• INTERVIEW: Writers Mike Vogel and Nicole Dubuc Drop Some Clues on Ponyville Mysteries!

    Pictured From Left to Right: Nicole Dubuc, The Illustrious Q, Mike Vogel
    Interview Header Illustration by: CatbeeCache

    I know a lot of our readers are eagerly awaiting the release of My Little Pony: Coloring Harmony: Dazzling Designs from Equestria next week on July 4th—and after picking up the book at BookCon for the premiere release I cannot blame them, the book is awesome. However, Little Brown is launching a new MLP Chapter Book series literally one day before that!

    My Little Pony: Ponyville Mysteries is a series of chapter books written by Mike Vogel and Nicole Dubuc which focus on the Scooby-Doo like shenanigans Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo get up to. I had no idea those three where detectives. Then again, when considering all the fields of study they practiced while earning their cutie marks they probably learned transferable skills.

    To help celebrate the upcoming releases, Equestria Daily had the honor of interviewing co-authors Mike Vogel and Nicole Dubuc about the book series! There was much laughter to be had as these two chatted about the books, how they both got involved with MLP, and what might end up happening if A.K. Yearling ever met Penumbra Quill.

    Be sure to check out the whole thing after the break!

    The Illustrious Q: I know I have asked Mike this question before, but I haven’t asked you yet Nicole. So, I might as well ask you both: who is your favorite pony?

    Mike Vogel: ONE pony is tough.

    Nicole Dubuc: Yeah, that’s the problem! I mean, I have a favorite pony to write for, a pony I’m most like, and the pony I would most want to hang out with! You go first.

    MV: OH! I like the three version thing! Ok, Most of my friends would tell you that I AM Rainbow Dash (in good ways AND bad ways), but as I've said before, I really have grown to like writing Starlight Glimmer a lot. I know she's a devisive character, but I find her struggles with friendship interesting and endearing. I think we all WANT to be as good as the Mane 6, but oftentimes in life we all have more Starlight Glimmer in us than we care to admit. I know I do. And I find that I enjoy writing her as she continues to discover who she is and what friendship means to her. And hanging out? Well, I'm a gay man living in West Hollywood. I think Rarity and I would have a pretty fabulous night on the town.

    ND: I think I’m probably most like Twilight Sparkle. I love books, I take responsibility seriously (and sometimes forget to ask for help), and I can be an over-achieving stress biscuit. Pinkie’s probably the most fun to write for, because she’s hilarious and random and makes me laugh out loud. And I’d love to hang out with Vogel. I mean, Rainbow Dash.

    TIQ: How did you both become involved with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?

    MV: I was the "Boy's Action" guy at Hasbro Studios when it started (which was always an awkward way to introduce yourself). When I was asked to oversee girls and preschool shows as well I spent a few days binge watching the first two seasons of Pony to catch up. I was INSTANTLY hooked and have been finding new ways to stay involved in Pony ever since!

    ND: I was also at Hasbro Studios from the start, working as a staff writer on Transformers: Prime. Then I was tapped to co-develop Transformers: Rescue Bots, and I stayed on that for five years as a writer, story-editor and producer in various seasons. When season four of Rescue Bots was in post-production, Hasbro asked me to join the season eight crew of MLP, and that led to my immersion in all things Pony!

    MV: And then Nicole and I worked on a few Pony things together which led to us diving into this whole crazy book adventure as a team! WOO HOO!

    TIQ: How does it feel knowing that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is currently airing it’s 7th season, with season 8 officially announced at Hasbro’s licensing expo?

    MV: It's actually pretty amazing. That's quite an accomplishment for ANY show, live action OR animated. I'm thrilled to still be involved and would love to continue to help add to the journey as long as I can. I suppose eventually this iteration of Pony will end to make way for another version down the road. I'll admit I've spent some time thinking about what the best possible ending to FIM would be. But if I told you, I'd have to kill you.

    ND: He’s not lying. I’ve seen it happen.

    TIQ: One of the main points that Hasbro has been stressing this year--especially with the My Little Pony comics from IDW and the book tie-ins to the movie--is how closely interconnected the My Little Pony franchise is across all of its media formats. With that in mind, could we possibly see aspects of My Little Pony: Ponyville Mysteries make their way onto the show/in the comics?

    MV: Nicole and I would LOVE it if we could!

    ND: Yeah, that would be amazing. Believe me, our minds are already clicking on how to tie the two in!

    MV: We've had such a blast building out this little mysterious corner of the mythology and to see some of these characters and storylines wrapped into the series would just be AWESOME.

    TIQ: My Little Pony: Ponyville Mysteries is really the first time the My Little Pony franchise is delving into the Literary Mystery Genre. What are some of the aspects of taking the established franchise and its characters into this genre you find exciting?

