After five years of work, I’m so excited to officially reveal the cover of my debut novel, ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, to the world!
About All the Walls of Belfast
The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.
Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.
After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…
What input did you have on the cover and what symbolism does it incorporate?
Most authors spend months or even years imagining what their cover might look like, but when it’s finally time to design it . . . ah! When it was officially time to design mine, Turner’s creative director asked my input on general cover ideas. I tried imagining ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST on a bookshelf, asking myself what might draw a YA reader in. I don’t feel the title sounds explicitly YA, so the image had to clearly convey that, which was why I wanted Danny and Fiona holding hands. The peace wall separating their neighborhoods is, in some ways, a character in and of itself, so I wanted at least a hint of a wall in the background.
The creative director then sent me three cover comps from the cover artist. Cover comps are just general, vague ideas for covers. I picked the one I liked best and specified how I wanted the characters to look and dress. In the end, I love Fiona and Danny being somewhat indistinct on the cover because it allows the reader to fill in the blanks as they read. The color choices for the background capture the frequent rain of Northern Ireland and a certain sense of foreboding, but the umbrella Danny and Fiona share suggests hope and shelter they may find in one another.
I also wanted to subtly incorporate the colors of the Irish flag – orange and white in the title letters and green in Fiona’s coat. The tricolor has symbolism rooted deep in the island’s complex history, which I don’t think many Americans realize. Very simply put: green represents Roman Catholics of Ireland, orange represents the minority Protestants, and white represents the hope for a lasting peace and union between people of different traditions in an independent Irish nation. ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST explores the lasting impact of the sectarian violence of the Troubles, which has its roots deep in that same legacy in Irish history, on the lives of two teens long after it officially ended.
What inspired you to write All the Walls of Belfast?
ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST was inspired by a trip to Northern Ireland I took back in 2011. Prior to that, I had vague memories of hearing about the Troubles in middle school but forgot about it. On this trip, I was shocked to find that, while the vast majority of Northern Ireland has moved on, some working class Protestant Loyalist and Catholic Republican communities in Belfast were (and still are) separated by massive peace walls and many children from these communities may go their entire childhood without talking to someone from the other religion. I found a story to tell.
How long was your writing journey for All the Walls of Belfast?
It took about five years, largely because of the research that went into it: taking three trips to Belfast and visiting all setting locations and exploring history and different perspectives, recruiting Belfast readers, studying the Troubles and the long history leading up to them, daily tracking of current events in Belfast and Northern Ireland, researching both British English and specifically Northern Irish dialect through mediums such as novels/movies/shows, Google Maps streetviewing everything, among other things. It also took some time (and many re-writes) to find the heart of Fiona’s story, as well as her voice. Which is kind of ironic, since she’s the basically American character. And then there were the many, many re-writes.
Who will All the Walls of Belfast appeal to?
Readers who enjoy being challenged by complex themes like forgiveness for egregious past mistakes, rising above the burden of the past to forge a new future for yourself, and challenging the notion of “other” ingrained in you by adults. And anyone who might enjoy a dash of star-crossed romance.
ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST will be released by Turner Publishing Company on March 12th, 2019. It is now available for preorder at:
Also, in honor of my cover reveal, YA Books Central is hosting a giveaway for a signed ARC and some book swag.