The idea of adapting a young adult novel into a graphic novel is not new, but Victoria Aveyard and Soman Chainani have taken it a step further. They created an original graphic novel that’s a crossover between Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Chainani’s School for Good and Evil books. Red School brings characters from the world of Red Queen (where silver-blooded nobles rule over a lower caste that bleeds red) for a visit to Chainani’s school (where characters train to be heroes and villains of fairy tales), but chaos ensues when an evildoer grabs the opportunity to hijack the magic pen that controls life in the school.
Although they have the same publisher, the authors are self-publishing the graphic novel. “Between the two parts, it’s a 100-page, full-color story that wasn’t meant to be a moneymaker, but rather to give back to our fans and offer a jolt of wish fulfillment during these gloomy times,” Chainani said. They set up a Red School website and are offering a digital edition for free, a signed print copy for $12, and a print copy plus a Zoom chat with the authors for $40.
Both the Red Queen and School for Good and Evil series started and ended around the same time, so Aveyard and Chainani already knew each other from the book festival circuit, but Aveyard says the idea of a crossover really clicked when the two authors were in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the Bienal do Livro book festival in 2018. “Before the event, we were both marginally aware of our crossover readership,” she said, “but the Brazilian readers really cemented it for us. They’re so passionate and vocal, so it was easy to see exactly how intertwined our base was.”
Their fans also influenced the choice of medium: “We’re lucky to have reader bases who churn out fan art and beautiful work inspired by our worlds,” Aveyard said. “We knew having a visual piece would feel really special and different from our previously published books.”
Chainani had met artist Joel Gennari when he was looking for an illustrator for another project. “He is a young genius‑just an incredible talent,” Chainani said. “We were lucky enough that he’d read both Red Queen and the School for Good and Evil and instantly had a vision for how to cross them over.”
The two series have a lot in common, in part because both authors went to film school and take a similar approach to creating their stories. “Both books also use escalation and sleights of hand to plant big twists along the way,” Chainani said. “But most of all, we both love creating well-rounded, enormously powerful female characters—along with handsome men who struggle to keep up with them.”
On the other hand, the worlds of the two series use different levels of technology, with the Red Queen being the more modern of the two. “The devil was definitely in the details on this one,” Aveyard said. “The spirits of our stories are very similar, and meld well together, but the challenge was finding one visual language to honor two worlds.” She is pleased with the way Gennari accomplished that. “It was fun to find the moments where we could let each individual world and perspective shine through, like the candy walls of the School for Good or the stark, oppressive uniforms of a Red servant,” she said.
In addition to an artist, Aveyard and Chainani brought in another writer, Jun Sekiya, to help them combine their worlds. “With Jun as our third eye, assessing the story independently, we could make sure that a reader who came to Red School fresh would not only be able to follow it, but completely enjoy it on its own terms,” said Chainani. “The goal was to make Red School stand alone, as well as being a gateway to either series. So it isn’t canon to either series, per se, but really exists as its own narrative.”
As for the story itself, the writers considered a crossover Olympics or a heroes-and-villains ball, but ultimately decided they wanted a more intense story. “The more we considered the idea of a crossover, the more Victoria and I wanted something with higher stakes that would really allow us to create a pulpy, exhilarating action ride,” Chainani said. They came up with the idea of a red mist that permeates the school and casts a lethal spell while the Red Queen characters are visiting the school, forcing the characters from the two books to work together to defeat it.
Will there be more? “This was a shockingly easy process,” Aveyard said. “We speak the same language and value the same things in storytelling structure, set pieces, a fast pace, playing with tropes. I can’t imagine a better person to work with again, and we both really enjoyed the journey. That said, we’re also both very busy in our schedules, but hopefully there’s room in the future to play in each other’s sandboxes.”