{Interview} TRAITOR Author Amanda McCrina AND Cover Designer Cassie Gonzales!

Thank you so much to Macmillan Fierce Reads for including
A Backwards Story on the TRAITOR Blog Tour!
Also, a HUGE thank you to both
Amanda McCrina and Cassie Gonzales
for taking the time to chat about TRAITOR with me!

Hi bookworms! I'm really excited to be taking part in Macmillan Fierce Read's Blog Tour featuring ***brand-new release**** TRAITOR by Amanda McCrina with both an author interview and a designer interview, where we can peek into the process behind this intriguing cover!

If you love historical novels, you'll love this historical thriller set during a tumultuous period of history war between Poland and Ukraine, where tensions rose even further during World War II.

Before we begin, have you seen TRAITOR's thrilling book trailer yet?

YouTube Link 


 An Interview With
Amanda McCrina


Amanda McCrina was homeschooled through high school and graduated from the University of West Georgia with a BA in history and political science. For three years, she taught high school English and government at an international school in Madrid, Spain, and is now a bookseller in Franklin, Tennessee. She is the author of TRAITOR and the Blood Oath duology.

Congratulations on the release of TRAITOR. What was it like seeing your final cover for the first time?

Thank you! The final cover took my breath away when I saw it. It’s so evocative; it captures the mood of the book perfectly. And it was even better getting to see it in person for the first time because then I could really appreciate the subtle touches like the gloss on the lettering.

Did you have any input into the cover design process?

My editor asked my input after each round of revisions to the cover, but credit for the final product goes entirely to my wonderful designer, Cassie Gonzales!

What is your writing process like when writing something such as TRAITOR, which is told from two different POVs in two different time periods?

TRAITOR was originally a single-POV novel, entirely from Tolya’s perspective. It wasn’t until several drafts in that I realized I needed to bring in another POV to give the reader a better understanding of Aleksey/Solovey and his motivations. So Tolya’s story was complete before I even started drafting Aleksey’s. It would have been harder, I think, to write them simultaneously. Writing them as their own individual narratives gave me a clearer perspective on each.

TRAITOR began as a short story for a history class project. What advice do you have for other authors who have written a short story and are thinking about turning it into a full-scale novel?

What worked for me was allowing the plot to go in different, sometimes surprising directions when I went back to rewrite it. I used that original story draft as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. But the heart of the story stayed intact even as the plot changed drastically. So maybe the most important thing was figuring out what drew me to the story in the first place.

What was the hardest thing about writing TRAITOR? The easiest?

I think the hardest thing throughout the process was realizing how many of the people I was researching and reading about didn’t get to have a happy ending. I cried as I read their stories. Many of them still haunt me. I only hope TRAITOR pays due respect to their memories.

The easiest part, by far, was writing Aleksey’s relationship with his brother, Mykola. They just had a chemistry that worked for me. Their scenes were a breeze to write—and as a very, very slow writer, I don’t say that often.

What does your average writing day look like?

I’m also a very undisciplined writer, which probably explains the slowness. I don’t have a strict daily routine. Part of that is because I have a day job, and part of it is just because I’m lazy. I will say that I tend to write best in the early afternoon, usually after having stared at a blank page on my screen all morning. A good writing day for me is getting in 200-300 words. 500 happens very rarely. Only once or twice in my life have I ever gotten above a thousand words a day.

(Photo of my current writing space attached. It’s a lie, though. I usually end up retreating to a blanket cave in my bed to write.)

 An Interview With
Cassie Gonzales


Cassie Gonzales is a native Houstanian who has been living in Brooklyn for 7 years. She graduated from Pratt Institute, where she discovered her love for hand lettering and late night deli sandwiches. She reads a book a week, if not two, and will gladly lend you anything from her robust library. Cassie currently works as a Designer at Macmillan Children's.

What goes into beginning the process of choosing a direction and treatment for a book's cover?

We start out with a concept brief from the editor that gives us information like character descriptions, a short summary of the book, and similar covers that they like, so we usually have a good idea of the “vibe” of what the author and editor envision. For this cover, we knew that the style of World War 2 novels was usually photographic, but stylized. So we wanted to make sure that we stayed true to the genre, but did something new and different.

What concepts did you consider when beginning to build the look for TRAITOR?

The real question is, what concepts DIDN’T we consider! Overall, I did about 70 different versions of the cover, with at least 20 unique concepts. Not every cover is like that, for example I just wrapped up the cover for Amanda’s second book, and only had to do 8 different versions! After a few weeks of working on TRAITOR, I started collaborating with a design studio, Faceout Studio, with designer Jeff Miller. Both of us worked on the final cover.

