The Nerd Daily recently had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton, whose paranormal graphic novel YA queer Convent releases September 6. We got to ask them all of our burning questions about favorite witches, paranormal activity and more!
Hi, Jennifer and Kit! Thanks for chatting with us! Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
J: My name is Jenn Dugan and I’m based in upstate New York. I’m the author of novels like Some Girls Do, Hot Dog Girl and Melt With You, and independent comics, Circadia and Gnaw. COVEN is my first graphic novel! Two crucial things to know about me are that I fall asleep watching horror movies every night… and that my cat has a better wardrobe than me.
K: What interests me the most is that I once studied to be a theater costume designer, but I got two diplomas in illustration. I taught art at the college level, and now I draw comics full time. Other than that, most of my time was spent arguing with two dogs with the energy of Animal from the Muppet Show and getting butted by my studio cat. She does what she wants. In fact, she’s probably a lot more interesting than me.
Lightning Ride: What’s the first book you remember reading, a song that feels timeless, and a compliment you’ll never tire of hearing (or giving)?
J: Little Critter, I WAS SO MAD by Mercer Mayer was my first favorite book, probably because I too am very dramatic when grumpy but also easily distracted.
One song that feels timeless is Nirvana’s cover of where did you sleep last night, it inspired a new project I’m working on and was also on my COVEN playlist. It almost puts you under a spell, there is such a strange atmosphere. And knowing that it’s been around in one form or another since the late 1800s, I wonder how many other people it’s inspired.
My favorite compliment to give is literally each one of them. I love telling people how awesome they are in a thousand little ways and I’m not afraid to gush about something or someone I love. Life is too short to be apart.
K: Continuing the puppet theme, the first book I remember reading was The Monster at the end of that book, with the voices provided by the unfortunate relative I haggled over to read it to me. Every night. For years. But the first book that probably left the most indelible mark (after the Muppet book) is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.
Song-wise, I’ve been listening to Cosmo Sheldrake a lot lately, and Pelicans We is one of my favorites. It is based on an absurd poem by Edward Lear. I am essentially time blind, neurologically and conceptually. So timelessness is pretty much all I get.
I like to give compliments. Anything unique or beautiful about a person, I would like them to know. I feel very uncomfortable receiving them. But I like when people tell me I’m funny.
Now on Convent! What can readers expect?
K: All the turbulent feelings of youth. Falling in and out of love. Find a mysterious misplaced text before the aunt notices it’s gone. Grumpy kittens. Plus ghouls and demons, maybe a Minotaur. Lots of butterflies. Just loads of them.
J: Kit hit all the best parts, so I’ll just add that COVEN is a fast-paced paranormal mystery that follows teenage witch Emsy as she navigates a cross-country movement and a murder mystery, all while learning to embrace his powers and his place in this world… and yes, there are butterflies. Many, many butterflies.
Convent combines a supernatural murder mystery with a young witch learning to use her powers. What inspired Emsy’s story?
J: Emsy’s story was actually inspired by a frog. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! I have a wonderfully spooky pond near my house, and it’s filled to the brim with glowing green frogs. Everywhere you look, you encounter tiny golden eyes staring at you. It’s surreal.
There was always one particular frog that never jumped, she stood next to me day in and day out like “no, you leave”, which is right. One day we were looking at each other and I had the idea of a young witch coming to the same pond to practice her magic. I got carried away imagining how she would feel – did she come here of her own free will? Is this the perfect place to practice or does she just have nowhere else – and what would that mean for this frog who refused to hide – Would they get hurt? Or would they finally give in and dive underwater? Before I knew it, I had a whole plot hatched and a script in my hands. The best part is that the original pond scene – with the frog – made it into the book, almost unchanged! I probably owe amphibian royalties.
Convent also tackles tougher topics like grief and finding your place in the world – and in your coven. What do you want readers to take away from the graphic novel?
J: That it’s normal not to be well and that sometimes you have to make mistakes to do things right.
Found family is also a common thread running through all of my work, and I think we see different aspects of that throughout the characters’ journeys with grief and identity. It’s important to me to show that love and support can come from even the most unlikely places. This is there, even if you don’t see it or can’t see it right away.
K: Everyone’s walk with grief is different. We go at our own pace. It’s painful, messy and scary, it can go in dark places, but it’s still sacred. All turbulent feelings are valid. There are no right answers or perfect things to say. Sometimes it’s nice to sit quietly with someone who’s going through this. Because one day we may also need someone to sit quietly with us. Being there, and not getting in the way of someone who is going through their grief, is a way of showing them our love.
Without giving too much away, did you have a favorite scene or panel to work on when creating Convent?
J: I loved writing any scene involving Kitty, the very grumpy cat who lives in the coven house. I am obsessed with her.
K: All scary bits. I love drawing horror because it can so easily bypass the line straight into camp or slapstick. Maybe because the best cure for fear is laughter. I might also like to draw ghouls with googly eyes.
If Emsy’s Life had a soundtrack, what would be the three songs that should be on it?
J: Alright, I’ll say: “Season of the Witch” by Lana Del Rey, “My Blood” by Twenty One Pilots and “Rise Up” by Andra Day
K: Well, my humble suggestions would be: “Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Sigrid, “Girls Like You” by The Naked and Famous and “Daydreamer” by AURORA.
Emsy is initially reluctant to use her powers. If you had the option of choosing a magical power for yourself, what would it be and what would you use it for?
K: The power of having a perfect night’s sleep every night. Oh, and an “undo” option for real life. Wait, can I have two?
J: I wish I had the power to never get tired, and I would use that to meet all my deadlines and still have enough energy to stay up late watching the terrible reality TV. (However, I’d be willing to give my unused sleep to Kit, for his superpower wish. Teamwork makes the dream work and all that.)
Speaking of witches, what’s your favorite witchcraft movie to watch?
J: Oh man, all of them!?! The job I think this is such a classic… but I snuck an easter egg related to The agreement in the script that made it to the final book. I can’t wait to see if anyone catches it.
K: It’s tradition to watch Practical Magic with my mom on Halloween. But I also love The Witch, especially for Black Phillip. While I can’t say I particularly want to “live deliciously” as it seems to involve a lot of running around naked in the woods (I don’t like being cold), I’m all for channeling my inner nasty goat if needed .
With Convent will be released soon, are you already working on another project? If so, can you share a tidbit with us about it?
K: All I’m saying is what happens in the coven stays in the coven.
J: It’s entirely possible that we’re working on another project together, or that we aren’t, but Kit is right: what happens in the coven stays in the coven… for now.
Finally, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
J: For graphic novels, I highly recommend Taproot by Keezy Young and The Beast/Crow Boy books by Picolo and Kami Garcia. For prose novels, I’d have to say anything from Isabel Sterling or Kalynn Bayron who both write the best queer girl magic I’ve read in a long time.
K: If you like COVEN, I recommend BEAUTY by Kerascoët. Be warned, this is a very dark read, but richly told and illustrated. Also check out SLEEPLESS by Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Duca, a brooding, lush take on classic fairy tale tropes.