Exclusive Cover Reveal: Isle McElroy’s “People Collide”

How might two distinct individuals twist themselves into a shared creature following a few years of marriage?

A close up of Isle McElroy's name from the cover of "People Collide"

Electric Literature is pleased to reveal the cover for acclaimed writer Isle McElroy’s sophomore novel, People Collide, which will be published by HarperCollins this September.


When Eli wakes up alone in the cramped Bulgarian apartment he shares with Elizabeth, his more organized and successful wife, he discovers that somehow, he’s in her body. His male body has vanished, as has the personality that once resided inside Elizabeth’s body. As Eli searches throughout Europe for his missing wife, he embarks on a no holds barred exploration of gender and embodied experience. 

People Collide follows Eli as he comes closer to finding Elizabeth—while learning to exist in her body—and as he questions the impact this metamorphosis will have on their relationship. He wonders: how long can he maintain the illusion of living as someone he isn’t? Will their young marriage wither completely under the pressure of a new and sudden existence in bodies they thought they knew?

People Collide is rich and rewarding, a tender portrayal of ambition, sacrifice, desire and loss, and shared lives and bodies. It shines a refreshing light on everything we thought we knew about love, sexuality, and the truth of who we really are.


Here is the cover, designed by Stephen Brayda, and with art by Tina Berning.    

“The cover for Isle McElroy’s People Collide had to be striking and bold to match the novel’s enticing premise,” Stephen Brayda, Art Director for HarperVia told Electric Lit. “I explored various solutions for cover art but one artist’s work in particular resonated most. Berlin based illustrator Tina Berning has a portfolio full of figurative, expressive work, and her piece When It Hurts IV aligned perfectly. The combination of strong type and considered art complements the many detailed layers in McElroy’s writing.”

McElroy feels similarly, noting their immediate connection to this cover. “My editor Rakesh Satyal originally sent four cover options. I knew immediately which one I wanted. While the other options were great, this was the cover that truly embodied People Collide. The designer, Stephen Brayda, and I went through a few rounds of revisions before landing on the version seen here. Changes included adding a border, making the paint a bit brighter, and a minor tweak of the font. Brayda did an incredible job through the revisions—even though I felt immensely needy asking for any changes—and I think the final version is perfect.” 

Tina Berning’s figurative drawing captures the fraught and erotic codependency at the center of the novel. How might two individuals twist into a shared creature following a few years together? Where, in a relationship, does one person end and another begin? Brayda’s decision to texture the cover with such vivid brushstrokes not only makes for an evocative image, it speaks to one of the most crucial moments in the book: a sex scene set in the Pompidou. Over the process of choosing a cover, I discovered something about my book that I hadn’t previously been able to articulate. The hand reaching out of the border, for instance, reveals the novel’s deeper anxiety about partnership. Even as these two figures are so intimately embraced, one hand appears to be testing out an escape. To paraphrase Newton: for every collision, there is an equal and opposite separation. It was my curiosity about this emotional space—the action and the reaction—that drove me to write People Collide.”


People Collide will be published by HarperVia on September 19th, and is available for preorder here.

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