Beyond the outward cover design we all readily notice, I'm always intrigued by the smaller details as well. How do you design if a book will have flourishes on the spine or an embossed casestamp? With a book like TRAITOR that is told in alternating POVS, how do you decide what the break between segments will look like? I also love that each chapter has an added flourish, and these extra elements always really bring a book together for me!

I like to look at all the aspects of the book design holistically. The cover, jacket, case, and interior are all part of the package. Timing wise, we design the cover first, then everything else a few months later. So usually I build from the design that I’ve created on the cover. I hand drew the smoke around the chapter titles and section breaks; that was fun! I always try and add as many different layered details as I can so that everything feels unique and special. The editor wanted the design to make very clear every change in POV to help the reader stay oriented.

How do you decide on what font is best suited for the cover? If it's a purchased font instead of custom for the book, how do you go about modifying the typeface to create the look you want, such as the grit and fade in TRAITOR that adds so much atmosphere to the cover on its own?

For the font, I had the same job as I did for the overall cover - match what is common in the genre and do something different that stands out. The font is a retro one, which readers connect to the WW2 era because of the low crossbars, completely circular O’s, and distinct sharpness. This style of typography was actually popularized alongside the release of Futura, designed by Paul Renner and released in 1927. So in actuality, the fonts you see on these types of covers are actually Art Deco, people have just come to associate them with WW2! For the grit and fade, I distressed it and drew over it in photoshop and with the apple pencil on my iPad.

On average, how long does it take to build a cover design from the assignment to the drafts to the finished product? Do you typically read the book before beginning to design?

We usually get books about a year and a half in advance, because we have to design the entire physical book, not just the cover! I work on around 45 books at a time, staggered across seasons for the next two years.

My secret talent is that I’m an actual speed reader, so I can read very fast yet still absorb all the information. This allows me to read every single book that I work on. For TRAITOR, I actually ended up reading it 4 times through to make sure I was nailing it!

What are some of your favorite book covers that you've designed?

THE AWAKENING OF MALCOM X, THE COMEBACK, THE INVISIBLE BOY, and FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU. You can see all my cover designs here: https://www.casandragonzales.com/

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Amanda McCrina
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan
Purchase Links:
BOUND BOOKSELLERS ---- Order from and support the indie bookshop hosting the Virtual Launch Party!


Poland, 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Lwów from Germany, the city remains a battleground between resistance fighters and insurgent armies, its loyalties torn between Poland and Ukraine. Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half Ukrainian, half Polish, and he joined the Soviet Red Army to keep himself alive and fed. When he not-quite-accidentally shoots his unit's political officer in the street, he's rescued by a squad of Ukrainian freedom fighters. They might have saved him, but Tolya doesn't trust them. He especially doesn't trust Solovey, the squad's war-scarred young leader, who has plenty of secrets of his own. 

Then a betrayal sends them both on the run. And in a city where loyalty comes second to self-preservation, a traitor can be an enemy or a savior—or sometimes both. 


If you are able to, please purchases a copy from indie-owned Bound Booksellers, who will be hosting Amanda McCrina's virtual launch party for TRAITOR!

Interested in attending the Virtual TRAITOR Launch Party?Sign up for the Crowdcast now!
Amanda McCrina will be in conversation with Gabriella Saab!
Wednesday, August 26th at 7 pm EST.

Join Amanda McCrina as she launches Traitor, the WWII YA historical that's got everyone talking!

From Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers comes Traitor, a tightly woven YA thrill ride exploring lesser-known Polish-Ukrainian conflicts during WWII through the eyes of two soldiers, grappling with identity when the concept is literally a matter of life or death. Perfect for fans of authors such as Ruta Sepetys, Anthony Doerr, and Kristin Hannah.
Amanda will be in-conversation with historical fiction writer Gabriella Saab, and then we'll open it up for audience questions.
Preorder your signed copy of Traitor now through Bound Booksellers!

Praise for Traitor
“Alive with detail and vivid with insight, Traitor is an effortlessly immersive account of a shocking and little-known moment in the turbulent history of Poland and Ukraine—and ironically, a piercing and bittersweet story of unflinching loyalty. I think Tolya has left my heart a little damaged forever.” —Elizabeth Wein, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Code Name Verity and The Enigma Game
"It's the World War II-themed YA thriller you've been waiting for!" —Entertainment Weekly
“A complex plot full of double crosses and unexpected alliances... Deftly explores poignant questions about the nature of loyalty in desperate circumstances.” —Kirkus Reviews