November 7, 2013

Author Interview: M.D. Payne - Monster Juice Series

Today Hooked on Books is happy to welcome M.D. Payne. He is the author of the fun Monster Juice Series.

My students brainstormed questions they had for an author, and I narrowed it down to the most common or interesting. Before we get to the answers a bit about the books.

The Fear the Barfitron
When Chris Taylor discovers that the residents of the retirement home where he volunteers are secretly monsters--and have stolen what appears to be his life essence--he leaves to recruit his friends to help him get it back. But once they return to the retirement home, the boys find themselves at the center of a vomit-inducing war against some of the grossest monsters this world has ever encountered. Will Chris and his friends join the residents to fight off the Barfitron?

Chris Taylor and his friends are sent on an unexpected school field trip to a remote tropical island--only to find their new monstrous friends waiting for them. Once again, they need the boys' help: A new evil is on the rise. And it's a frightening sea monster made entirely out of dead skin. Will the boys be able to help defeat such a monster?

They look like pure fun!

Now for the interview.  Welcome to Hooked on Books!

Why do you write?
This question reminds me of a famous quote made by one of the first people to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory. When asked why he wanted to climb Everest, George replied, “Because it’s there.” The idea of doing something simply because you feel like you must rings true for me. I write because I feel I have to create, and I’ve been lucky enough, after years of dabbling in music, acting, audio production, radio, film and television that I’ve found a really fun creative outlet.

Does writing all day get boring?
I would love to find out! At the moment, I juggle my children’s book writing with a full-time job and a family that includes a beautiful 14-month old girl. That being said, my full-time job as a Director of Communications at a private school in Manhattan also requires a large amount of writing, and it does sometimes feel like I’m stuck in a computer all day long. So, I wouldn’t say it gets “boring” so much as, like anything you do non-stop, endless and overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time writing that I can’t communicate properly without a keyboard in front of me.

When you were in middle school did you like to write? When did you start writing?
I’ve always liked writing. When I was seven, I wrote a book of cool presidential facts—not for school or my parents or anyone but me. (That reminds me—I really need to ask my mother where that is!) In middle school I won the Young Writer’s Competition and had my worked published in my local paper, the Idaho Statesman. I just recently re-read my story, Creatures of the Night, and I was shocked at how violent it was. I was writing for adults as a kid, and now, as an adult, I’m writing for kids! But, it’s all been horror so far.

Where you a big reader when you were a kid?
Yes! I remember reading during recess out in the huge grass field behind Rio Vista Elementary School. I read a lot in elementary school—Bunnicula, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The House with the Clock in its Walls, A Wrinkle in Time, and countless other tales. By the time I hit middle school, I spent most of my free time playing video games, but I still read, mainly Stephen King and lots of non-fiction.

This premise of this series is pretty funny and crazy. What was the inspiration for them?  Where did the ideas come from?
The series started with a very simple idea—what would a retirement home filled with monsters look like? Then, I had to figure out what would happen if kids unraveled the secret of the retirement home. Then, I realized the reason that the old monsters were so old was because newer, more evil monsters were taking over. And what would save the old monsters, and in turn, all of humanity? Gross stuff. Barf and burps. By then, I was just really excited to see how I could mix everything together—be funny, gross and scary all at once, but in a way that moved the story along.

I have so many influences. On the funny-scary side, Goosebumps was a huge influence, as was The Addams Family and The Munsters. On the funny-gross side, my number one influence was the cartoon Ren and Stimpy, which to this day I regard as the funniest thing ever animated. And I’ve always been a funny person—I love making people laugh.

Are any of the characters in Monster Juice series based on people you know or people you’ve met?
Many of the characters in Monster Juice are based on people I know. I actually had a really hard time figuring out how to write the first book, until I started thinking about my own time at middle school, and all of the people I knew there. That’s what got me goin’! Chris is me as a kid, so I get to write as “myself.” Shane is a dear friend of mine from middle school who is like his namesake in many ways—having a black belt, for one. Ben is an interesting character because I wrote him with an adult friend of mine in mind--I never actually knew him as a kid. Gordon is totally made up. Then there are teachers featured who actually were real—Mr. Stewart is the greatest science teacher of all time, and I was lucky to have him in the 8th grade.

How long did it take you to write either book? How many times did this book get sent back to the editor for changes? – Basically how many drafts did it go through – how long did it take?
Fear the Barfitron took a really long time, as I was working with my editor on the entire series idea as well as the first book that would kick it off. We started talking about the idea in 2009, and it wasn’t until mid-2011 that I really started drafting. Then, it took about a year of going back and forth with changes and refinements to make it right. The main bulk of the book went through 3 major drafts before we focused in on just a few sections and finished it off. Fartsunami was a completely different beast—it only took 2-3 months to draft, there were only a few structural changes in a second draft, and then a lot of changes came after it was laid out because it was too long. I think, all told, Fartsunami took 6 months from beginning to end.

What is the hardest part about writing this series?
This was my first series, as well as my first books, so the hardest part was just answering the question, “Can I really do this?!” I had a lot of doubts that I had to break through, and I also had to learn patience—as you see from above, writing a book takes a lot of time! The second hardest thing was writing for 8-10 year olds—you become quite limited not only by simpler words but by simpler plot devices: you can’t confuse the reader or they’ll slam the book shut, but you need to keep the story going. I think I hit a happy medium.

What is something you want us to know about this series?
I had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs writing it, so I hope that readers have a lot of fun and tons of laughs while reading it. It takes a while to get into the characters and the story, but then once the second half gets cookin’, BOOM, you’re off! So be patient. I know I had to be. J

Thank you so much for visiting with us! If you want to know more about the series check out the video below or M.D. Payne's Tumblr account House of Payne.

This interview was also ran on my student book review blog Hooked on Books.

1 comment:

  1. Great questions and interesting answers. Thanks for the interview. I always learn something when I read author interviews.