In a series of intimate discussions, authors, comics creators, and artists will give readers an inside look at their latest titles and forthcoming books.

Comics & Graphic Novels

Aidyn Arroyal

“I’d like the story to be a reminder that true love exists.” —Aidyn Arroyal

Magna and comics creator Aidyn Arroyal, aka Snailords, has charmed and dazzled readers—and racked up millions of views on the Webtoon platform—with smart, gorgeously illustrated serial fiction, like the slice-of-life Snailology or the thriller Death: Rescheduled, that blends heady concepts, tense twists, and emotionally resonant storytelling, all while demonstrating that phones and tablets might just be the future of sequential art. Now Arroyal’s hit Manhwa romance Freaking Romance is headed into bold new territory—paper and ink—with the publication of Freaking Romance, Vol. 1 (Webtoon Unscrolled, Sept.), collecting 21 episodes and reminding readers that beautiful comic books have an essential place in that future too.

Freaking Romance opens with a grabber of a story hook. Eighteen-year-old Zylith, kicked out of her parents’ house because of her independent streak, finally finds an apartment she can afford, but the realtor says it’s haunted. Still, Zylith swans about the place, charmed by its quaint stonework and sharp modern angles and how cute she looks in a curiously steamed-up bathroom mirror. She’s not alone in looking, though—peering back at her, from somewhere on the other side of the glass, is a shirtless, emerald-eyed boy with superhero abs. The two touch the glass, forming a connection, yet are still not able to touch each other.

Arroyal says they found inspiration in the idea that we each have a soulmate and must face the challenge of actually finding that person. “I began thinking it would be funny if he actually exists somewhere but in a different universe,” they add. Living in a creaky old house nurtured the idea.

“I thought it would be interesting if this fictional soulmate actually lives in my house, except in a different dimension,” Arroyal says. “We can’t interact. We only get a few glimpses of each other.”

Readers of the sexy, surprising story that follows already know that, despite the lovers-who-can’t-touch premise, Arroyal isn’t cynical about love. “I’d like the story to be a reminder that true love exists,” they say. “7.888 billion people are walking this earth. There is a person waiting to love you, unconditionally, out there. Even if that person is yourself, that’s okay too!”

Arroyal will be in conversation with Bobbie Chase, executive editor of Webtoon Unscrolled, Wattpad Webtoon Book Group’s graphic novel imprint, on Tuesday, May 23, 1:30–1:50 p.m.

Stephen Graham Jones

“Maybe we should all just do better in the moment.” —Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is the New York Times bestselling author of My Heart Is a Chainsaw and The Babysitter Lives, among many others. In his comics debut, horror-thriller graphic novel Earthdivers (IDW, Oct.), Jones takes aim at the historical atrocity of Christopher Columbus’s crimes against Indigenous people. Featuring page-popping art by Davide Gianfelice, the book is set in the year 2112, as Earth sits on the precipice of apocalypse. When a group of Indigenous outsiders discover a time travel portal, they realize the portal is humanity’s only hope for righting the past and healing the present. A linguist named Tad is tasked with a mission: travel back in time to 1492 and kill Columbus.

The book arose from an image Jones conjured while on lunch break during a writing conference. “[I envisioned] a submarine surfacing behind the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria,” he says, “and it had this big red hand on its side, meaning, the Indians were coming for Columbus.”

The concept behind the book simmered for years, however, as Jones incredulously researched narrative histories of Columbus’s heroism, knowing them to be false. “Earthdivers feels crowd-sourced, actually,” he says. “So many other Native people I talk to tell me they’ve been wanting to go back and take care of Columbus for years.”

Ultimately, Jones delivers a nuanced perspective on history and hope for the future. “Instead of inventing time-travel mechanisms to go back and fix the things we regret happening,” he says, “maybe we should all just do better in the moment.”

Jones will be in conversation with Alex Segura, the bestselling and award-winning author of Secret Identity, on Tuesday, May 23, 1:55–2:15 p.m.

A. David Lewis

Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is among the most cherished and widely translated works of 20th-century free verse. The book tells the story of Almustafa, who, exiled from his homeland, has lived for 12 years as a refugee among the people of Orphalese. On the eve of his departure, Almustafa shares his wisdom via a series of poetic fables addressing the human condition. The Prophet has inspired and influenced figures as far-ranging as the Beatles, John F. Kennedy, and Indira Gandhi.

