Exclusive Cover Reveal: 500 WORDS OR LESS by Juleah del Rosario

by - 9:01 AM

Hi lovely people! Good morning to you all and happy Friday.

When I was approached for this, I was over the moon. Firstly because wow. I totally didn't expect it and I was so happy I could cry. And secondly because it was for a book that I was already excited about so it made things ten thousand times better to be honest? I had added this book on various lists and I'm so happy I get to show you all the perfect cover of 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario. It's a book you want to TBR and keep on your sight when it releases. 

You can also check out the exclusive interview we had with author Juleah del Rosario.

The Book Voyagers: Can you tell us the process of how the final cover came together?
Juleah del Rosario: Sarah Creech a designer at Simon Pulse worked with illustrator Cannaday Chapman to create this striking cover after reading an early draft of the novel. My editor presented me with this design about a month after we finished the final edits. This was actually the second cover designed, and I loved it when I first saw it. What I love about this cover is that there are so many different details that I notice each time I see the cover, which is kind of like the experience of reading a verse novel. I really wanted to create a story that works on different levels, allowing readers to have different experiences with the story. I think this cover reflects the layers that exist in novels written in verse, but particularly in 500 WORDS OR LESS.

The Book Voyagers: Tell us a bit about the novel. What can we expect from the insides of this book? Or are we up to some surprises *grin* 
Juleah: 500 WORDS OR LESS is about a high school senior, Nic Chen, who has been branded as the girl who cheated on her charismatic and lovable boyfriend. She seeks to redefine her reputation by writing her Ivy League-obsessed classmates college admissions essays.

But the more essays Nic writes for other people, the less sure she becomes of herself, the kind of person she is, and whether her moral compass even points north anymore.

In writing 500 WORDS OR LESS, I really wanted to explore the type of people who can be extremely driven and accomplished on the outside, and yet deeply flawed on the inside. Without the accolades and GPAs and laundry list of extra- curriculars that we write on our college applications, do we know who are we?

I also explore the concept of identity throughout. How is one’s identity as a person of color shaped by living in a predominately white community? Who are we if our identity is performative, if we are always performing a version of our self? What does it mean to be a daughter when one’s relationship with one’s mother is fraught? These are the questions that I wanted Nic, and the characters in 500 WORDS OR LESS to grapple with.

The Book Voyagers: How excited are you to get this book out to the world? What are your thoughts and what are you feeling? 
Juleah: 500 WORDS OR LESS is ultimately a story about messy and flawed people, and explores complexities of life that can’t be tied into a neat little bow. There have been many moments in my teenage and adult life where I needed to read about flawed people, to feel that I wasn’t alone, to see the complexities in relationships and life that didn’t always end neatly, or even satisfyingly. I hope that this book can reach readers who might see something or feel something in this story that validates their own lived experience—in all its messy and unsatisfying complexity.

The Book Voyagers: What’s that one thing you’re anticipating so much to see/do when your book is out? 
Juleah: I’m a librarian and a complete library nerd. While seeing the book in my local public library would be amazing, what I’m most excited about is view the catalog record of my book in WorldCat. How many holdings will my book’s record have? What will be the book’s OCLC number? Which subject headings will be assigned? These are all super nerdy librarian questions.

I am also looking forward to smelling the pages of the hardcover. I love the smell of a new book.

The Book Voaygers: I was so excited (still am!) when I found out your novel is written in verse. That’s so enchanting. For you, is it easier to write from prose or harder? What drew you in? And why did you think it was a perfect way to tell this story? 
Juleah: While I am an avid reader, I’m also a slow reader. I have been drawn to reading novels written in verse because I can read and finish something that is still full of depth and meaning.

The first draft of 500 WORDS OR LESS was written in prose. But I got to the end and I felt like the emotional quality of the novel was off. Something wasn’t working. So I started to experiment with form and verse.

Now that I better understand verse novels, I think writing in verse is more reflective of the type of human experience I want to explore in my writing. Our experiences are filled with unknowns, with white space, with feelings we cannot easily explain.

The Book Voyagers: I would love to know from whom or where you draw inspiration, for example for writing. Who are your favorite authors you look up to? 
Juleah: Two of my all-time favorite authors are Jacqueline Woodson and John Green. I love the way both authors use language, and the way each word they write feels deliberate and inventive without distracting from voice and character.

In terms of verse novels, here are a few of the titles that were influential in writing 500 WORDS OR LESS

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones
Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff

The Book Voyagers: What are your 2018 resolutions?
Juleah: I have started working on a new project, but have found that it is extremely challenging to go from finishing a novel with fully formed characters whose inner most secrets you have lived with for 4+ years, to meeting a new character who essentially has said two words to you and you attempt to create a novel out of the brief interaction thus far. But as a writer, I also know this is just an excuse to not write. So my 2018 resolution is to get over it and just sit down and keep writing until I finish this next project.
Juleah del Rosario is a librarian at a university thus fulfilling her love of books and leafy green campuses simultaneously. Author in the in between hours. Born & raised in the Seattle area. Now calls Colorado home. According to Teen Vogue out of all the Emmas, she is most like Emma Watson, and according to Seventeen, her prom dress style is classic-preppy. Both results feel spot on.

Designed by Sarah Creech
Cover art by Cannady Chapman
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