Last fall, Random House Graphic launched Sophie Escabasse’s Witches of Brooklyn series of graphic novels to great fanfare and applause. And rightly so: it’s a young adult graphic novel about a young girl with aunts who are witches, but there’s so much more abounding. Escabasse touches upon relatable topics like popularity, nervousness in public speaking, taunting, and the desire for a smartphone.
I was lucky enough to ask Escabasse a few questions about the series ahead of the second volume, Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?!, out in August 2021. We discuss her inspirations for the series, the need to teach kids about loving nature, and many other topics.
AIPT: Hi Sophie, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! With the Witches of Brooklyn now out for six months, were there any surprises from fans you’ve discovered?
Sophie Escabasse: Hi David! Thank you for the interest.
I think my favorite part so far has been to see the kid’s drawings of the Witches of Brooklyn, that’s really the best, as well as when people quote Selimene’s swearing. That’s hilarious. “Holy Pineapple!”
AIPT: Were there any special considerations you took before embarking on a YA book? And a follow-up, what made Random House Graphic the best publisher for the Witches of Brooklyn?
SE: I don’t recall questioning myself too much about what could be done or not … Writing for middle grade came pretty naturally, maybe because I have two mid graders at home, that helps. It’s a very exciting age to write for because they’re very enthusiastic, curious, with already strong ideas about the world but very generous.
As for choosing Random House Graphic as a publisher for the Witches, well, all the people working there are either witches or witch’s supporters, so it was an easy choice. Love at first sight!
AIPT: The Witches of Brooklyn is tied so very close to nature. Why was this important to you when crafting the first volume?
SE: Because middle grade is this magic age group when you really start building who you are, and having your own ideas about things and how the world should be; I feel like it is the right time to talk about important things such as our relationship with nature. We need kids to love nature and feel strongly about it. If we teach kids to love “trees and bees”, the adults they’ll become will stand up to protect them. Plus, I think we could all benefit from a ration of good old pagan Magic. To bring us back on to the earth.
AIPT: The Witches of Brooklyn has a nice dynamic between younger and older people. There seems to be cross-generational wisdom going on, how did you approach making these relationships work so well?
SE: That part was important for me. I really wanted to show fun and quirky old ladies that anyone would want to hang out with. I’m tired of the “Be young and pretty or nothing” philosophy. I feel like love and humor are the magic combo that can make everything work, and that’s the recipe I used for the witches.
AIPT: So often our relationship to witches is due to the fiction we’ve taken in throughout our lives, from Practical Magic to WandaVision, what are some of your favorite stories with witches leading up to this work?
SE: That’s so true. As a child I was in love with The Witch’s Handbook by Malcolm Bird, I spent hours looking at it, over and over again. Terry Pratchett’s witches are some of my ultimate favorites, I’m an immense fan of the Discworld. I also really connected with the Character of Sophie, in Howl’s Moving Castle. On another level but connected are all the animes with magical girls that I watched as a kid. Gigi, Creamy, Jem, Sailor Moon, etc. They were all strong girls and their magical powers were opening them doors toward new identities, more freedom, and more adventures. That left its mark.
AIPT: As a trilogy of books, with the second, “What the Hex?!,” out in August, are there any tricks to plotting a series like this without giving too much away in one or too little in another?
SE: From the early beginning, I’ve had a lot of ideas for the Witches of Brooklyn, I guess it is a question of when and how to reveal things but because each book can be read separately, I don’t have the pressure of building up towards a “grand final” in book 3. I want to have fun writing and drawing each book, so I bring characters and situations that make me happy as an author and I hope the readers will feel the same way!
AIPT: How do you juggle two projects like The Derby Daredevils and Witches of Brooklyn at the same time. Do you work on one on specific days and the other on specific days? Do you approach the identity of each book differently?
SE: Both series are very different, and so is my approach to the work. With the Witches, I’m on my own making decisions whereas with the Derby Daredevils I have more specifications and directions. But whatever the project, when I’m in the sketching phase of it, that’s the only thing I do. Sketching for me means full-time and full attention. If I’m inking or coloring, I can go from one thing to another, no problem.
AIPT: Do you have any hobbies that are not comics-related that may inspire your comics work?
SE: It can definitely not be called a Hobby but being the mom of 3 kids is an incredible, and constant source of inspiration.
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