In June, coinciding with the book’s 100-year anniversary, The Prophet will receive a powerful new graphic novel treatment from Graphic Mundi. With script by A. David Lewis, a graphic novelist and scholar of comics and religion, and art by illustrator Justin Rentería, the insight and beauty of Gibran’s classic comes to life in full bloom.

The graphic novel features the original text, along with flashback sequences that shed additional light on Almustafa’s history. Lewis first became acquainted with Gibran’s work while attending graduate school at Georgetown University. At the time, Lewis had just finished creating The Lone and Level Sands, a graphic novel adaptation of Exodus as told from the perspective of the Egyptian royal family, so he was comfortable working with preexisting texts.

Around the time of the pandemic, Lewis felt ready for the undertaking. He also came across Rentería’s art and felt his work would perfectly complement Gibran’s prose. Among Lewis’s aspirations for the book is that a new generation of readers will be struck by the spare wonder of the classic work.

“It’s my hope that readers enjoy this version of The Prophet so much that, actually, they’re compelled to seek out the original text itself,” Lewis says. “I know that may be an odd goal—to create so strong a graphic novel that they discard it for its source material—but sparking interest in Gibran and enticing a reader to create their own visualizations of his words couldn’t please me more.”

Lewis will be in conversation with Bill Kartalopoulos, a comics critic, educator, curator, and editor, on Tuesday, May 23,
3:20–3:40 p.m.

Alex de Campi

In 2020, two of comics’ boldest creators—writer Alex de Campi (Valentine, Mayday, and the Eisner-nominated No Mercy) and star artist Erica Henderson (an Eisner winner for the reimagined Jughead and Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)—unleashed the irresistibly titled Dracula, Motherf**ker!, an original graphic novel that pits the epochal vampire against a coterie of his brides amid the sleazy glamour of 1974 Los Angeles. That bestseller is a critically celebrated pulp horror beauty, all sharp stakes and sharper dialogue, showcasing De Campi’s savvy interrogation and celebration of genre and Henderson’s electric art and best-in-class character design—you’ve never seen a Dracula as terrifyingly fluid as Henderson’s, a beast of eyes, fangs, and the dizzying patterns of a head-shop black-light poster.

Now that duo has turned its attention to a different kind of bloodsucking horror: fandom. Their new graphic novel Parasocial (Image, Oct.) centers on an actor famous for a long-running TV show who hits the convention circuit after his series is canceled and gets lured to the home of an obsessive fan. There, he’ll have to perform for his life.

Inspiration for de Campi came from her time at conventions, observing the gulf between what fans perceived and celebrities’ actual selves. “I became fascinated by the way fandom would essentially rewrite actors’ personalities and lives on the fly into something much more benign than reality,” she says, “and how the actors would encourage it by the masks they wear online and at conventions, their reward both hard money and the ineffable currency of attention.”

De Campi’s work always cuts deep, and a potent empathy pulses through this bloody story of fandom gone too far. “A big part of it is also about being midcareer in the arts, and wondering—like St. Brendan, sailing away from Paradise—if your best years are in the rearview, never to be regained,” she says. As the second entry in an inspired collaboration that brings out the best of both creators, Parasocial suggests that neither De Campi nor Henderson have any reason to be looking back.

De Campi will be in conversation with Joan Hilty, a veteran editor of comics and graphic novels and editorial director for Avatar Studios at Nickelodeon Animation, on Tuesday, May 23, 3:50–4:10 p.m.

Adult Books

Adele Griffin

“I wanted to write about infertility because it was the loneliest road I’ve ever been down, even with a loving partner, a strong support system, and the means to seek alternative paths to the family we’re very lucky to have,” says Adele Griffin, the two-time National Book Award finalist, about her new novel The Favor (Sourcebooks Landmark, June). This warm yet incisive story celebrates a complex female bond while examining the intricacies of friendship, fashion, class, and just how much we can do for each other.

“Nora and Evelyn are the imaginary friends I wish I’d had when I needed them most,” Griffin says of the surprising relationship that powers The Favor. Nora Hammond works at a high-end vintage dress shop in Manhattan but lives in a tiny apartment beneath a mountain of debt and is beginning to face the possibility that she and her husband, Jacob, may never conceive a child of their own. Nora’s life is upended when socialite Evelyn Elliot befriends her and becomes her entrée into New York’s most moneyed enclaves—and their complex world. Evelyn’s jolting decision to offer her new friend the biggest of possible favors—carrying a baby for her—is a life-changing opportunity, but it also deeply tests both women and their friendship.

