YEM Author Interview: Kayla Coombs and HF Brownfield chat about the process of working together on Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe

Kayla Coombs and HF Brownfield are the authors of Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe. Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe follows Quinnelope, who wakes up one morning to learn all the cookies in her kingdom have gone missing. The graphic novel explores bakery and grocery store aisles with no cookies. YEM was able to speak with Kayla Coombs and HF Brownfield about working together, their writing process, and what genre they want to work on next.

YOUNG ENTERTAINMENT MAG: When did you decide to work on Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe together?

HF Brownfield: Funny story. Kayla and I were working on a very different project when the inspiration for Quinnelope came about. We both felt like there was something really special here, so we put our initial project on pause and let Quinnelope take center stage. Luckily, our agent, Alice Sutherland-Hawes, had faith in Quinnelope, Bub and Star and helped us find a great creative partnership with our publisher to keep the fun going.

YEM: What is the process of working together like?

Kayla Coombs: Working with Brownfield is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience. Our creative partnership grew alongside a strong friendship, which is one of the key reasons our collaboration works so well. Our process is characterized by a genuine sense of camaraderie, mutual respect for our different strengths, and shared passion for humor and storytelling. We have regular collaboration video calls where we delve deeper into a story, its themes, characters and overall direction. During these sessions we’re constantly pitching jokes and eccentric plotlines that often make it into the book. Our dynamic creates an environment where we can be open and honest, sharing our wildest and sometimes even absurd ideas without fear of judgment. This freedom to explore the boundaries of creativity leads to some of our best, most original concepts.

YEM: Where did the idea for Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe come from?

HF Brownfield: Great question! Well, I’ve always been a massive fan of cookies. They’re my kryptonite! Quinnelope was one of those things that started as a kernel of an idea one night when I should have been working on our other project. I started doodling what would eventually become the beginning of the story then quickly shared it with Kayla as a joke. The seed for the story of this book was born that day and Kayla and I set out to polish and strengthen it over the coming months until it had a much more formed plot.

YEM: Was a graphic novel always something you knew Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe was going to be?

Kayla Coombs: Bringing Quinnelope to life as a graphic novel was a clear choice for us from the very beginning. The idea of Quinnelope’s adventures in a world of cookie chaos was so vivid and whimsical that it needed a visual medium to fully capture the zaniness. I grew up reading graphic novels like Captain Underpants and Asterix & Obelix, so I had a personal soft spot for this format. Graphic novels provide a unique opportunity to champion visual humor, which was a perfect fit for the kind of story we wanted to tell. We could combine text-based storytelling and witty one-liners with the added layer of visual comedy to enhance the story’s impact. Plus, graphic novels make for an engaging reading experience for all ages.

YEM: What did you learn during the writing process?

HF Brownfield: I think we both quickly learned what our strengths are when it comes to writing. I tend to be the “tornado of Poloroid” ideas – random is my forte. Kayla excels at structure and consistency. Together, we form a great pair because we try to keep the fun front and center while also attending to important character development and plot points. We also learned that having an incredibly skilled editor, in this case Grace Scheipeter, is invaluable when solving or identifying places for improvement.

YEM: What is the best part about working with someone else?

Kayla Coombs: Working with a collaborator, especially someone I share a valued friendship and sense of humor with, is a truly enriching experience. We inspire each other with new ideas and fresh perspectives, which allows us to create something far better than what either of us could have achieved individually. But, the best part is the mutual support and encouragement. We’re there for each other during creative blocks and setbacks, providing constructive feedback, reassurance, and plenty of jokes to lighten the mood. Sharing the journey with Brownfield makes the challenge feel more manageable and the victories even sweeter.

YEM: What do you hope your readers can take away from your book?

HF Brownfield: We hope they can learn that reading can be incredibly fun! The book is written for reluctant readers, avid readers and everyone in between. We worked really hard not to be “preachy” about the moral of the story, but we certainly hope kids will think creatively about compromise when it comes to choosing between cookies and cake. 😉

YEM: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be an author one day?

Kayla Coombs: As someone who studied chemistry at university, then became a self-taught artist, and somewhat recently became an author, I’m evidence that every writer’s journey is unique. Your path may not look like anyone else’s, and that’s okay. My key advice would be: write regularly, read widely, seek feedback, never give up. I can’t tell you how many writing projects I have on my laptop, and only a handful have seen the light of day. The road to becoming an author is filled with ups and downs, but your passion for storytelling and love of the craft are what will drive you forward.

YEM: How long did it take to make Quinnelope and the Cookie King Catastrophe?

HF Brownfield: Once we started focusing exclusively on the development of the book, we were able to get through it in about 5 months. Luckily, Kayla and I split the dialog and illustration duties 50/50, so that helps us move through the process pretty quickly. We also intentionally kept the character art as simple as possible to help make the illustration process smooth and quick.

YEM: What is the best part of writing for a young adult audience?

Kayla Coombs: Writing for a young adult audience is an absolute joy for me. The best part of crafting stories for young adults is the incredible sense of imagination and adventure that this age group brings to reading. They haven’t yet been tethered by the constraints of adulthood, so they approach stories with an open mind and willingness to believe in the extraordinary. As a writer, this allows me to create a world and characters that are both fantastical and relatable. I remember the emotions, friendships and adventures of that time in my own life. Writing for this demographic is an opportunity to share that same sense of wonder, curiosity and excitement with the next generation.

YEM: What genre would you want to work on next?

HF Brownfield: We certainly hope we get to keep working on more Quinnelope novels, but we also have several folders full of drafts, notes and extensively written work for other projects we’ve dreamed up. Who knows what the future holds for those super secret projects we’ve created together!

YEM: Are you planning on working together again in the future?

Kayla Coombs: Absolutely! We’re excited to share that we’re currently writing the second book in this series. Quinnelope and the Mystery of the Missing Moon: Volume 2 is set to hit shelves in Summer 2024.