Countdown to BREAKOUT: Design notes and covers and book release day!!

Breakout cover imageThree years ago tonight, two inmates broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Northern NY, launching a massive 23-day manhunt…and a spark of an idea for a novel. Many drafts and revisions later, BREAKOUT is out today from Bloomsbury!

This book, which earned starred reviews from both School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, is about a small-town prison break and manhunt that change the way three kids see their neighbors and the place they call home. And this is the last blog post in a 23-day series I’ve been sharing here, detailing my three-year writing process for this book. You can find the other posts here.  And now you can read the actual book! Signed copies are available from The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, or you can order regular copies from any other favorite bookseller. Now on to today’s post…about putting the finishing touches on this novel.

Design Notes and Covers and Release Day! 

Usually, when I write a novel, I don’t need to worry much about design notes. Laying out the chapters in a book with a traditional narrative structure is relatively simple, but that wasn’t the case with BREAKOUT because the entire novel is made up of different kinds of documents. There were letters, written by different characters who needed different handwriting styles. There were news reports, petitions, recipes, and text messages, all of which had to be formatted differently. There was art, including multiple pages of graphic novel panels that Nora’s little brother Owen draws as he’s dealing with his fears over the prison break. And that required a detailed design memo. More than one, actually. Here’s a page of the first-draft design memo that I sent the team at the beginning of the design process.

(Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read BREAKOUT yet, don’t go to that website listed on the design note!)

As the Bloomsbury team began to work on designing this book, they realized that there was a need for even more detailed notes and created additional design memos like this one.

The team went to work, and then there were multiple reviews of the designed manuscript, with more proofreading. We call this step in the process reviewing “first pass pages” and “second pass pages” and so on…until every detail is right and the final draft can be sent to the printer.

And of course, every book needs a cover. I’m incredibly grateful that Bloomsbury hired artist Christopher Silas Neal to do the art for this one. Chris is the illustrator for several of my picture books with Chronicle and designed some other book covers that I really, really love.

Chris started the cover design process with sketches of different possibilities, and then a rough draft of one idea.

We all loved the look of this cover, but there was a concern that people might think the girls running were the escaped inmates when really, that’s meant to represent a relay-race element of the story. Bloomsbury asked Chris for another draft, keeping the overall feel of the cover but perhaps doing more with light and action that doesn’t involve the girls running or the prison.

And here’s a fun secret about this cover…. Authors and cover artists don’t usually collaborate like this, but Chris and I found ourselves on the same shuttle bus at the wonderful Gaithersburg Book Festival while all of this going on, so we spent our 15-minute ride back from the author reception tossing around ideas. Could we maybe use the tree fort as an image? What if there was a police helicopter? With a search light beaming down from it?! Here’s the final cover.

Breakout cover image
















One last writing assignment for today: If you could design a cover for the book you’re writing right now – or redesign one for your favorite novel – what would it look like?


Thanks so much for joining me as I shared the Breakout writing-process journey! If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, you can find them here.  I hope you’ll also want to pick up a copy of BREAKOUT and read it for yourself. Here are some ways to do that:


If you’d like a signed copy, you can call my local indie booksellers at The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 or order online here. They have signed copies on hand, or if you’d like one personalized, I can do that on June 15th when I’m at the store for a book event. Just make a note in the comments how you’d like it signed.


You can also order BREAKOUT from your own favorite bookseller, either online or in person at the store. (Indie bookstores are always my favorite because that way, you can buy a great book and support a business in your own community. You can find your nearest indie bookseller here.)

And if you live near one of the cities where I’ll be on book tour these next two weeks, please come by and say hello!

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  1. Martha
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    This has been a wonderful blog to read. I learned so much. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Best wishes with the book.

  2. Gussie Lewis
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the shout out for GBF! You are always welcome back!

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