My daughter had an animatronic stuffed Elmo when she was little. I was convinced it was possessed – it would turn itself on at random times and twitch around in wacky, demented circles. It showed up in my nightmares. It whispered in my dreams. For sanity’s sake, in the dead of night, I introduced it to the dumpster. What is meant to be cute can also be…well…not. But writing horror is no easy thing, especially when it is meant for kids. So let’s talk to the man who delivers chills, thrills, heart and humor and see how it’s done.
Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies blends horror and humor so well! What inspired you in this direction?
Believe it or not, I had been toying with the idea of maniacal stuffed-bunnies for a long time. I even have Facebook posts going back to 2011, in which I joke about needing more bunnies in my manuscript. But, getting back to this question, a previous manuscript of mine had gone to committee in two different houses and then ultimately passed over at around the same time. Both gave different reasons, but bot did say they loved the humor. So, I set out to then do the funniest book I could. I had grown up being a fan of horror/comedy, like Gremlins, Fright Night and even Nightmare on Elm Street, so I wanted to go give that a shot.
Kids love being freaked out. How do you make sure you keep the scary stuff fun? Have you ever cut anything out for being too scary?
In Middle Grade, there is a kind of unofficial line of how far you can go. At least, in my mind there is. But, it’s as you just said, I felt that if I could make the scary, fun, then it opened things up a lot. Kids love gross stuff. In the sequel, From Sunset Till Sunrise, I have a scene where a vampire’s arm is chopped off, and Devin’s little sister, Abby, picks it up and uses the hand like a pointer, for emphasis in what she’s saying. I thought that was a fun scene.
And yes, I have cut a couple of scenes which I felt might’ve been too scary. Not many. I’ve mostly left things in.
I get a lot of questions on how to write humor and I never know how to answer them. Do you have any tips for authors who aspire to write funny?
Yes, and they can learn all about it on my online workshop for only $99.99. 😊
But, as well you know, writing comedy is much more difficult than anything else. I actually am doing a workshop on it after the new year, but I suggest watching a lot of comedies and stand-up comedians. Watch it once as a regular audience member, but then watch it again for structure. What makes it funny? I mean, I will rewrite the same thing dozens of times. I’m not talking about story revision, I’m talking strictly humor revision. Would it be funnier if I restructured the joke? Putting the emphasis in a different area. A different word? Humor is tough, because it is soooo subjective, but start with what makes you laugh, and then study it.
I can’t wait to read the sequel – From Sunset to Sunrise – it feels like perfect summer reading to me! Did you plan this as a series? Will there be future installments?
I never count on a series, but I purposely left it open for that possibility. In my mind, it was along the lines of Goosebumps. A funny, horror series that could go on, as long as there were ideas to build on. There are soooo many horror movies that can be parodied, so it lends itself to a series format. When we started discussing the possibility of a series, I actually had to send in a list of monsters/ideas, and Sky Pony picked which one they wanted for a sequel. The first ending was left alone, but the ending on From Sunset Till Sunrise, was changed to accommodate the next horror concept they wanted.
As far as future installments, I hope so, I really enjoy writing these characters and would love to see what else they can get themselves into.
Who are your favorite authors?
Do you mean besides Beth McMullen? Because, I’m not sure I have favorites. I like different authors for different reasons. I might just love one book by an author over their other work. For current authors, you and I were in the ’17 Debut Group, and there are so many wonderful, and talented writers in that class. Seriously, I will read every book that any of them writes, because of enjoyment, and also a sense of camaraderie with them. I’m not sure anyone else has that, but I’ll always think of the 17’s as kind of a fraternity. But, for individual books, I grew up on the Narnia series, respect everything about Mark Twain, and there’s my all-time fave, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I grew up on books. My dad was a huge reader. Always had around four books at a time on his night table. I’m the same way. Whenever he went out, he’d buy me a new book, since I went through them so fast. It was also a love of movies. With every movie I watched, and I mean EVERY, I started trying to think how else I could’ve ended it. What other possibilities there were. In school, I took Drama and playwriting, so there’s definitely an element of frustrated actor inside me, and this is an extension of that. Wanting to tell stories.
What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?
There’s something else to do besides writing?? When not writing, I like doing things with my family. My kids are everything and I enjoy any activity with them. It could be a sporting activity, or just watching a movie, I love being with them. But, don’t tell them that, since I don’t want them to rest on their laurels.
What are you working on right now?
Well, my agent is shopping one book now, with some Jewish themes in it. And, I’m actually in the middle of writing another two. Both magic elements, and of course, humorous.
How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?
Thanks so much for having me!