If you saw my review of The Okay Witch, you would know that I really loved this graphic novel about witches and family. On today’s blog tour stop, I was able to interview the author, Emma Steinkellener.
The Okay Witch
Magic is harder than it looks.
Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.
One of my favorite parts of The Okay Witch was her mother’s perspective. Why did you decide to include her mother’s perspective instead of her mom narrating these sections or maybe flashbacks?
Moth and her mom Cal are a really close mother and daughter, but even when we love someone a lot, sometimes it can be hard to see eye to eye with them because you can only really see things from your own point of view. Cal had a lot of experiences that are similar to Moth’s when she was Moth’s age. But for reasons of her own, as an adult, Cal is uncomfortable sharing those stories with her daughter. So Moth being able to magically go into her mom’s teenage diary and see her mom’s story directly gives her a new understanding. And ultimately it helps the two of them connect in a new way.
The sections about the history of her family at Founders Bluff took on a different style, can you talk about what it was like to draw that different style and why you chose it?
I chose a more muted-color, etching-y style for the flashback to Founder’s Bluff in the 17th century that I felt would capture the period and the idea of “history” well. Obviously, when people lived in the past, they saw things in the same color grade as we do in the present, but I’ve always loved when there’s a flashback to a historical moment in a movie or show or comic and they’ve put a visual patina on it. And when Moth goes into the diary that has its own whole visual language: the line work is deep blue and more uneven and the lighter, more pastel colors bleed through the lines. I liked the idea of showing memories in a different visual style to really distinguish them from the main meat of the book.
Can you talk about the process of creating graphic novel – do you begin with a whole story and then begin the illustration process or do them in tandem?
I write the script and create a lot of concept designs around the same time– usually because as I write, I need to get a grip on how some of the characters and backgrounds will look. Once the script is complete, I pencil the whole thing, which means I sketch out every page (I do that digitally). Then I edit those pencils before I go and ink and color every page. Then more editing! And then probably more editing after that!
What are some of your favorite famous witches?
I’m a lifelong theater kid, so I love a lot of witches from musicals (The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, Into the Woods, Teen Witch). Also big-ups to Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, Magica de Spell, and Professor McGonagall.
Which character came to you first and have they changed at all?
I found a drawing in my sketchbook labeled “Moth Hush” from about 3 months before I started concepting The Okay Witch. At that point she had a full head of white hair, but early versions were still about her and her mom. Only both Moth and Cal were from the 17th century and they aged really slowly (at a rate of about 25 human years to 1 witch year). So the history/time element was still there then. But now that Moth’s story begins in the 21st century, it’s much more a story of her discovering this rich past full of magic.
About Emma Steinkellner
Emma Steinkellner is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer based in Los Angeles, CA.
Her middle grade graphic novel, The Okay Witch, is slated to come out Fall 2019. The Okay Witch tells the story of 13-year-old Moth Hush, who learns that magic is to be expected when you’re a Hush in an adventure that spans centuries, generations, and even worlds as Moth unravels the complicated legacy of witches at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.
She is a graduate of Stanford University’s department of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, where she created, wrote, and illustrated her thesis It Gets Weird, a science fiction sex ed graphic novel for adolescent readers and where she proclaimed herself “one of Stanford’s most elite goons”.
Working in print and webcomics, Emma has illustrated projects with her radiant sister, writer Kit Steinkellner, including the teen rom-com webcomic Aces and the Eisner-nominated superhero coming-of-age story Quince with Fanbase Press and is the creator of the comic diary Pow Slam Sparkle.