Young readers seeking exciting, relatable stories told in graphic novel format need look no further than Maverick, the brand-new YA imprint from Mad Cave Studios. Maverick kicks off with three books: a sports drama, a gothic fairy tale, and a story about “being nerds.” And PW sat down with Chris Sanchez, Mad Cave’s editor-in-chief to chat about the new imprint, what makes Maverick books unique, and a whole lot more.

What is the mission statement behind Maverick?

Maverick offers engaging and authentic coming-of-age stories, where one can find themselves within the pages. Maverick is for those who think differently, who are not afraid to be independent, who find freedom in the unexpected, and fight for who they truly are.

So many young readers are drawn to graphic novels, even when they don’t connect to other types of books. From your perspective, what makes graphic novels so appealing and accessible to reluctant readers?

The barrier to entry is just so much easier. Art can easily grab the attention of younger readers and allures all ages. You don't have to imagine what the villain looks like since the artist has already done the work. Not only are comics and graphic novels great for getting young people interested in reading, but it also helps those who have difficulty reading prose. Pages of prose can be distilled down to a few panels. You may finish a graphic novel within an hour, but if it really captures you, you continue to flip through the pages days after and appreciate the story. Your favorite moments, art, expressions—you remember those moments clearly.

What makes the Maverick line of graphic novels unique?

It's all about the heart of these stories. We took great care in not only creating entertaining stories, but stories that include something we can all relate to. Whether we had the same circumstances growing up or someone around us shared it with us, the heart is there.

Can you share a bit about the kinds of projects you are looking for and how you are connecting with up-and-coming graphic novelists?

The one thing we all share at Mad Cave is that we love to read, and with how the YA market has exploded in recent years, there's no shortage of talented and diverse creators making their mark. We hope to help them tell genuine stories that can reach out and make a difference in a young reader's life.

Historically, graphic novels have not always received the respect and recognition they deserve. In your view, have perceptions of graphic novels evolved? Are they now seen as credible works of literature, or is there more work to do?

Obviously, there are improvements needed and some parents still have a negative stigma towards the medium, especially for older young adult readers, but comics have become more widely accepted in the last 10 years and it will only continue.

Books like Mariko Tamaki and illustrator Rosemary Valero-O'Connell’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me being such a hit and actually getting awards that weren't solely for comics shows that we're moving forward, but breaking that stigma is a huge part of why we made Maverick in the first place.

The imprint launches with Needle & Thread, Nightmare in Savannah, and World Class. Tell me about these three books and how they embody the spirit of Maverick.

Each story is widely different from the other. One is a sports drama, the other is a modern, gothic fairy tale, and the other is a story about being nerds. Each of these titles have one underlying theme in common, which is accepting yourself and being unapologetic for it. It's about finding those people with whom you feel at home—whether those people are teammates or cosplayers or fellow faeries.

Maverick's motto is "Find Yourself Within the Pages" and readers will be able to do just that by relating to the universal story of finding your true self and being proud of it.

What are your goals for Maverick going forward?

For every book to find its audience and for every creator to tell a story that's as personal as their own life. Maverick plans to connect with readers by creating a place where readers can find stories that mirror their own and understand that they are not alone in their struggles.