Today, I'm interviewing with Derek Kent, the mind behind Derek the Ghost of the middle-grade fiction Scary School series. Monsters on the March, book two, comes out today.
About Scary School
You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost.
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky.
Scary School has some scary teachers. Did you have any one near as scary as Derek's teachers?
Yes, I definitely had some pretty scary teachers in my day. One time I had a teacher who was a former female sergeant in the army and she definitely ran the class like we were a military unit. Very strict! But mostly had a lot of really great and encouraging teachers, many of whom inspire the great teachers at Scary School. I even dedicated Book 1 to them!
If your teachers were like the ones in book one, you were one lucky kid. When did you decide to write middle grade fiction?
After reading the first three books of Harry Potter I knew that's exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to create magical, unique worlds just like she did where the only limit is the author's imagination.
You've certainly done that with the world of Scary School! What inspired you to write the story?
The first novel I had written was originally called SCARY SCHOOL: BOOK 1 - MY HOMEWORK ATE MY DOG! - it's a middle-grade fantasy series very similar to Harry Potter. The only problem was, it didn't have a whole lot to do with a "scary school". I just thought of that title and wanted to use it before someone else did. So my editor at HarperCollins read the book, and almost acquired it, but in the end, they ended up passing on it, but gave me the recommendation to write a book series called SCARY SCHOOL that was lighter, funnier, and more school-centric. I took their advice, which became the Scary School series we know today. The other book ended up becoming Rudy and Beast: Book 1 - My Homework Ate My Dog! which you can get exclusively through my website.
I adore the cover to Scary School. One look at it, and I knew that it would be a book that I loved--and it is. How do you feel it represents the feel for the book?
Yes. The illustrator is Scott Fischer, who is one of the best illustrators and artists alive. You can see more of his stuff at Fischart.com. Scott is fantastic at bringing all the characters and places to life more vividly and in greater detail than I could ever do. I love Ramon the Zombie Kid on the cover... that captures the scary aspects of the book, but with his ear and hand flying off, that also gets across the book's humor. Plus I love Petunia and her expression down at the bottom. Scott captured her look and attitude perfectly.
He sure did. Scary School is a keeper as far as both covers and stories go. What was it like writing from the point of view of an eleven-year-old ghost?
It's great because it keeps me firmly grounded in an 11-year-old's voice, which helps me to connect with my audience, who are all around that age.
Plus, younger narrators often relate to older readers like myself. The characters of Scary School captured my heart. What did you enjoy most writing Scary School?
I had to change schools when I was 11 years old after being with the same group of kids my whole life. I had a really hard time adjusting, so both books of Scary School and Rudy and the Beast deal with kids starting a new school and figuring out how make new friends. I enjoy writing about problems like this. Experiences that every kid has to go through at some point in their life, but told against the backdrop of a fantastical or supernatural story that kids love.
Now, I don't plan on doing this anytime soon, but just in case... Any advice for a human entering the Ghoul Games?
Try your best to make friends with your opponent and maybe they won't eat you if you lose!
I'll be sure to keep that in mind! Scary School has an assortment of bizzare creatures. If you got to be a "monster" for a day, what would you be?
Definitely a bearodactyl. What's a bearodactyl? You'll have to read Book 2 of Scary School that comes out on June 26 to find out!
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that I hope everyone will all check out Scary School and have a great time reading it. I also created a really fun website for it. You can tour the school. Meet the students and faculty. And there's also lots of fun easter eggs. If you beat the video game on the website, you will win the weirdest trophy ever. And after you finish Book 1, you'll have to go back to the website in order to unlock the secret last chapter that will lead you straight into Book 2!
About Derek the Ghost
Derek is an eleven-year-old ghost who haunts the classrooms and hallways of Scary School, writing down all the spine-tingling often hilarious things that go on there. Despite his ghostly state, Derek still enjoys reading comic books and hopes to one day become a master ninja. If that doesn’t work out, he will continue to share the fun of this very special, very secret school, so all kids can experience the scariest school on earth. Derek the Ghost communicates through the first-time ghost whisperer Derek Taylor Kent, who is a writer and performer in Los Angeles, California.