    MV: MLP:FIM has such a rich universe and such a deep cast of characters that it was already suited really well for the Mystery genre. The fact that Ponyville is RIGHT next to the Everfree Forest also helped a lot as far as coming up with the bigger story. You really don't get more mysterious than that. Lol.

    ND: One of the things the show does so well is embrace numerous story-telling genres - you can have scary stories, musical episodes, full-on comedy, epic adventures, and they all fit. So writing spooky mysteries felt like a natural extension of the world. I’m thrilled Vogel brought me on the project with him, because getting our Scooby-Doo on with these awesome characters has been incredibly fun.

    MV: I think the most interesting part for me was dealing with the CMC's. We spent SO many years dealing with them GETTING their cutie marks and it was fun to take a step back and ask "Well... what are they worried about NOW?" That's how life works. You WORRY about getting to a certain stage in your life and then you get there... and realize there's MORE to stress about. It was fun to start from there and build the mystery and story with those themes in mind.

    ND: It’s also been really interesting to explore the CMCs’ relationship with the Mane 6. I mean, you see your sisters and their friends saving Equestria time and time again - it’s a little daunting when you’re trying to make your own mark in the world. And I think that’s incredibly relatable for each new generation.

    TIQ: What are some of the greatest challenges to you’ve come across while adapting the franchise to mysteries?

    ND: For me, I guess it’s endemic to any mystery storytelling - you have to know the end of the story before your can create the mystery leading up to it. And you have to pay close attention to setting up details that don’t give away the game, but do lead the reader in the direction you want them to go. It’s a bit of a brain puzzle when you’re figuring out the story. And on top of that, these books are from different characters’ perspectives, so you can’t reveal anything THEY don’t know.

    MV: It's funny, but I think the BIGGEST challenge was the Mane 6. Because if there's a big mystery, why don't THEY deal with it? They're definitely the more experienced. But we took that challenge and faced it head on in the story in (we hope) an interesting way. You'll have to let us know what you think about that!

    TIQ: I know the first three novels are going to be told from the point of views of Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and a chicken named Scootaloo.

    ND: Ooh, don’t let her hear you call her that.

    What have been some of the things you keep in mind while writing the books to differentiate the three point of views? Like does Apple Bloom always relate everything to apples and does Scootaloo filter everything through her perceptions of Rainbow Dash?

    MV: Haha sort of. The benefit of writing a chapter book is you get to give the reader a glimpse into how these characters THINK more than you do in the show. In the show everything you write is either stage direction or dialogue. But in the BOOK there's an inner monologue. So we get to dive deeper. Apple Bloom thinks a LOT about what she's doing with her life and what's next for her. Sweetie Belle has a lot of fears. She worries about being as brave as her friends are. Scootaloo definitely measures herself by being as cool as her hero, Rainbow Dash, but she also has some insecurities that creep up that she might not want to admit to anypony, even herself.

    ND: We owe it to the excellent writing in the series that these three characters are well rounded and all “sound” distinct - you can’t just exchange their dialog for one another. I definitely feel like each of the CMCs has a different perspective and drive, and if they all look at the same situation, they’ll have diverse viewpoints. For instance, I found that when I wrote Sweetie Belle, she was very intuitive - good at reading how other ponies felt from their expressions, and mindful of how things made them feel. Each pony’s book will hopefully feel different and immerse you in their viewpoint!

    TIQ: So the stories are “written” by Penumbra Quill, and told through the POVs of the CMC. How difficult was it to get into that writing mindset?

    MV: It probably sounds much more complicated than it is. Haha. We built the stories around the idea that Penumbra Quill came to Ponyville and interviewed ALL the ponies in GREAT detail (she's VERY detail oriented). She got to know the characters as well as you or I or any fan knows them. So when she went to write everything down, she may not have gotten EVERY detail EXACTLY right (she isn't psychic so she doesn't know for SURE what each pony was thinking at every moment) but we are making the leap that she was pretty darn close.

    ND: I think the most fun was figuring out who Penumbra Quill was - her backstory, and WHY she was writing these books. What did the stories and the CMCs mean to her? It was a bit of a mind-bender when Vogel reminded me that everything on the page was researched by Penumbra. So even if the two of us know something that Twilight knows, but Apple Bloom doesn't - then Apple Bloom couldn’t tell Penumbra and it couldn’t be in the book. But we COULD write what Apple Bloom’s own “head canon” for things was. See how it starts getting trippy?!

    TIQ: It’s been hinted throughout the franchise that Equestria is well aware of Ponyville’s reputation for attracting all sorts of let’s call them problems that few other communities have to deal with. Is that reputation something you’ve kept in mind while crafting the mysteries the CMC have to deal with?

