Pacific Rim meets Korean dramas in Rebel Seoul, the electrifying new sci-fi thriller out this September from the Tu Books imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS. When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he’s eager to claim his best shot at military glory. His objective is simple: report on Tera, the test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. But when he becomes Tera’s partner and starts to fall for her, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime. He must decide where he stands: with the people, or the totalitarian government that claims to end all war.
We asked Tu Books editor and publisher Stacy Whitman to take us through the process of bringing the cover of Rebel Seoul to life:
After discussing the concept Axie would like to see on the cover of the book, I sent our designer, Liz Casal, our ideas for what we’d like the book to look like. Liz first put together five concepts for us to decide a direction for the cover. Did we want something representational or something more conceptual, like a street scene vs. a map showing Old Seoul and Neo Seoul? Note that the concepts included use the working title, Neo Seoul—we didn’t settle on the final title until later.
Once we decided on the right direction, we discussed artists who might be right for creating that vision. I’d had my eye on Sebastien Hue’s work because of his work on my friend Dan Wells’s Mirador YA series set in a future Los Angeles—I loved Sebastien’s cover on Bluescreen in particular—and with the concept we chose, Sebastien was the perfect fit.
Liz then sent those concepts to Sebastien, who gave us his own version of the concept so we could decide whether that direction was working.
We loved the direction he was moving in, and told him to move forward. Thus came the more refined concept with placeholder people (in revision #2, you’ll recognize the boy on the right if you’re a fan of Korean dramas, and yes, that’s Mako Mori on the left from Pacific Rim). Sebastien’s process is to paint his concept art over stock images, so our next step was to find stock images that looked like the people our author, Axie Oh, imagined.
That process took a bit of time, as stock images can be frustratingly non-diverse, and of course the author imagined the characters to look like actual actors, whose faces we couldn’t exactly replicate (see Axie’s amazing Pinterest board for all the different images she used as inspiration for her worldbuilding, including the actors she imagined as Jaewon & Tera). But we were able to find a good fit for both characters, so Sebastien moved on to refining the final art.
Once the final art was in, the next step was back to Liz, who offered a few typographical possibilities. We also briefly considered putting the giant robot on the cover with Tera, because who gets giant robot art from Sebastien Hue and doesn’t put it on the cover? Given that Jaewon is the main character, though, we thought putting Tera on the cover might have been confusing.
Which would you have chosen?
Here’s the final full jacket, showcasing ALL of Sebastien’s amazing art:
Find more information on Rebel Seoul here.
Stacy Whitman is the founder and publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books. Tu Books publishes diverse fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. She holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. She likes to bike around New York City when the weather is nice, and has been looking for an Asian steampunk to read for years.