Today we are chatting with Marika McCoola (Author) & Aatmaja Pandya (Illustrator) of Slip!
Read on for more about them, their book, and a giveaway!
Meet Marika McCoola:
Marika McCoola is a writer, illustrator, educator, and the New York Times bestselling author of Baba Yaga’s Assistant. She has spent over a decade working to connect books with readers. She studied illustration, art history, creative writing, and ceramics at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and received her BFA in illustration in 2009.
Meet Aatmaja Pandya
Aatmaja Pandya is a cartoonist and illustrator born and raised in New York. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2014 and has been illustrating professionally ever since. Slip is her first graphic novel.
About the Book: SLIP
From Eisner-Award nominated writer Marika McCoola and debut artist Aatmaja Pandya, an emotional coming-of-age graphic novel for fans of Bloom and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me.
Right before Jade is about to leave for a summer art intensive, her best friend, Phoebe, attempts suicide. How is Jade supposed to focus on herself right now?
But at the Art Farm, Jade has artistic opportunities she’s been waiting for her whole life. And as she gets to know her classmates, she begins to fall for whimsical, upbeat, comfortable-in-her-own-skin Mary. Jade pours herself into making ceramic monsters that vent her stress and insecurities, but when she puts her creatures in the kiln, something unreal happens: they come to life. And they’re taking a stand: if Jade won’t confront her problems, her problems are going to confront her, including the scariest of them all—if Jade grows, prospers, and even falls in love this summer, is she leaving Phoebe behind?
~Author/ Illustrator Chat~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Marika: In short, my love of ceramics and the grounding effect they have on me, my experiences with change in relationships due to mental illness, and the delightful insanity of being an art student.
This book is grounded in personal experience: between my junior and senior year of college, I spent a month living on a farm-turned arts center doing a student residency (SAW or Salem Art Works). I worked on ceramics in a barn, built and fired a small kiln, cooked in the outdoor kitchen with produce and eggs from the farm, lived in my dad’s old Ford Falcon van, and ate a lot of ice cream.
I didn’t start writing this book until a handful of years later. Living in the town I grew up in, I was isolated. I was processing emotions and finding some small solace in working with clay. In so many young adult novels, relationships (both romantic and otherwise) are often framed as the relationships that will burn with intensity forever. My own experiences didn’t reflect this and I wanted to craft a book that dealt with both evolving relationships and my love of ceramics.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Aatmaja : Kim – Jade’s mean ceramics rival. Rude, snobby personalities are so much fun to draw. And as the story progresses, you get the sense that Kim has kind of a stressful life and just takes it out on other people. She will probably mellow out a lot in the future. Or she’ll make peace with the kind of person she is and get even worse, haha.
Mary is also up there, mostly because she has the kind of face and personality I like in another person. She was always a pleasure to draw.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Aatmaja : The novel! The working title for this book was ART FARM. It stayed in use as a placeholder nearly until I had to draw the cover. Actually, one of our editors – Sarah Alpert – is the one who came up with the title. Slip is a ceramics word that refers to goopy, watered-down clay used to seal firmer clay pieces together. Also, obviously, it can refer to hitting a snag in life, making a mistake, figuratively falling down. I like the mixed meaning.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Aatmaja : There’s a scene towards the end that takes place during a rainstorm that I just love. I think I managed to express it exactly as I was visualizing in my head, which is a rare and beautiful thing for any artist. Actually, it’s part of the emotional climax of the book, so it was really important that it turned out well. It’s sort of difficult to look at your own work and objectively find it well-done, but I still feel proud looking at those pages.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
Aatmaja : When I started SLIP, I was still pretty fresh out of college and kind of naive about what it takes to tackle a project of this length. I write for myself, but had only done short zines or minicomics prior to drawing our book. I learned a lot from Marika’s process, honestly. The way she had scripted out the comic was so different from the way I write naturally. It’s good to be exposed to new perspectives in creative work, otherwise you just tend to do the same thing over and over.
If I had to pick one thing that I learned, it’s something I already felt subconsciously but now understand very strongly. It’s this – when a story is ready to be told, you will know. You can’t force it, particularly if it’s something personally important to you. Discipline and practice is what you do so that, when the lightning bolt hits you, you can take it and run with it.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Marika: Aatmaja managed to place so many important aspects on the cover while still preserving the mystery of the story. I love the very specific clay tools, the trees to set the scene, and the salmon-colored creature. Okay, it’s the creature that really made me gasp when I first saw it! It hints at the magic of the book, the sense that something is both looming over Jade and haunting her imagination. And then, on the back, you have the ghostly silhouettes of two other creatures…it’s just masterful.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2022?
