Courtesy of Coco Ma

Last Tuesday, Coco Ma MUS ’21 published “God Storm,” the second book in her “Shadow Frost” fantasy trilogy. The third and final installment of this trilogy is slated to be published in October 2021.

The novel’s publication comes one year after the release of “Shadow Frost,” the first book in the series and Ma’s debut novel. Ma said the readership response to her first book was “absolutely incredible.”

“The stakes are higher,” Ma said, referring to her second novel. “The action is more jam-packed throughout the book, and we get to further explore the magical worlds the book is set in.”

Ma, a piano student at the Yale School of Music, began writing the trilogy when she was 15 years old. She grew up reading fantasy novels, and said she naturally gravitated towards the genre. Now, she is excited about her explorations of fantastical elements in “God Storm.”

This book allowed Ma to further build the realms she introduced in her first novel and refine her narrative techniques. In this novel, Ma said she improved overall plot structure and pacing and was “a lot more organized.”

According to Ma, the writing process is complex since it entails months of outlining, drafting, revising and incorporating feedback. Ma’s novels include multiple character perspectives, which she described as “fun but also a headache.” This intricate narrative style facilitates complex plotlines.

“The plots are wonderfully refreshing in that they’re complicated,” said Tochi Onyebuchi ’09 of Ma’s work.

Onyebuchi, an American science fiction writer, met Ma at a pop-up event hosted by Leigh Bardugo in 2019. He praised Ma for her prose, which he said is “evocative and luscious on the sentence level.”

Ma hopes her newest novel will profoundly impact her readers. “I put a lot of emotions into this book,” she said. “I definitely cried at some parts while I was writing, so I hope that at times my readers do too. I want them to have a strong emotional reaction to my writing.”

As with her first novel, Ma balanced her writing career with both academic responsibilities and her personal life. Ma is currently pursuing a certificate in piano performance at the Yale School of Music.

“[Ma’s] energy is remarkable. I’m always impressed by how she conducts herself,” Richard Curtis, Ma’s literary agent, said. He added that she has maintained a strong work ethic since their collaboration on her first novel.

Over the years, Ma said she has developed not only as a writer, but also as a person. “The most interesting thing about this trilogy has been writing a young adult series as a young adult,” she said. “I have been growing up alongside [my characters]. I mean, all of them kind of have a little bit of me in them.”

Ma is also grateful for the mentorship she has received during her writing career, particularly when she was younger and less knowledgeable about the writing industry. She now mentors other young writers and hopes to be a resource for them. Ma said her mentorship is her way of “giving back to the literary community.” She is accessible to young writers through social media platforms such as her Instagram, @cakeforcoco.

The “Shadow Frost” trilogy is just the beginning for Ma. She is excited about a new project, a young adult fantasy novel she describes as “Manhattan plus monsters plus magic,” with Holly Root — a literary agent who has launched over 24 New York Times bestsellers.

“I’m excited to see her star rise,” said Onyebuchi. “She’s one to watch.”

Ma holds a pre-college diploma from The Juilliard School.

Dominique Castanheira | dominique.castanheira@yale.edu

Wei-Ting Shih | wei-ting.shih@yale.edu