Whether writing for adults or young readers, Griffin, the author of more than 30 books including Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, has always excelled at acute scene-setting, probing questions, and touching but complex relationships. While Griffin didn’t have her own real-life Evelyn, The Favor draws deeply on her experience of searching for an unexpected path to motherhood, and sharing that story was something of a calling.

“As grateful as I am for our incredible surrogates, who helped us realize our dreams, I don’t think anyone who’s been through this struggle ever gives up membership in the infertility club,” she says. “I knew when I was ready, I’d want to add my own voice, with the hope it might help someone else feel a little less alone.”

Griffin will be in conversation with Kate Tuttle, an executive editor at People magazine, on Wednesday, May 24, 1:55–2:15 p.m.

Tess Gerritsen

“No matter how old we are, there are always adventures ahead for us.” —Tess Gerritsen

Rizzoli & Isles creator Tess Gerritsen has been gripping readers with her medical mysteries, police procedurals, and romantic thrillers since 1987, when she published Call After Midnight, written while she was a physician on maternity leave. Almost four decades, some 40 million sales, and a raft of awards, bestsellers, and TV and film adaptations later, readers can rest assured that the author PW has called “the queen of medical suspense” isn’t thinking about retirement—at least in real life.

But 60-year-old Maggie Bird, the hero of Gerritsen’s new thriller The Spy Coast (Thomas & Mercer, Oct.), is giving the quiet post-work life a go, raising chickens in small-town Maine. Since this is a Gerritsen book, and since Maggie was once a covert operative for the CIA, readers know they won’t have long to wait before the idyll ends and Maggie’s caught up in the kind of tense, twisting mystery that has long been Gerritsen’s hallmark. When murder comes right to her driveway, Maggie must face blowback from her agency past—and an assassin in the present eager to destroy the life Maggie has built. Fortunately, she has unexpected assistance in the form of the Martini Club, a vibrant cohort of ex-spies and operatives who have retired on Maine’s coast and are eager for a little action.

A series kickoff, The Spy Coast was inspired by “a quirky secret” Gerritsen discovered about her own rural Maine village, she says. “A surprising number of CIA retirees live here. Just on the short street where I lived, two different neighbors were former intelligence officers.”

That sparked an irresistible idea. “When I’d see them at the grocery store or the post office, going about their seemingly ordinary lives, I couldn’t help wondering about their past careers and the tales they could tell,” Gerritsen says.

Besides the opportunity to write about Maine, for Gerritsen one of the most enticing aspects of the Martini Club is the chance to build thrillers around a mature cast. “I hope readers look at retirees with new curiosity and appreciate that some heroes have silver hair,” she says. “And I hope it inspires us all to believe that, no matter how old we are, there are always adventures ahead for us.”

Gerritsen will be in conversation with Grace Doyle, associate publisher at Amazon Publishing, on Wednesday, May 24, 3:20–3:40 p.m.

Patty Lin

“I couldn’t even talk about it because the memories were too painful.—Patty Lin

“Why would you quit such a cool career?” It’s a question Patty Lin has faced again and again since, at age 38, she left behind writing for top TV shows like Friends, Freaks and Geeks, Desperate Housewives, and Breaking Bad, where her episode “Gray Matter” was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Script in 2008 in the episodic drama category. (That’s the early all-timer where Walt and his family take turns holding a “talking pillow” while discussing his choice not to seek treatment for his cancer.)

“It’s impossible to answer this question over the course of a cocktail party conversation,” Lin said in a statement. “There were the grueling hours, the egotistical bosses, the politics and dysfunction, the ways in which TV writing is more like making widgets than creating art.” And that’s in addition to the challenges associated with so often being one of the few women and the only Asian person in the room. So, she did what she’s always done: she got to writing.

Now, Lin’s End Credits: How I Broke Up with Hollywood (Zibby, Sept.) pulls back the curtain on all the long hours, personal sacrifice, humiliations, and cutthroat industry politics Lin faced as she journeyed from fan to writer, story editor, and producer of several of her era’s most beloved shows. More urgently, she also digs into everything it took to recognize the hard truth that, for the sake of her own health and happiness, she had to leave that dream behind—and, with it, the chaotic, abusive, masculine culture of Hollywood.

“For a long time, I couldn’t even talk about it because the memories were too painful,” Lin said. “But it’s hard to move on when you haven’t fully processed what you’ve been through. So, I started writing about it—and I kept writing until all those dark moments were out in the light.”

