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Interview: Kim Dwinnell to Do Book Two of ‘Surfside Girls’


More news from the floor of Comic-Con International at San Diego: The publisher Top Shelf announced today that it will publish a second volume of Kim Dwinnell’s Surfside Girls, to be subtitled The Mystery at the Old Rancho.

Dwinell will meet fans and sign Surfside Girls at Comic-Con International today, Friday July 20th, from 10am-11am and 4pm-5pm in booth 2743 (Top Shelf / IDW Publishing).

In Surfside Girls (Book One): The Secret of Danger Point, Dwinnell introduced middle-grade readers to Sam and Jade, two girls who discover that a part of their town, Danger Point, is haunted by the ghosts of those who once lived on that land. (We posted a preview and a review of it last year.)

The Mystery at the Old Rancho pursues that thread as Sam and Jade encounter a Mexican ghost, Maria, who is convinced she has seen her father alive in the present day, and they learn more about the people who once lived on the land that is now Danger Point.

We asked Dwinnell to tell us about the new book, which will be out in June 2019. The full press release follows the interview.

So what happens in Book Two?

It starts out when one of the ghosts on Danger Point gets spooked by the living. I’ve got a very over-dramatic Mexican ghost girl having a meltdown, because she is convinced she has seen her father alive—her father disappeared in 1830 from their rancho. Who comforts this girl but Robert, the boy ghost, and Sam gets a taste of jealousy. So she needs to find out who the heck Maria saw. As they are chasing this mystery, it turns out all the Surfside land was Maria’s land, her rancho: Her father was in the Mexican army and was deeded this house. There is still a rancho house, there are elderly docents, and the mystery takes Sam and Jade to a mission and all over Southern California.

All this is going on while Sam is in junior lifeguards. They run the Surfside surf competition, there are pros in town, and somehow there is a connection between what Maria has seen on the beach and one of the surfers. There are secret rooms and hidden staircases and there is a lot of traveling all over and digging into the past in these actual locations with ghosts who know what they are talking about, and they are breaking into stuff, so they are a little Nancy-Drew brave.

How did you research the historical aspect?

One of the things I’m fascinated with is that we are not the only people who have been here. One of Maria’s powers is when she grabs your hand, you see the land as she sees it. So she is able to tell Sam and Jade, “Where we’re standing, this is what was here.”

I went to a rancho house, Rancho las Alamedas, and met with the historian and got a personal tour. Then I also took a trip down to Mission San Juan Capistrano, because the girls end up at the mission and there’s a priest who ends up helping them, and he may or may not be alive, so we go into what the missions were like back then.

Since you’re the artist as well as the writer, did you take photos and get visual references on these tours?

Totally. At the rancho house and the mission. One of the rooms the girls go to is a library where they kept records. There are records at Mission San Juan Capistrano with hand-written names of the Native American children they baptized. [The building] is crumbly—there are parts that fell in earthquakes and were never restored, and there were parts that were pilfered. Now they have beautiful botanic gardens.

Going down there I asked if I could see a cemetery, because Sam and Jade go into a cemetery looking for this man. They said “Here’s where the white people were buried, but the native people wanted their own cemetery. It’s still there but you can’t go in there as a white person.” Mexicans have been there for 10,000 years, and some of them are descended from people who hung out at the mission. They haven’t left; they are still burying their dead in the cemetery. That kind of permanence blows my mind.

How do Sam and Jade change in this book?

They will be eternally the same age, but I focused on some junior lifeguard culture, so we see Sam out running and swimming with the boys and we get to see a little bit of surf culture too. I wanted to show Sam out being strong, and we know Jade has kind of bailed on being a lifeguard but she is training for a marathon using an app. Sam has a temper, and the jealousy thing gets a little out of hand, so it’s fun to watch Jade have her back about all these feelings that she’s feeling.

What story elements are carried over from the first volume?

The crew all hangs out on danger point, which is being converted to an interpretive center and park, so the ghosts still gather up there

We do find a little bit about the little native American boy ghost who took a liking to Jade. She asks their death story, so we learn a little bit about that.

What did you learn from working on the first volume that helped you with the second?

I think I learned to understand story beats a little better, but as far as the art of it, with the first book I was trying to figure out the process, and now I know how to draw the page quickly, how to compose the page quickly, so in that respect it goes faster. The story changes were minor, and I know how to dig back into those too.

How do you create the art?

This time, I decided not to thumbnail so small. I took an 8 ½ x 11 sketchbook and made the book. They are pretty fleshed out pages. When they are approved, I draw on sketch paper with a pencil, and then I scan those and print it to watercolor paper. Then I paint it with watercolor and I scan it back into the computer. The font is my handwriting. That is layered on top.

So you really do paint these pages in watercolor?

In all honesty the books are all about water, and I wanted it to feel “watery.” It conveys the mood of what I wanted to say.

What do you have planned for the future?

There will be a Book Three, there have been a couple of tidbits I have about Jade reconnecting with her Korean past and connecting with those Korean pearl divers. Beyond that, I’d love to do a Surfer Girls guide to the ocean—what makes a tide, what a full moon does to a tide, wave mechanics, biology, how a girl stays fit in surfing shape, how to make a smoothie with mangoes.

The third book really needs to be a story, but after that I want this companion guide to the story, the ocean from a surfer girl’s point of view.

Kim Dwinell AnnouncesSurfside Girls Sequel for 2019

Second Volume of Acclaimed Middle-Grade Graphic Novel Series Brings Supernatural New Adventures for California Tween Sleuths

Top Shelf Productions announced today that Surfside Girls, Kim Dwinell’s celebrated graphic novel series for middle-grade readers about friendship, fun, and lost mysteries of the local landscape, will receive a full-length sequel next summer.

Surfside Girls (Book One): The Secret of Danger Point introduced readers to best friends Sam and Jade, who put together clues ranging from suspicious beachcombers to spooky ghosts to baby dinosaurs in order to save their town from an unexpected threat. Surfside Girls (Book Two): The Mystery at the Old Rancho, scheduled for June 2019, presents even more beautiful beaches, hidden secrets, distracting cuties, and wild adventures:

When one of the ghosts from Danger Point gets… spooked, it’s time for Sam and Jade to pull out the Journal of Weird and jump into action! Trying to solve this two-hundred-year-old mystery takes the girls all over their town and beyond, all while Surfside’s Annual Surf Competition is going on. Add to the mix a cute surfer boy, a mysterious mustached man with a guitar, and a very jealous Sam — can the surfing sleuths save the day again?

“I’ve had so much fun this last year watching readers of all ages discover Sam and Jade’s world,” says author Kim Dwinell. “I packed Surfside Girls with Southern California sunshine, and I hope everyone enjoys spending time with it as much as I do. I’m absolutely stoked to show you what the girls get up to in Book Two!”

Kim Dwinell will meet fans and sign Surfside Girls at Comic-Con International today, Friday July 20th, from 10am-11am and 4pm-5pm in booth 2743 (Top Shelf / IDW Publishing).

“Kim Dwinell’s Surfside Girls has a timeless quality. With its likable characters, sunny colors, and supernatural mystery, it’s a perfect summer read.” — Brigid Alverson, School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids

“Kim Dwinell supplies a great-looking world of infinite potential… Anyone fondly remembering the tenacious and good-hearted Nancy Drew adventures from their youth can locate a spiritual successor for their own children in Surfside Girls.” — Slings & Arrows

Surfside Girls (Book One): The Secret of Danger Point is now available wherever books are sold. Surfside Girls (Book Two): The Mystery at the Old Rancho will be published in June 2019 by Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing. For more information, visit


Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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