When I saw Maggie Tokuda-Hall talk about her YA Graphic Novel SQUAD on a panel, I had to feature it. She also has a new picture book, LOVE IN THE LIBRARY.
When Becca transfers to a high school in an elite San Francisco suburb, she’s worried she’s not going to fit in. To her surprise, she’s immediately adopted by the most popular girls in school. At first glance, Marley, Arianna, and Mandy are perfect. But at a party under a full moon, Becca learns that they also have a big secret.
Becca’s new friends are werewolves. Their prey? Slimy boys who take advantage of unsuspecting girls. Eager to be accepted, Becca allows her friends to turn her into a werewolf, and finally, for the first time in her life, she feels like she truly belongs.
But things get complicated when Arianna’s predatory boyfriend is killed, and the cops begin searching for a serial killer. As their pack begins to buckle under the pressure—and their moral high ground gets muddier and muddier—Becca realizes that she might have feelings for one of her new best friends.
What do you love most about writing horror stories?
Horror and comedy share so much DNA. What makes us laugh and what makes us scared are often flip sides of the same coin, and the structure of a joke and a scare are so close together. Writers can create tension and then break it with either a laugh or a scream. And so while I feel more comfortable being funny, I love pushing myself with horror, because like comedy it also sits closely with the heart of the matter. What we fear. And when I was writing Squad, I got to enjoy writing about one of society’s greatest fears: powerful teenage girls.
Well said! I love how fast-paced SQUAD is. How did you determine the pacing for this book, particularly in light of knowing it was a graphic novel?
You know, I was less concerned with pacing than I was with telling the story. The pacing was something I considered in edits, and actually had to add a lot to slow it down. I had such a sure sense of where the story was going that in my early drafts I kinda rushed there. It took notes from my agent and editor to get the pace right. I’m not an overwriter, I’m an underwriter, which is unusual it feels in my line of work. I tend to write a nice skeleton and then take a lot of time to flesh it out.
I have a similar process. And yes, I’ve heard it can be rare. You’ve collaborated with a few different illustrators. What is your favorite aspect of these collaborations?
Working with an illustrator is the absolute best. When you write a novel you’re alone with only yourself in a room for years, sometimes. It’s lonely work, and it’s all on you to make it good. Working with an illustrator takes the worst part of writing– the solitude, the sole responsibility, and not only corrects for that but gives you this greater product than you could ever imagine. Now there are two professionals doing their absolute most to make this story good. Of course the results are going to be greater. There are things in all my illustrated books that I could never have imagined, that make the book more complex, more interesting, just BETTER. I’ll be hard pressed to write another unillustrated book. I think I’m too hooked.
I can understand why! What are some of your current projects?
The sequel to my debut novel, The Mermaid, The Witch and the Sea comes out in Fall 2023. It’s called The Siren, The Song and the Spy, and I’m very proud of it. I have a graphic novel coming with illlustrator Faith Schaeffer, and a handful more picture books. I’m working on a graphic novel script right now.