Marika: So many! Prayer for the Crown-Shy, A Lady for a Duke, Moira’s Pen, Husband Material…but the book that I continually screamed about while devouring it is When Women Were Dragons. My librarian housemate and I were first on the library waitlist and pre-ordered a copy. They arrived on the same day and we needed both copies so we could disappear into them simultaneously. I’ve been reading Kelly Barnhill since I received a manuscript of The Witch’s Boy and each and every book is better than her last. It takes true skill to write acknowledgements that make readers cry and then go and read them aloud to anyone who’ll listen…and Kelly does this repeatedly. As much as I hope you’ll buy my book, I totally understand if you go buy Kelly’s instead.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
Marika: Kelly Barnhill’s When Women Were Dragons (see above). I will happily rave about this for longer than you’d care for, so it’s probably better if I just respectfully throw it at you and let you start reading.
In the realm of picture books, Boobies by Nancy Vo (coming in August) is an utter delight and has a fabulous cover. It’s a great introduction to mammary glands and what animals have them told with sweetness and humor.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
Marika: The past year has been less about writing for me and more about finding a day job that both provides stability and challenges me. I’ve also been working on building rock climbing skills and getting into nature. Katherine May (author of Wintering) might say that the past year has been a year-long wintering period for me as I try to care for my body and mental health before bursting into a season of creativity.
Last year I wrote a television pilot and pitch for a hybrid animated/live action romance which I would love the opportunity to develop further. It’s loosely based on SWIPE RIGHT, my online dating comics memoir. A couple of other things are marinating in my brain right now, all with a romance and/or outdoors bent, but nothing is at a point where I’m comfortable sharing it yet.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Aatmaja: I started drawing the book at around page 30, simply because I wanted to avoid drawing the beginning for a while. It’s very heavy! It depicts a pain I was feeling at the time, and it speaks to the honesty of the writing that it was genuinely kind of hard for me to sit with. I found the first scene with Asher pretty difficult to draw, too. Both because it had some tricky elements to illustrate, and because the subject matter is intense.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Marika: When I started writing Jade’s story, I didn’t want it to be a romance, I wanted to focus on platonic friendship.Then, out of the blue, Mary kissed Jade and persisted in obviously crushing on her and I had to rewrite the book. I remember reading an essay by Madeleine L’Engle in which she wrote that a character showed up in a draft and told her how things were going to go so she rewrote the book to make it so. While I don’t see Mary as a difficult character to write, her romantic interest was certainly some whimsical trouble!
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
Aatmaja: Personally, I don’t think there is one single moral to be taken away from SLIP. I hope that people who have felt grief or regret in regards to a relationship feel understood by it.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Aatmaja: Two things! First is picking up new skills really quickly. I’m lucky to have a very good memory, so if I’m taught something new, it will stick after a couple of repetitions. The second is just that I’m really stubborn, haha. This is also a curse because I like to do things my way, at my pace, sometimes to the detriment of my own well-being. Luckily these two superpowers usually work in tandem. If I’m mad because I’m not immediately good at something, I’ll just muscle my way through it until it suddenly, magically clicks.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Marika: I do a lot of outdoor recreation– skiing, hiking, camping, climbing, cycling, running–they’re a necessary part of caring for my mental and physical health. Increasing access to outdoor spaces and making these spaces welcoming is extremely important to me. A lot of sports have a barrier to entry that comes down to physical access (needing a car to get there), gear (depending upon the sport, it can be very expensive), skills acquisition (classes can be pricey), time (you need time off work!) and those participating/gatekeeping (often white and cishet male). I was privileged to talk with a guide this winter who also holds an MSW, and it was wonderful to reflect upon the social climate of (specifically) backcountry skiing and explore ways in which it is changing as well as where it needs to go. Listening, learning, and holding space for conversations are an ongoing part of my outdoor education.
I’m passionate about access to higher education and non-traditional educational systems. I had the opportunity to teach for Bard College Holyoke, a microcollege program at The Care Center that provides not just tuition-free education, but also the physical assistance of transportation and childcare that many college programs lack, to female-identifying students whose education has been interrupted by familial responsibilities. I am in awe of what the women in the program achieved and grateful for the opportunity to develop and teach courses for them. It’s a truly remarkable program and I hope to see the model adopted throughout the USA.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
Marika: Every creative practice is different. Just as everyone learns in a slightly different way, everyone has a slightly different way of approaching the writing process. So try everything and respectfully ignore what doesn’t work for you. But, honestly, the best advice I can give you is the advice I give myself and my students: Go play!
When you play, nothing is a mistake or wrong, it’s just something you tried. So go mess about and see what happens.
Book’s Title: Slip
Author/Illustrator: Marika McCoola and Aatmaja Pandya
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Graphic Novel
Age Range: 13+
Three winners will receive a hardcopy of Slip (Marika McCoola) ~ US/CAN
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*