Here at Justine – we LOVE it when creative worlds collide! Which is exactly the case with collaboration of Tamara Ireland Stone’s new novel and her book illustrator, the amazing paper artist Sabeena Karnik.

In Tamara Ireland Stone’s latest YA novel after her smash hit Every Last Word, the bittersweet LITTLE DO WE KNOW (on sale June 5, 2018) is a compulsively readable romance which follows three characters grappling with their world views in a time of crisis. Through alternating chapters, next-door neighbors (and ex-best friends) Hannah and Emory piece together their relationship, plus deal with the boy caught somewhere in the middle. A true moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.

We’re also obsessed with the cover design created out of paper by artist Sabeena Karnik @sabeenu! Check out the conversation below between the two of them to see what the creative process was like for both the author and the artist to create this luscious novel and cover art  . . .

TAMARA: One of my books, Every Last Word, was inspired by my own fascination with paper and the way we writer-types—poets, rappers, lyricists, authors, etc.—seek out anything to write on when inspiration strikes. As much as I adore your incredible designs, I also love that you and I share this connection with paper. Why does paper speak to you?
SABEENA: Paper speaks to me the same way as an artist converses with a canvas and paints. How to convert a flat piece of material into something intricate, fascinating, and meaningful is a thought process that is constantly going on. I was always an artist since a very young age and naturally drawing a lot on paper. At one point, I thought of creating depth and interest with the very medium I used to draw on, without using anything else. It started with this feeling that every piece of paper has one sole purpose, and that is to be used in any way possible. The more I worked with them, the more they enveloped and embraced me with endless possibilities. Using paper to communicate and express yourself with the right skills and artistry, after a lot of experimentation and perseverance, is what I’m always trying to do.

TAMARA: All your designs are eye-catching and friendly, but also so complex and intricate. How do you know when you’ve struck that perfect balance?
SABEENA: It’s the basic concept of design and beauty, which apply in any kind of art. The same principle applies with a paper artwork too. There has to be balance, harmony, one focal point (the golden point as designers call it). Along with these factors there has to be a unique aspect, which is to stand out and be truly unique from all other creations. The movement, energy, and flow has to hit the right notes along with the right colour usage. I sometimes don’t know if the desired effect is achieved. Like every other artist, I’m the biggest critic of my work. As much as I believe in creating eye-catching, complex artworks, I also do love to keep it very simple and believe in the idea of less is more.

TAMARA: How long does it take you to go from sketch to completed design? Does a project ever surprise you along the way?
SABEENA: A sketch to completed design can take anywhere from one week to one month, start to finish. Every artwork surprises me along the way. That’s also because I try to not be repetitive in my designs, although the style at times does seem similar. I owe too much to the medium to repeat and waste a precious strip of paper by doing something the same old way, when there are so many unexplored aspects to art and craft. The journey of creation is a beautiful experience of discovery, and I’m constantly in awe of everything that unfolds.

SABEENA: What inspires you the most when you start to write a book? How did you decide to become an author?
TAMARA: My story inspirations come from many places, but the initial spark usually stems from something I’m curious about and want to better understand. Like many writers, crafting a story helps me put my head around the big stuff. I write to figure out what I think. I write because I have something to say, but I’m not quite sure how to say it until I put it on paper. Over the years, the stories I’ve read and loved most have been the ones that opened my mind, taught me something new about myself, inspired me to act… made me think. I became an author in hopes of writing stories that do the same for others.

SABEENA: Tamara, are the stories you write in any way inspired by your own life experiences? And are the characters also written based on any people you know…
TAMARA: In every one of my books, I’ve pulled in pieces of my own life experiences and, to some degree, character traits based on people I know and love. But Little Do We Know is more inspired by personal events than anything I’ve written before. I’ve known three people who have had near-death experiences, and I’ve always been fascinated by how their stories are similar yet so different. Another one of the characters is holding a secret throughout the novel, and that storyline was based on something that happened to me in my early twenties. A third character goes on a quest to better understand her faith, which was inspired by a similar quest of my own. At first, I wasn’t sure these three event space rentals would fit together in one story, but in my own life they were all interconnected. Collectively, they taught me something important about myself, helped me find my voice, and opened my mind. The experience felt important to share when I began writing this novel in 2014. Today, in an environment more focused on dividing us because of who we are and what we believe than uniting us as human beings, it feels even more important.

SABEENA: How do you start to write a story and come up with the plot? Does it evolve over a period of time… days, months, years?
TAMARA: All stories are about transformation. I usually begin with a sense of what I want that transformation to be—what I want my main character to learn, and how I want them to grow and change from the beginning of the book to the end. Then I begin outlining. I start thinking about how I’m going to get my characters from point A to point B—who they will encounter, what roadblocks they’ll hit, and key things they’ll need to learn on their journey. But even with a strong outline, I rarely stick to my initial plan. I learn so much about who my characters are and what makes them tick as I write their story, so my writing process is pretty dynamic. I play with scenes like puzzle pieces, moving them around until they finally click into place and I can see the big picture. Sometimes that takes months. Sometimes it takes years. Every story is different. And like you, I’m the biggest critic of my work. But that’s what makes is constantly challenging but indescribably rewarding.