    MV: Yes. For sure. Totes. Haha. Ponyville is CRAY.

    ND: It’s like our own personal Sunnydale!

    TIQ: I know it’s been said before that in order to write an effect mystery, that a writer must know the solution to the problem. Have you found that to be true while writing the novels, or have there been some major surprises which caught you off guard?

    MV: BOTH. We definitely started with the overall idea of where we ended up and we THOUGHT we knew everything that was going to happen. But writing in prose is a different kind of magic than writing a script and it often felt like the characters were making decisions FOR us that would change where we thought we were going. They tend to take a life on of their own. I think we are still ending up in the AREA we planned but a lot of little details keep changing along the way.

    ND: Yeah, there are fantastic moments where pieces of the puzzle fit together and you’re like - "AHA! I didn’t even plan that and it works so much better than what I did!” Kind of like a magical “satori” moment. And there are funny little side things you mention in one book that end up serving a bigger purpose later on. Plus, the way that we write, back and forth, means that one person can inspire another, and then we build on each other’s creation.

    MV: Oh DEFINITELY. We outlined the chapters together, but sometimes I would get a chapter from Nicole and read it and just be floored because some little detail or description would make me throw out what I was planning and come up with a whole new concept! It was SUPER collaborative in all the most fun ways!

    TIQ: How different is to write stories where the Cutie Mark Crusaders are the main protagonists and Twilight and her friends are the ones in the supporting roles--assuming they appear at all?

    ND: It’s like writing CMC-focused scripts - this is their story, so they’re the heart, emotion and plot-drivers. So it didn’t feel that different to me, just more of a moving of the spotlight.

    MV: Twilight and the others DEFINITELY appear and play a part in the story. Realistically we couldn't have a bunch of crazy stuff happen in Ponyville and NOT have them involved. Figuring out why the CMC's would become the protagonists was part of the challenge but the whole idea of the Mane 6 always being there to solve problems quickly became a focal point of what the CMC's were dealing with emotionally, particularly Apple Bloom.

    TIQ: Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all have some pretty big characters they look up to who have done some incredible things. Like save Equestria more than once, become a highly successful business mare, and officially join the top group of flyers in the country. While writing the stories, have you felt that the CMC have been in the shadows of Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash?

    MV: HAHAHAHA. Ummmmmmm. Yes. Let's just say... yes.

    ND: When you put it that way, I feel like we’re ALL in their shadows!

    TIQ: In addition to those three particular mares, have the CMC’s mentor/mentee relationships with Twilight Sparkle and Zecora had any impact when it comes to writing their characters?

    MV: Definitely. Obviously Applejack, Rarity and Rainbow Dash are closest to the CMC's and their development, but over the course of the series they've been close to many of the ponies we all know and love. I think that definitely plays a part in the series. We were allowed to use anypony we wanted and we definitely made the most of that.

    ND: By the way, it’s really freeing not to be constrained by the number of characters onscreen, voice count, or animation budget restrictions. As I was writing my first crowd scene, I was thinking - oh, we can’t have too many incidentals…And then I remembered that it was a book, and I was like - bring on the extras, costume changes, and special effects!

    TIQ: One set of characters we haven’t seen since the CMC got their cutie marks has been the pairing of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. For the longest time, those two characters, and especially Diamond Tiara, had been basically a requirement of the Cutie Mark Crusaders stories. Do you have plans to explore what those two characters have been up to in this series since we last saw them?

    MV: They definitely appear in the books. The fun part about Diamond Tiara is that, although she is reformed and has learned to be a kinder gentler version of herself... she's still used to calling the shots on things. It was fun to find that balance with her.

    TIQ: Can we also expect more of the CMC’s classmates to make appearances throughout the series? The last one with any major role in the show was Snails when it was discovered he is the perfect Buckball goalie.

    MV: For sure. When you are telling stories from the CMC's perspective, the characters that they see on a regular basis get more play. So the students, the Schoolhouse, etc all get a bit more attention than in the show.

    ND: Yeah, it was great to get to know those side characters better, and put them in situations that show you more about them.

    TIQ: How did you come up with Penumbra Quill, both her name and the as the in universe author of the books?

    MV: Little Brown asked us if we wanted to write under a pseudonym and we were like CAN IT BE A PONY! Nicole came up with some AMAZING Pony names, Penumbra Quill was our favorite. Her personality sort of flowed from there.

    ND: I like that there’s kind of a pun in there - Penumbra / pen-nombre , or pen name. And Penumbra Quill basically means "shadow writer”… I clearly have spent way too much time thinking about this.

