Marjorie Liu was in attendance at New York Comic-Con 2022 sharing some details on her all-new graphic novel horror series The Night Eaters as well as early release copies of the first installment in the trilogy. The Eisner winner joins forces again with Sana Takeda (the pair were the creative team behind the New York Times–bestselling series Monstress) to bring to life the gorgeously rendered “multi-generational story about family, race in America, and the danger of keeping secrets.”
The first volume of the trilogy The Night Eaters: She Eats The Night is available now from Abrams ComicArts.
The Beat chatted with Liu about the new series.
Deanna Destito: What inspired this new trilogy?
Marjorie Liu: A perfect storm of habits that I picked up during the pandemic. I started watching way too many horror movies (my subscription to Shudder got a very good workout); spent too much time on real estate sites looking at houses I couldn’t afford; practically lived in my garden and obsessed over growing tomatoes. And I honestly wasn’t planning on writing this book, but there was a day when I started imagining what would happen if my grandmothers and aunts encountered a ghost, and that was really, really funny. For me, not the ghost.
So I sat down and began to write — without a plan, just from the seat of my pants. Usually, that leads to the story fizzling out halfway through, but not in this case. Milly, Billy, Ipo, and Keon felt incredibly alive and kept directing me, telling me where to go right up until the end. I loved writing them. I was actually sorry when the book was finished.
Destito: Horror comes in many forms, but in this story, it’s a multi-layered, complex tale that also has the true hallmarks of a horror story. Why is it important for you as a writer to weave those details and story points into your narrative?
Liu: The horror is just another way to talk about family, which is the true focus of this book. I don’t know which is more terrifying — a demon, or an angry mother? I don’t know which is more daunting — cleaning up a haunted house, or trying to get love from a distant parent?
Destito: You and Sana have a successful working history. What makes you a great duo?
Liu: I can only speak for myself, but I feel like there’s a lot of trust between us — and that comes from years of working hard together. Sana is not just a collaborator, she’s also a friend, someone whose abilities and character I have absolute faith in. She’s an amazing person, a genius, and I work with total confidence knowing that whatever story I write will come alive in the best possible way in her hands.
Destito: The characters feel incredibly real (the dialogue and art clearly define each person). Did you base any of them on people in your own life?
Liu: I appreciate that, but I tend to leave family and friends out of my work (unless it’s my grandmothers, who are my muses), and Sana deserves all the credit for how wonderfully unique all the characters look. That said, there are elements of my own life that I brought to The Night Eaters — particularly the question of what happens when immigrant parents decide that their children would be better off not fully embracing their heritage — as a way of fitting in. The intention might be good, but what gets lost? What also gets lost when a parent isn’t good at showing affection? How is their love measured? Is it possible to reconcile, and for there to be sympathy and compassion within those strained, limited relationships?
Destito: Why do you feel a story such as this is important for readers right now (and not just readers of the horror genre)?
Liu: I think it’s been a hard couple years, in general, for most people. Even if you had a relatively “painless” pandemic experience, it would have been difficult to avoid the general vibe of loss and anxiety and conflict that’s been in the air. Around the time I was writing The Night Eaters, I really needed a laugh — I needed something to feel good about — and I poured that into the book, and these characters. It might be a horror novel, but it also has a lot of heart — it’s about people who love each other, who are sort of messed up but doing their best to make lives in a totally ridiculous world. In other words, it’s a “feel-good” horror novel, and I know I could use a little more of that in the world.
Destito: What can you tease about the next two installments?
Liu: How do you learn to trust your parents again when they’ve lied to you for your whole life? And how do you remake yourself when your world is completely upended? Or do you? Not everyone has a life-changing experience and jumps on board with actual change. Sometimes just the opposite.
Check out a few pages here!