Courtesy of Coco Ma

Coco Ma ’25 MUS ’21, author of the “Shadow Frost” trilogy, will release a new two-book series titled “DEATHLINGS” in fall 2023. 

A recent graduate from the Yale School of Music where she studied piano, Ma wrote her first book at 15 years old, and published it in 2019. Since then, she has published another book titled “God Storm.” Her newest series is based in a near-future New York City and represents her new approach of blending fantasy and reality. Ma said that “DEATHLINGS” represents her new voice as a more established author and reflects her effort to tell stories using a more diverse cast of characters — in contrast to the predominantly white casts that she grew up reading.

“Coco has a fluid, engaging style which was evident in her earlier work,” English lecturer Derek Green said. “But this new book is a real step forward for her — mature, inventive, and disciplined.”

Ma began writing “DEATHLINGS” in 2019 while a student at the Yale School of Music, before the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the widespread lockdowns which took place during her writing process were a “creative blackhole” for her due to the isolation and the lack of day-to-day interactions that she relies on for inspiration. 

Ma said that the series’ protagonist is inspired by her own experiences living in New York City and reflects her Chinese American heritage. The protagonist, she added, attends high school in the same neighborhood as Ma.

“In New York City, every day is like a story, anywhere you go, there’s inspiration to be found,” Ma said. “It was really important for me to take into consideration the city’s elements.”

Ma said she considers “DEATHLINGS” to be a more personal book than her previous publications, noting that this is the first time she wrote from a first-person perspective. She said this helped make the book feel “so much more present.”

Although she began writing “DEATHLINGS” before the pandemic, Ma incorporated many elements of a “city in crisis” into the book. She said that her frustration with the COVID-19 pandemic “got translated” into her book. 

“It’s a COVID book that was written before COVID that’s not about COVID,” Ma said.

Green praised Ma’s work ethic, saying that she spent months writing and rewriting the novel to perfect its characters and their internal conflicts. 

For Ma, the storytelling journey has not been an easy one. She said that navigating the balance between being an author, pianist and undergraduate student has been a “constant struggle.” Especially following a recent accident which delayed her Yale School of Music graduation recital, Ma faced significant stress during her first year in Yale College. She said she has been focusing more on productivity and is learning to be more flexible with herself.

“Coco is such a gifted storyteller,” said Holly Root, Ma’s literary agent. “I was delighted by the enthusiastic response from the publishing industry to the page-turning, sharply crafted world she built.” 

“DEATHLINGS” will be published by Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.