With warmth, wit, and clear eyes, End Credits offers a vital reminder that no dream, no matter how big, should come at the cost of your humanity.

Lin will be in conversation with Zibby Owens, an author, podcaster, entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of Zibby Media, on Wednesday, May 24, 3:50–4:10 p.m.

Children’s Books

Wade Hudson and E.B. Lewis

“This book was given to us by the ancestors.” —Wade Hudson

From author Wade Hudson and illustrator E.B. Lewis, Invincible: Fathers and Mothers of Black America (Calkins Creek, Sept.) is an empowering and expressive picture book that tells the story of Black America.

Hudson is the author of numerous children’s books and the memoir Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South and is the cofounder, with his wife, Cheryl, of the publishing company Just Us Books. He was inspired to write Invincible because he wanted to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate the Black Americans who helped shape the nation, rising above violent oppression and refusing to be left out of the American story.

“This book was given to us by the ancestors,” Hudson says. “Almost everyone knows about the existence of Black America. But very few people know how it began. Why it began. Who the people were who helped to establish it. Black America is as old as the United States of America itself.”

Via Hudson’s stirring prose and Caldecott honor recipient E.B. Lewis’s bold illustrations, readers meet little-known figures whose talents, strength, and courage helped pave the way for future generations of Black Americans. Like Hudson, Lewis listened to voices from the past throughout his creative process. As he was making the art, he reflected on the trauma and triumphs of those who came before.

“Normally, I work listening to music, most times, jazz or classical,” Lewis says. “This time my studio was silent. I felt I needed to conjure up the ancestors. And I must say, it worked. By night’s end, I was in tears. Painting through teared eyes was an unusual experience.”

For Lewis and Hudson, telling the story of Black America is essential for collective healing and critical if children are to learn the lessons of history. “Our well-informed children are the key to a bright future,” Lewis says.

Hudson and Lewis will be in conversation with Carolyn Yoder, editorial director and founding editor of Calkins Creek, the U.S. history imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers, on Wednesday, May 24, 1:30–1:50 p.m.

Kenny Curtis and Jillian Hughes

In Greeking Out: Epic Retellings of Classic Greek Myths (National Geographic Kids, Sept.), father-daughter duo Kenny Curtis and Jillian Hughes reimagine 20 classic tales from Greek mythology.

The pair developed the book in a rather circuitous fashion: by way of another author’s children’s book series and a podcast. Curtis and Hughes are both fans of Crispin Boyer’s Zeus the Mighty series, which features a cast of animals residing at the Mt. Olympus Pet Center. In the books, the animals become fond of a particular podcast called Greeking Out, which is devoted to Greek legends—so much so that they begin to take on the identities of the Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes themselves.

In an example of life imitating art, Curtis and Hughes teamed up with National Geographic Kids to make the Greeking Out podcast a reality. After eight seasons, the authors decided to expand the offerings in book form. Greeking Out features fresh and funny gods, goddesses, monsters, heroes, and more from Greek mythology. Throughout, the stories offer engaging snippets of history about ancient Greece, and the illustrations by artist Javier Espila further enliven the text.

All in all, Greeking Out serves as a playbook for readers to become familiar with the classic myths and to have fun reimagining the tales themselves: “We think that the best way we can be true to Greek mythology is to inspire the reader to keep the stories going,” Hughes says. “And if they embellish or change them or even come up with something entirely new, all the better.”

Curtis and Hughes will be in conversation with Kit Ballenger, a youth services librarian and literary consultant with Help Your Shelf, on Wednesday, May 24, 1:55–2:15 p.m.

Ryan La Sala

During the pandemic lockdowns, author Ryan La Sala (The Honeys) tried his hand at a variety of home decor projects. Somewhere along the way, these efforts to refashion what had become a suddenly shrunken world took an even sharper, and darker, turn inward. His novel Beholder (Push, Oct.) arose from these days in isolation and self-reflection.

Beholder centers on art handler Athanasios “Athan” Bakirtzis. Orphaned in childhood following a fire and responsible for caring for his grandmother, Athan struggles to fit into the privileged community of the art elite of New York City. He also harbors a secret about his peculiar hereditary power: by gazing at his reflection in a mirror, he is able to rewind to the recent past. While attending a glitzy penthouse party, he becomes the sole survivor of a phantasmagoric massacre in which the bodies are arranged in a bizarrely artful composition. The only suspect in the slayings, Athan attempts to unravel the mystery of an awakening evil.

