When Orbit unveiled the cover art for Nicole Peeler‘s debut novel, Tempest Rising, last winter, a small but vocal contingent reacted negatively to the illustration of Jane True, the book’s protagonist, emerging naked from the ocean. “It makes me slightly uncomfortable to look at it,” a reader named Grace wrote. “It looks like kiddie porn.” At the time, creative director Lauren Panepinto, reminding readers that Jane is in her mid-twenties, compared Sharon Tancredi‘s artwork to Mark Ryden and Tara McPherson, and emphasized the deliberate intent to create a look at odds with the “typical” urban fantasy cover. “This is an art style, that while may be read exclusively child-like to some who have only seen it on a Bratz doll, has had very adult art and usage and connotations along with it for over a decade,” she elaborated. “I enjoy the controversy because it means weâ€™re pushing the envelope on the art, and thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m very happy to do, and Orbit supports.”
Peeler came to New York City last week to meet with Orbit staffers and prepare for the book’s publication this fall, and we took advantage of the opportunity to meet up with her and discuss the controversy. She doesn’t just love Tancredi’s work, she told us—if it’s at all possible, she wants to have Jane True tattooed on her arm. She also took a moment to explain to us why, beyond its more provocative aspects, the cover’s visual “tone” aptly reflects the story’s deviations from other urban fantasy tales—a mode of storytelling that may have more in common with Pushing Daisies than The Dresden Files.