For authors and illustrators, the book cover reveal is a huge milestone. So much creativity and heart go into creating a cover that will capture the essence of the story as well as grab readers’ attention.
I’m honored to reveal the cover of MOONLIGHT MEMORIES, a picture book written by Amanda Davis and illustrated by Michelle Jing Chan. In their interviews below, they provide behind-the-scenes information on what inspired them, how they connected with each other, and the process of developing the book to completion.
Thank you to Amanda and Michelle for trusting me to reveal their gorgeous book cover! Read on to learn more about the amazing author and illustrator of MOONLIGHT MEMORIES.
Interview with Author Amanda Davis
Bicultural Mama (BM): What is the book about and what inspired you to write it?
Amanda Davis (AD): MOONLIGHT MEMORIES tells the story of a young girl who is dealing with the loss of a parent and finds comfort and healing through creativity. This story held a special place in my heart as it was inspired by my own personal experience with loss. I lost my father at a young age. After his death, I was unsure of how to cope with the unexpected loss.
It wasn’t until I found art and writing that I was able to fully process the thoughts and emotions surrounding his death. I found my outlet. I found my voice. Then I soon realized that my father would always live on through the memories I was creating with my words and visuals.
This experience is what led me to want to be an art educator, and later, a children’s book creator. I wanted to help others see the power of the arts. I wanted them to recognize it as a tool to learn more about themselves, others, the world around them, and a way to tell their story.
When my dad passed away, no one really talked about it. I wrote this story so that others who’ve experienced loss will be encouraged to find their own outlets for comfort and healing. Hopefully, they will reach out for support and talk about it. I wanted to remind them they are not alone. They will carry the memories of their loved ones with them always.
Along with using art and writing to carry my father’s memory with me, I also carried this special locket with his picture. It had the line, “I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart,” which was taken from the E.E. Cummings poem, I Carry Your Heart With Me. The locket was something tangible. It made me feel like my dad was right there with me.
I’ve had it with me at each of my life’s big moments thus far. It was on the bouquet at my wedding so he could walk me down the aisle (along with my mom),. The locket was with me during my pregnancy and even in the hospital while I was giving birth (not pictured, haa)! Once my daughter was born, we took the locket on a special photoshoot. She got to hold it in one of the pictures. Her Grampy was always with her, too. I’m grateful that I’ve found ways to remember my father that bring me comfort as I continue to live this life without him.
BM: Is MOONLIGHT MEMORIES your debut book?
AD: MOONLIGHT MEMORIES was my second book as an author. My first, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, debuted last year with WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group.
30,000 Stitches was a creative nonfiction picture book that told the true story of the American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. It became torn and tattered and later traveled across all 50 states. It was then fully restored before returning to New York as a symbol of unity and hope.
BM: What was the process like for you to get the book published? What level of interaction did you and the illustrator Michelle Jing Chan have during the process?
AD: My agent and I queried the story for about six months until hearing back from WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group that they were interested in the story. The editor who acquired the story was the same editor who I worked with for my debut nonfiction picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag. When we first started subbing MOONLIGHT MEMORIES, I was still working on edits with that editor for 30,000 Stitches so we held off on sending it to her until that book was fully complete.
I was psyched to get a thumbs-up from the WorthyKids team and am excited to be working with them again. I went through many revisions and iterations on my own before querying agents. This story was one of the ones that my now agent, Jennifer Unter, liked and signed me on for. We didn’t make many edits to the story before submitting it. Once the story was acquired, my editor and I worked on tweaking areas here and there to strengthen the concept. We also brainstormed ideas for a different title that captured the warmth and healing in the story a bit more.
Regarding the art, I’m grateful that my editor included me in the illustration and design process. I got to see and give feedback on sketches, color, and final art. It was a very collaborative process that I enjoyed. Every artist works a little differently so I loved getting a sneak peek into their process and how they interpreted the text.
After Michelle was selected as the illustrator (yay!), she and I connected on our own to introduce ourselves and say hello. Michelle and I are also part of the same book promotional group, BusyPBs! I look forward to working together to spread the buzz about our book and supporting Michelle in additional projects she has in the pipeline.
BM: What was your initial reaction to the cover?
AD: I absolutely loved it! First off, Piper was perfect! We have a biracial family – my husband is half Black and half white – so it was important to me that the main character was diverse. I wanted my daughter to see herself in Piper. Michelle made that possible. Piper’s expression told us she had a very reflective sense about her, which was spot on. You can see her love for nature and creativity.
Since the story had themes of loss in it, the cool color palette that Michelle chose with blues and purples captured this mood but was balanced nicely with the warm yellows, oranges, and pinks. It gave us glimmers of hope, healing, and a bit of whimsy.
I also loved how Michelle incorporated just enough detail to spark curiosity. For example, we saw that Piper created a series of drawings in front of her but we don’t know why or what they were. She looked comforted by the thoughts she was having as she looked to the moon, but again, the reader needs to read the story to know why.
