The Beat is pleased to reveal the cover for The Girl from the Sea, the upcoming YA graphic novel by Molly Knox Ostertag, which is scheduled to make it to shore on June 1st, 2021!

The Girl from the Sea
The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

In addition to revealing the cover of the upcoming graphic novel, the Beat was able to email Molly a few questions about her inspirations for the magical YA romance, what snacks have helped her survive during quarantine, and of course, the undying Hobbit love that launched a thousand fanfics.

AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell the Beat a little bit about The Girl from the Sea, your upcoming YA graphic novel?

MOLLY KNOX OSTERTAG: The Girl from the Sea is a teen summer romance graphic novel with a little bit of magic. 15-year-old Morgan is ready to have a bad summer. Her parents just split up and she’s stuck in a tiny house on a Nova Scotian island with her Mom and grouchy little brother. She’s also feeling distant from her friends after she made a plan: not to tell anyone she’s gay until she goes to college and can reinvent herself. Plans have a way of getting messed up though, and Morgan’s goes awry when she meets Keltie – a charming, mysterious, VERY cute girl who also happens to be a selkie. Selkies live most of their lives as seals, but thanks to a kiss from Morgan she can walk on land…and she doesn’t understand the point in hiding who you are.

Morgan and Keltie

KAPLAN: How does The Girl from the Sea use the fantasy genre to explore relatable queer issues like coming out?

OSTERTAG: This is definitely a more grounded book than the Witch Boy series – other than Keltie, it’s very much set in our world (except that I set it in the year 2020 and people are going to parties and kissing strangers, which qualifies as fantasy at this point, sigh). But Keltie, and the mystery surrounding her, and the way she doesn’t understand human conventions, does in a way represent queerness and the power of embracing your own identity. I realized I was gay through falling in love. It was this powerful, inescapable truth that showed up out of the blue, wrecked all my plans, and turned everything in my life upside down. Morgan, like me, is very good at ignoring inconvenient feelings…until Keltie shows up and makes those feelings a lot harder to ignore.

KAPLAN: I am a huge fan of stories set on islands! Do you have any favorite island stories? Were any island stories (or real life islands) particularly inspiring for The Girl from the Sea?

Photo courtesy of Molly Knox Ostertag

OSTERTAG: My parents are teachers, and we’d spend every summer on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia. That island, and the nearby fishing town of Lunenburg, are directly where I set the story. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and was a magical place to be a kid, though when I was a lonely teen it felt like a prison (no internet! no TV! no plumbing!). Going back to the island as an adult made me appreciate what a special place it is, and I wanted to capture details of it as best I could.

Photo courtesy of Molly Knox Ostertag

KAPLAN: When I asked you some questions about The Midwinter Witch last autumn, you told the Beat about how you developed a language of magical runes for that series. How was the process of developing the magical world of The Girl from the Sea similar (or different)?

OSTERTAG: Like I said, The Girl from the Sea is much more set in the present and in the real world. I tried to really ground it through fashion, details in the setting, and technology. Interstitial text conversations fill out parts of the book and it was important to me to capture the casual banter of a group chat. I hope I didn’t embarrass myself TOO much by trying to make it accurate to teen life right now. There was definitely a temptation to set it in the aughts when I was a teen, but I wanted to make something for kids and teens now, as opposed to playing into nostalgia for my own youth.

As for the magic…I don’t want to say much about it because it’s very tied into the plot! But Keltie brings a sort of wild, chaotic, fairy-tale magic to Morgan’s grounded life.

Morgan and Keltie

KAPLAN: Also in that interview, I asked you about your favorite junk food! Nine months later, I have a related question: what snack has been indispensable for you during quarantine?

OSTERTAG: I talked about camping in that interview and I’m going to talk about it again…getting out into nature has been the best way to maintain sanity during quarantine, and Fritos are the camp snack of the summer. Apparently salty snacks help you retain water when you’re desert camping? If this isn’t true I don’t want to know!

KAPLAN: What is it about The Lord of the Rings that makes it so well suited to fanfiction — especially romantic fanfic?

OSTERTAG: Oh boy. Haha. Despite the camping, I sort of HAVE lost my mind during quarantine, the result of which has been a Lord of the Rings obsession that rivals when I was 12 and wrote my diary in Elvish. So, I made an alternate twitter account because I just wanted to talk about it all the time and felt like that would probably be annoying to most people. I’m also writing a romantic fic retelling the entire series from Sam Gamgee’s point of view and honestly? I’m having so much fun.

I really think romance, especially queer romance, has so much potential outside of the traditional romance genre. I see Lord of the Rings as a romance; the world and high stakes are a backdrop for Tolkien’s deep interest in the relationships between people and the way life changes them. In the end, the fate of the world hinges on loyalty and love (however you interpret that love). Exploring romance as transformative, as something that pushes one to be better, as something to draw strength and inspiration from; it’s how I feel about my partner in this scary time, and it’s something I rarely see portrayed authentically in fiction. The Girl from the Sea has been my first serious foray into romance and I learned a lot while making it…I’m excited to do more.

KAPLAN: Finally, The Girl from the Sea is a romance, and since we’re already talking about fanfiction: who would Morgan’s OTP be?

OSTERTAG: I don’t think she’s much of a nerd to be honest! If she was she’d probably have some online friends she could come out to, haha. But she’s got a romantic streak; like me, she probably loves Titanic and imagines Leo’s character as a cute butch girl.

The Girl from the Sea will be available at libraries and comic shops near you in 2021. Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter to keep up with her latest projects, and stay tuned to the Beat for additional exclusive reveals for The Girl from the Sea!

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