    MV: Also, you should have seen the email chain between Nicole and I and our awesome publisher at Little Brown. The name, who she was, what she looked like… we were all having SUCH a blast. It was definitely one of those amazing "I can't believe someone is paying me to do this" moments.

    TIQ: What were some of the challenges with creating a new character who, from what I’ve gathered from the “About the Author” section of the book series, won’t be appearing in the books themselves?

    MV: We actually spent an entire dinner hashing out Penumbra’s character, motivations, and “voice.” And what her cutie mark is!

    ND: She does not appear in the books, just in our heads lol. It was actually SUPER fun figuring out who she was and why she would end up in Ponyville telling this story.

    TIQ: Penumbra Quill is the third named novelist in the franchise, after Twilight Sparkle’s mother Twilight Velvet and A.K. Yearling. Do you think those three have run into each other at some point in their careers and if so how do you think they interacted with one another?

    MV: I am not sure if they have... yet. But Nicole and I definitely have discussed how Penumbra and A.K Yearling would feel about each other if they met in Equestria. I don't know that they would necessarily get along. What do you think Nicole?

    ND: Yeah, I don’t think A.K. would have tons of patience for Penumbra. They’re both strong personalities in their own right!

    MV: A,K lives the adventure and writes about it. Penumbra does tons of research, interviews everypony she can and puts the story together after the fact. BUT they are both successful writers… I;m feeling a frenemy vibe maybe?

    TIQ: Aside from writing these six mystery novels, what other possible books could you see yourselves writing for MLP, either as writing partners or separately?

    MV: Gee, I HOPE Nicole keeps wanting to write with me! She's the best!


    MV: Hmmm... I would love to explore some of the other side characters. Ponies (or other creatures) we don't know as much about. Maybe explore different parts of Equestria? There's such a different feel writing prose and would love to dive into the minds of... I dunno.... say Gilda Griffon?

    ND: You know I’m all about the griffons. And I’d like to do a Discord story.

    MV: A Palace Guard at Canterlot? Maybe some new characters we don't even know who have only HEARD about the Mane 6 from afar?

    ND: Yeah! Or go back in time and tell stories from the time before Celestia raised the sun!

    TIQ: Can we look forward to seeing the both of your at Hascon this September? For some reason a convention run by Hasbro celebrating all of their properties seems like the perfect place for an author's signing event or three.

    ND: Haha. If they ask me to I would love to attend!

    MV: Definitely! I haven’t gotten an invite yet, but I’d be there in a flash!

    TIQ: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or would like to say to the readers of Equestria Daily?

    MV: Just that you are all the best. As someone who has written episodes that are really liked by some and really loathed by others I just want to say that it's awesome to be part of a community that cares this much and is this passionate about what we do. The interactivity with the community is one of the most unique and exciting things about working on MLP:FIM!

    ND: I’m new to Equestria Daily, but I’m so grateful to join the Pony community. Telling stories with these characters has been a gift and a pleasure. When I went home for Father’s Day, my parents pulled out an old box of my stories from fourth grade. They were filled with unicorns, griffons, and dragons. So I feel like I’m kind of fulfilling my life’s purpose right now! I hope you all enjoy reading the books as much as we loved writing them. And thanks for the great questions!

    TIQ: You're both very welcome!

    My Little Pony: Ponyville Mysteries: Schoolhouse of Secrets
    Penumbra Quill (Author) • Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

    Description: At the Ponyville Schoolhouse, there's a new student! She's a young Unicorn named Lilymoon, and she's...well...different. She never smiles, her cutie mark is a spooky moon on top of a spell book, and she clearly seems to have no interest in making friends with anypony! One day, strange things start happening around the Schoolhouse, and Lilymoon is the prime pony suspect! Can the Cutie Mark Crusaders find out what Lilymoon wants before it's too late?

    © Hasbro 2017. All Rights Reserved.

    TPB • $5.99 • 112 pages • 5.25" x 7.625" • ISBN: 978-0-31643-168-2

    My Little Pony: Ponyville Mysteries: The Tail of the Timberwolf
    Penumbra Quill (Author) • Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

    Description: Sweetie Belle and the other Cutie Mark Crusaders can't wait for Zipporwhill's birthday party! When the big day arrives, things are going great, that is...until an angry Timberwolf appears! But where did the Timberwolf come from in the first place? And why did it seem more interested in candy than in any of the ponies? The Cutie Mark Crusaders are on the case, and their new friend, Lilymoon, has a hunch they're dealing with a were pony-a pony who turns into a Timberwolf! Can they gang solve the case in time and save whoever this poor pony is?

    © Hasbro 2017. All Rights Reserved.

    TPB • $5.99 • 112 pages • 5.25" x 7.625" • ISBN: 978-0-31643-190-3