Courtesy of Coco Ma

Coco Ma MUS ’21, a piano student at the Yale School of Music, published a young adult novel on Tuesday titled “Shadow Frost,” which will be featured at a book launch at the Yale Bookstore on Oct. 12.

“Shadow Frost” is the first book of a trilogy, and the second book is in the revision process and is slated to be published in 2020. According to Ma, the project began as a high school
writing assignment.

“The first one just kept getting longer and longer, and eventually turned into a novel,” Ma said.

She explained that her writing was inspired by fairy tales and their retellings. “Shadow Frost” shares many elements of traditional fairy tales but includes many “twists and turns and unconventional things,” Ma explained.

Richard Curtis, who is Ma’s literary agent, said the creativity of the novel story stood out to him.

“As a literary agent, I receive a lot of young adult submissions from young adults, and an overwhelming amount of it is very dark and dystopian,” Curtis said. “And when you’ve seen two hundred submissions of the same kind of stories, you start to get a little jaded. Coco’s book, I think, was more of a real fantasy story. It had its dark elements, but it was entertaining and unique and very positive in its storytelling qualities.”

According to Ma, it was important for her to create multi-dimensional and relatable characters.

“There’s a big emphasis on strong, independent female characters, but I think a lot of the time it becomes so that they’re almost perfect,” Ma said. “I think one of the strengths in the characters I’ve created is that all of them are very realistically, humanly flawed … It’s not just about presenting this almighty character, but showing that they are human at the end of the day.”

Although Ma always planned to pursue piano professionally, she said her interests in music and writing have “bolstered” each other. She hopes to pursue both passions, Ma said. She added that she would like to find a way to bring the two together, especially because the audiences for classical music and young adult fiction are very different.

According to Ma, an important aspect of music is storytelling, and she particularly enjoys imagery in the works of Impressionistic composers like Debussy and Ravel.

“Music stimulated my imagination from a very young age,” said Ma. “And I’m absolutely certain that has influenced my writing.”

Ma said she learned discipline while practicing to play piano. She added that growing up in the music world has hardened her from criticism, which writers and musicians are constantly exposed to.

According to Curtis, the editing process for “Shadow Frost” took slightly longer than it usually does for other authors. The story that was initially written when Ma was fifteen now had to align “with her more mature outlook on life,” Curtis explained.

“The best thing about writing a young adult series as a young adult myself, is that I get to grow alongside my characters, in terms of writing style and characterization,” Ma said.

Ma said that through her work, she hopes to pave the way for other young writers to publish their own books.

Ma is currently pursuing a certificate in performance at the School of Music. Outside of her core curriculum in music, Ma has also taken Yale College classes including “Mystery of Sleep” and “Neurolinguistics.”

The “Shadow Frost” book launch will be held on Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Yale University Bookstore at 77 Broadway.

Carrie Zhou | pinyi.zhou@yale.edu 

Correction, Oct. 12: A previous version of this article stated that Ma has taken a course with the title “Neural Linguistics.” In fact, the course is called “Neurolinguistics.”