welcome, Universe, can you share any other projects you’ve been working on recently?
I have two more books in the pipeline right now. Chaotic Good (Knopf, Spring 2018) is an illustrated YA novel about a cosplay creating girl infiltrating the He-man Woman Hater’s Club that is her local comics shop by dressing as a boy. And I have a MG graphic novel titled Fake Blood (Simon & Schuster, Fall 2018) about an eleven-year-old boy who pretends to be a vampire to impress his vampire-obsessed crush, only to discover that she’s not a Bella – she’s a Buffy.
08. Finally, what are you some of YOUR favourite book covers?
I’ve always loved the cover for The Mysterious Benedict Society. My most recent favorite cover is The Unexpected Everything. I mean, it even has a pug on it! I also have to give Ray Shappell another shout out for the Illuminae cover, that thing is a work of art.
Please Note: The beautiful GIFs interspersed throughout the interview above were all created by Whitney Gardner.
As an exciting bonus, Whitney has been generous enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an extra special ARC of You’re Welcome, Universe complete with author’s signature, notes in the margins and hand-coloured illustrations. This contest is open internationally and the prize will be distributed once ARCs become available. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!