Exclusive: Interview With THE NIGHT EATERS Creator Marjorie Liu

Liu chats her new horror comic, plus the results of being forever scarred by Disney horror and the work of maintaining a dream once you've grasped it.

By Angel Melanson · @HorrorGirlProbs · October 14, 2022, 4:00 PM PDT
Screen Shot 2022-10-14 at 2.29.42 PM

The Night Eaters trilogy is a brand new graphic novel horror series from Eisner Award-winning and bestselling author Marjorie Liu and illustrator Sana Takeda, the creative team behind the New York Times bestselling series, Monstress. With Night Eaters, Liu and Takeda deliver a multi-generational story about family, race in America, and the danger of keeping secrets. Chinese American twins Milly and Billy are having a tough time. On top of multiple failures in both personal and professional lives, they’re struggling to keep their restaurant afloat. Luckily, their parents, Ipo and Keon, are in town for their annual visit. Having immigrated from Hong Kong before the twins were born, Ipo and Keon have supported their children through thick and thin and are ready to lend a hand—but they’re starting to wonder, has their support made Milly and Billy incapable of standing on their own?

When Ipo forces them to help her clean up the house next door—a hellish and run-down ruin that was the scene of a grisly murder—the twins are in for a nasty surprise. A night of terror, gore, and supernatural mayhem reveals that there is much more to Ipo and her children than meets the eye. Marjorie Liu chatted with FANGORIA about the new series.

Can you tell us a bit about Night Eaters and where we can expect this trilogy to take us?

First of all, I'm so delighted to be speaking with FANGORIA! Thank you for having me! The Night Eaters is about a Chinese immigrant mother who decides she needs to take a firmer hand with her adult children — inside a haunted house. The next two books deal with the fallout of that terrible night. What happens when children learn something frightening about their parents — and themselves — and are completely unprepared and unwilling to accept these life-altering changes? What could possibly go wrong?

What was your inspiration for Night Eaters? From the first seedling of the idea to where it ended up?

I never intended to write this book. Sana and I had talked about doing a second project, and I was floating around some ideas — but The Night Eaters came from a spontaneous outburst of creativity that took me by surprise. I wrote it at the height of the pandemic, when most people were still in lockdown — after months of watching too many horror movies — and the book began with a simple question: How would my grandmothers and aunts handle a haunted house? And I found the answer to that very, very funny — because the women in my family are terrifying. A ghost would stand no chance.

Can you talk a bit about your journey from lawyer to comic book writer?

It's been almost twenty years, and I still marvel that it happened at all. I was so young, just twenty-four, a new fresh lawyer looking for a job. I'd never really thought about being a writer professionally, even though I loved writing and reading. That seemed like the kind of dream other people have. But in between applying for jobs, I sat down at my computer and started writing — and something came over me. I looked up one day and had a finished novel in front of me. Which was…startling. In a good way. So I did my research, wrote query letters to editors and agents — sent the first three chapters to slush piles at various publishers — and got a lot of rejections. In fact, everyone rejected the book — except for the last publisher I sent it to. And, miracle of miracles, on the day before I turned twenty-five, I sold that novel.

Weirdly, that was the easy part. The hard part was telling my family that I wasn't going to practice law, and that I was going to write full-time. Cue every stereotype about a Chinese-American family's professional expectations. And what was even harder than that was actually writing full-time, professionally, as a career. I had a fantasy that I'd sell that novel and "everything would be different" — whatever that means. But life is life, and it doesn't matter if your dreams suddenly come true — maintaining a dream requires a lot of work.

That said, there I was, suddenly a novelist — and I was meeting with my first agent, and her son ran up dressed as Spider-Man, and that sparked a conversation about how much I loved reading comics. It just so happened that she knew an editor overseeing a new line of X-Men tie-in novels — and I jumped at the chance. Fast forward: I wrote an X-Men novel called Dark Mirror — which led to an introduction at Marvel Comics, which led to conversations with Marvel editors, which led to writing NYX: No Way Home. And once I got my foot in the door, I never stopped. I went from that book to Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, X-23, and then Astonishing X-Men and Han Solo. Until it was time to stretch my wings, and I made the leap to Image and began collaborating with Sana Takeda on Monstress. And now, years later: The Night Eaters.

It's a strange thing summarizing twenty years like that. I think I've written close to nineteen novels, and a ton of short fiction and comics. It's impossible to fully describe all the hard work that's led me here, but I'm very grateful that I never gave up.

Tell us about teaming up with Sana Takeda.

I met Sana maybe thirteen or fourteen years ago when I was writing X-23. She was brought on the book to draw just a few fill-in pages, but her style resonated powerfully with me, and I was thrilled when there was an opportunity to bring her on the book full-time. If we'd known then where we'd end up, I think we would have been stunned. But working with Sana has always been a joy, and I don't know anyone who can switch styles like she can. She tries something new with every project, and in The Night Eaters, she's moved from the lush complexity of Monstress to looser, energetic lines and the wash of watercolors — super evocative and perfectly resonant with the book's sense of mystery.


Can you tell us about some of your favorite horror comics? And maybe any horror films that may influence your work?

The first horror movie I ever saw was The Watcher in the Woods. Surprisingly, it's a 1980 Disney film starring Bette Davis, and it's only available on DVD and VHS. I don't know if I would find it frightening now, but I know it terrified me when I was a kid. It's about possession, lost daughters, apparitions begging for help, rituals gone wrong — and the memory of it still haunts me.

But, more recently, I've been enjoying films like Satan's Slaves — a terrific Indonesian horror about a cult — and The Innocents, a Nordic thriller about children with superpowers. Incantation is a truly terrifying Taiwanese export, and so is Rob Savage's Zoom masterpiece, Host. Also, I finally tracked down Possession, a 1981 horror film starring a young Sam Neill — and talk about hair-raising.

But what I love more than anything are the horror comedies, films like Zombies for Sale and Housebound, and Extra Ordinary. If I'm going to be scared, I want to laugh, too — and that was a powerful influence when I was working on The Night Eaters. I wanted to write a horror story that might leave a reader feeling good about life afterward, instead of scared or depressed.

The Night Eaters Book #1 is now available, but you can take a sneak peek below.