“The book asks the question, What if we followed our inspiration down too deep and created art that in turn reflected some horror locked below our conscious mind?” La Sala says. “What if the horror was beautiful? And then, what if we unleashed it into the eyes of another?” Ultimately, La Sala hopes that Beholder leads readers to confront their own “subconscious interior, where the invisible monsters of the mind are rendered in horrific, aching beauty.”

La Sala will be in conversation with David Levithan, v-p, editor, and director of Scholastic Press, and founding editor of Scholastic’s Push imprint, as well as author of Boy Meets Boy, Every Day, Two Boys Kissing, and the forthcoming Ryan and Avery, on Wednesday, May 24, 2:20–2:40 p.m.

Vichet Chum

In Kween (Quill Tree, Oct.), a YA debut from author Vichet Chum, a queer Cambodian American teen finds her voice and uses it to navigate the complicated world around her.

Soma Kear’s family feels broken since her Ba’s deportation back to Cambodia. As she, her sister, and her mother attempt to pick up the pieces, Soma channels her pain and frustration into slam poetry. Only, Soma wasn’t quite expecting her online video to strike such a powerful chord with viewers or for the video to go viral. Now, she has fans who are pushing her to continue writing and performing. Her school’s upcoming spoken word contest would be the perfect stage to hone her craft and open up about her anxieties surrounding her father’s departure, but does she have the courage to show her full self to her peers?

Chum, a Cambodian American playwright, theater actor, and writer, says Kween developed from the voice of Soma herself. “I’ve always started from a place of harnessing distinct voices in my head. Soma’s bold and poetic language was one that came through quite vividly. I set on writing a story about this young queer Cambodian kid who uses poetry to make meaning out of difficult circumstances. She’s messy but audacious and, hopefully, she represents many young people of her generation who are asking big questions about the nature of living and showing up for themselves.”

Early reviews of Kween have praised the story’s authenticity and Chum’s (not to mention, Soma’s) resounding lyricism. According to author Jodi Picoult, “Some readers will see themselves reflected in Soma, some readers will learn about the history and culture of girls like Soma, and all readers will be rooting for Soma to realize that her voice has power and that history is both a weight and a launchpad. Vichet Chum is a beautiful wordsmith and a fresh, welcome new voice in the YA canon.”

Chum will be in conversation with Matia Query, editor of BookLife at Publishers Weekly, on Wednesday, May 24, 2:50–3:10 p.m.

Brigid Martin

Totally Psychic is basically my love letter to the afterlife.” —Brigid Martin

With a nearly decade-long career spent working in the publishing world, Brigid Martin has brought a great many books into the world. Now, her middle grade novel, Totally Psychic (Inkyard Press, Aug.), which she wrote in collaboration with Cake Creative, marks her own debut as an author.

In the kickoff to a planned series, Paloma Ferrer, a Cuban American tween and medium, grapples with complicated friendships, family dynamics, and a few ghosts. Paloma isn’t the first psychic in her family—it’s a gift that has been passed down for generations. Paloma aspires to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps by becoming a psychic medium for celebrities and others seeking guidance from beyond.

When Paloma, her parents, and her tattletale little sister relocate from Miami to Los Angeles, she sees her golden opportunity to share her insights with the world. With her undeniable talents, a can-do attitude, and an entrepreneurial spirit in tow, she feels poised for success. And when she begins hosting weekly séances at her new school, her popularity soars. Everything starts out so well: what could possibly go wrong? Ultimately, Paloma learns that her talents as a medium can’t necessarily solve all of her problems—and those ghosts are starting to get out of hand.

In addition to its loveable, relatable protagonist who finds herself in a little over her head, Totally Psychic will appeal to readers with an interest in psychic phenomenon, mediumship, and the paranormal. Martin hopes that Totally Psychic is just as fun to read as it was to write. “I had a wonderful time being able to draw from my own experiences with ghosts as well as family ghost stories that used to keep me awake late into the night,” she says. “I also did a ton of research about famous psychic mediums across the decades and was inspired by a lot of those stories as well. Totally Psychic is basically my love letter to the afterlife.”

Martin will be in conversation with Alan Smagler, v-p of trade sales at Scholastic, on Wednesday, May 24, 3:50–4:10 p.m.

Click here to register for the U.S. Book Show, and click here for more information on the programming.

Return to the main feature.