BROOMS Discusses the Art of Making Magic

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cover of BroomsBrooms, a new graphic novel written by Jasmine Walls and illustrated by Teo DuVall, takes place in an alternative 1930s where only some people are allowed to use magic, and unsanctioned broom racing is forbidden. Walls and DuVall spoke to Cemetery Dance about their backgrounds in graphic novels, the research that went into Brooms’ creation, and what they hope readers take away.

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)

CEMETERY DANCE: How did you first get interested in graphic novels?

photo of writer Jasmine Walls
Jasmine Walls

JASMINE WALLS: I first got into graphic novels thanks to my mother’s love of comics, or specifically bandes dessinées, from her childhood. She has always encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on. From there I eventually wandered into the world of graphic novels and indie comics, and I never left.

TEO DUVALL: I was introduced to comics through the original Runaways series. I remember seeing the covers (by the incredible Jo Chen) on the bookshelves near the back of my middle school library, and I was immediately hooked. From there, I consumed a lot of Hellboy, X-Men and The Sandman.

What is the inspiration for Brooms? Why did you want to tell a story about witches?

JW: A lot of the inspiration for Brooms comes from a mix of wanting to see stories that represented people like my own family as well as a long-standing frustration with how magic is portrayed in a lot of stories, where it is often very centered on white perspectives and steeped in Euro-centric symbolism and ideals. I wanted to tell a story about marginalized people taking charge of their own magic and how they want to use it.

photo of illustrator Teo DuVall
Teo DuVall

TD: I have a real tenderness for people of the past — ever since I was little, I’ve collected vintage photographs. So my inspiration came in the form of combining the past with the present. I wanted to create artwork that really made people of the past feel like they could be your friend, family member or loved one. I studied a lot of photography from the period, and that served as an endless source of insight.

Are you a fan of horror graphic novels? Do you have any favorites?

JW: It’s funny, I’m actually very easily scared and can’t handle a lot of horror, but I work with horror graphic novels quite a bit as an editor. Something about seeing it all behind the scenes makes it easier to digest. That said, a favorite horror graphic novel I read recently is A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll, which is haunting and absolutely gorgeous.

TD: Yes! I don’t read as much horror as I used to, but I do have some favorites that I tend to pull out every fall. Anything by Emily Carroll is a staple (Through the Woods never fails), and I also love revisiting The Sandman (“24 Hours” is fun if I’m really in the mood for a good spook).

 What sort of research went into writing Brooms?

JW:  I love doing research for books, and we did all sorts for Brooms. From learning about rural communities of color in 1930s Mississippi, to exploring different spiritual practices that the characters might use, to hunting down a reference for a period-appropriate Indigenous sign language. We also did research on things like what sort of food they might be growing or eating and how they’d be storing it without electricity in their homes.

TD: I couldn’t have summed it up better than Jasmine!

What do you want readers to take away from it?

Jasmine: I would love it if readers finished our book with a sense of hope and joy. It doesn’t flinch away from some dark themes, but it doesn’t drag the characters through it either, they all have their own dreams and ambitions, and they get to have fun and laugh together as well. It’s a story about finding your family and your community.

Teo: I hope readers come away from Brooms feeling brave and inspired; reinvigorated to take on the world in whatever way they can. Especially for our readers of color, and our LGBTQ+ audience. Let Brooms remind you of how joyful life can be, and how powerful we are when we stand together.

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