Mariko Tamaki, the storyteller behind numerous works of prose and the beloved graphic novels This One Summer and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, as well as comics for DC and Marvel, lends her talents to a restaging of a classic. In Anne of Greenville, an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, Tamaki imagines Anne Shirley as a queer, Japanese American disco enthusiast trying to make her way in a new school in the middle of nowhere. Anne of Greenville (Oct.) also kicks off a new publishing platform—Melissa de la Cruz Studio, a partnership between YA author Melissa de la Cruz and Disney Publishing Worldwide. Tamaki spoke about putting her own spin on the cherished protagonist, about teaming with MDLC Studio, and about the projects she has next on her radar.
Are you a longtime fan of Anne of Green Gables? What are your memories of first encountering the story and character?
My strongest memories of Anne of Green Gables are admittedly TV oriented. I am Canadian and my memory is that it was on the TV virtually every day of my young life (although that could be an exaggeration). I was a bit of a dramatic kid, so I very much connected with this girl who was staging poetic reenactments in her backyard.
When did you first start thinking about creating an adaptation of the classic?
I was contacted by Melissa de la Cruz and Kieran Scott at Disney. Probably one of the best emails I have ever received was that email, asking me if this project was something I would be interested in. I almost immediately had a picture of the Anne in this book in my head.
Tell me about your Anne. In what ways is she like the classic character? In what ways is she different?
There are a lot of ways this Anne is different. She’s Japanese American and she has queer parents. Really this Anne is more about the spirit of the original character (or how I’ve interpreted her). She is an unapologetic dreamer. She loves art and literature, mostly focused on a love of theater and music (mostly disco). She is passionate and has a temper, but she is also a fierce fighter for what she believes in.
Is it more challenging to write a protagonist based on a classic character? Or to create a brand-new one?
I’ve written for a lot of existing characters, especially when writing for DC Comics and Marvel. A lot of working on a story using or inspired by an existing character is about borders and jumping-off points; you’re staying within the borders of what makes that character recognizable, but you’re also getting a jumping-off point to be inspired to do new things with that character. For me, it’s a great challenge. I like thinking about what each of the changes means for the bigger picture of the character, and how that can open up a story. All that fun stuff.
You’re the first author on the Melissa de la Cruz Studio list. What drew you to MDLC Studio? Do you have future projects planned with MDLC Studio?
I would love to do as many things as possible with Melissa de la Cruz and her studio because she is amazing.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a few graphic novel projects (TBA) and I am hoping to get back into some prose soon! I also am curating the Surely Books imprint over at Abrams, which is chock-full of amazing authors. Our latest is Talia Dutton’s M is for Monster, which everyone should go read right now.