There was also that lovely, swoosh of sparkle and texture that surrounded Piper which seemed intentional. It had me wondering if there was a purpose to that visual element in the book (hint, hint, there is). Covers are meant to grab —calling us into the story to find out more. Michelle’s cover art did just that for me, and I couldn’t be happier! Thank you, Michelle!
BM: Do you have other books in the works?
AD: Yes! My third book hasn’t been announced yet so I’m not sure how much I can share, but it’s set to be published in 2024. It’s another nonfiction picture book (a biography mixed with a historical event). It has themes of conservationism and animal/human bonds and grief/loss/remembrance. I can’t wait to share more!
Interview with Illustrator Michelle Jing Chan
Bicultural Mama (BM): What was the process like for you to get connected with Amanda Davis’ manuscript? What made you say “yes” to the story?
Michelle Jing Chan (MJC): My amazing agent, Jemiscoe Chambers-Black, was contacted by Peggy Schaefer at WorthyKids/Hachette about this manuscript and shared it with me. I was drawn to the lyrical wording in this story and how Amanda described complex, difficult emotions like grief in a healing way.
I loved that Amanda wrote with such beautiful vivid imagery. This gave me lots of room to interpret the text in a more whimsical way. For example, Eve DeGrie and Peggy Schaefer (my art directors) and I came up with the idea to include subtle golden swirls at certain points in the story to represent Mama’s presence in Piper’s memories and in her art.
Amanda’s story also resonated with me on a personal level. I was very close to my grandma who passed away two years ago. She was my biggest art cheerleader even before I knew I wanted to illustrate children’s books. Once I entered the publishing world, I told myself that I would dedicate my first book to her.
When I saw Amanda’s manuscript, I was touched by Piper’s love for her mama and how she leaned on a creative outlet–drawing–to keep her mama’s memory alive. It reminded me of my own relationship with my grandma and how even though she’ll never see my books, I will always carry her with me in my art. This felt like the perfect debut book to dedicate to her.
BM: Is MOONLIGHT MEMORIES your debut book?
MJC: Yes, this was the first book I illustrated!
BM: Can you tell us about the process of illustrating the cover?
MJC: My process was to go from loose sketches to flat colors to final lighting. I started by working with Eve and Peggy on some general sketches and ideas for the cover. Initially, we were planning to do a zoomed-out image of Piper standing on the balcony and looking out with her telescope.
However, after working on the interior sketches, this design felt too similar to one of the interior spreads, and we wanted to focus more on Piper’s face and her emotions. I sketched a few other ideas, playing around with different angles and poses:
The team ended up going with the last option. Next, I moved to flat color. At this stage, I refined the perspective and anatomy of the sketch, carved out the shapes, and cleaned up the sketch with my base colors as if I were doing a traditional painting. I painted in all the flat local colors of the character and environment. Eve and Peggy wanted me to try two different versions: one with papers flying around Piper and one without.
The version with the papers felt too busy, so we ended up getting rid of those and instead added sketches to the floor of the balcony. The final step was to add lighting. I added light, shadows, and other glowing effects to create the atmosphere we wanted and to bring the piece to life.
Eve and Peggy were very supportive and great to work with. Since this was my debut picture book, I had a lot of questions about the balance between spreads and spot illustrations, choosing which story beats to illustrate, illustrating around text placement, etc. I really appreciated their guidance and detailed art notes and learned a lot from them!
BM: In relation to the above, I imagine it’s easy to keep revising a piece. How do you know when an illustration (or in this case the cover) is done?
MJC: That’s a good question! It’s hard to say. I think part of it is instinct. The more you draw and train your eye, the easier it is to know when you should put down the pencil. For me personally, one thing that has helped is zooming way out. If the image is still readable from afar (I can tell what everything is supposed to be), and I’m getting a strong value read (the contrast between shadow and light), then I’ll consider it done.
BM: What do you love most about how the cover turned out?
MJC: I love how you can feel Piper’s emotions and love for her mama through her wistful expression, the glow of the moon, and her sketches of the two of them. Eve DeGrie and Peggy Schaefer, my art directors, were super helpful. They gave me guidance for creating a cover that felt quiet and serene, but full of heartfelt emotion.
BM: Do you have other books in the works?
MJC: Yes! I have 3 more picture books coming out between 2023 and 2024: LUNAR NEW YEAR/Golden Books 2023, MAMIE’S FIGHT TO GO TO SCHOOL/Crown 2024, and GOODNIGHT SOUNDS/Bloomsbury 2024. I also illustrated the cover for a middle grade chapter book called ENLY AND THE BUSKIN’ BLUES by Jennie Liu/Lerner Books, which releases this spring. There is one more picture book that has not been announced yet, so stay tuned!
Where to Purchase MOONLIGHT MEMORIES
MOONLIGHT MEMORIES would make an ideal gift for birthdays, holidays, and everyday reading. Find the book on Amazon and other retailers across the country.