Today, I am delighted to welcome my friend, critique partner and all-round fabulous author Sarah Schauerte Reida to the blog.
Sarah’s debut novel, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION launches today.
Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.
But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.
And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course!
Here’s what MOSNTERVILLE looks like:
And here’s what I think about it:
Describe Monsterville in five words
Fun, fast, unconventional, funny, scary.
You’re clearly a big movie fan. What’s your favourite movie? Did it influence Monsterville?
My all-time favorite movie is A Fish Called Wanda, period. I have lists, like, here are my favorite dramas, and rom-coms, and comedies, etc., which I’m pretty consistent about, but Wanda has been my unwavering #1 since I was about ten. Thank you Mom and Dad, for imposing no filter whatsoever on my movie-watching! (Wanda is rated R).
Alas, Wanda, which is an English/American heist movie written by John Cleese of Monty Python and earning Kevin Kline an Oscar (“WAKE UP, SLIMY FISH!!!” “K-k-k-ken’s! P-p-p-pets!”), did not really influenceMonsterville. It makes me sad to admit that. Tim Burton’s work did, especially Beetlejuice (I’m a very visual person, and the entire time I was writing it, I was picturing how it would play out if it were a Burton movie); and Goonies. One of the escape scenes toward the end was very specifically inspired by Goonies. See if you can identify it!
I love that Lissa is a writer as well as a film-maker. Does she take after you at all?
Oh, sure. Like Lissa, I love and respect the craft of film-making, and I always imagine how things would look onscreen. It was great fun to research film-making and make the book semi-educational (mrahahaha!) by imparting Lissa’s knowledge/thoughts on the readers. I’ve also been told that Lissa and I speak in a similar manner, which may be unfortunate given that I am supposed to be a grownup.
Monsterville is home to all sorts of different monsters. (Hurrah for monster diversity!) Do you have a favourite monster?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. The monsters are so different! To cop out and simply name a type of monster I find fun, I’d go with Pennywise the Clown, the Stephen King creation wholly responsible for making the clown industry plummet in the 1980s. Go, Stephen! (When I got married, it was a Halloween theme with individually-themed tables. One was Pennywise. He now haunts our house).
Moving quickly on from scary clowns. How did you come up with the idea for Monsterville? And how long did it take to write?
I’ve been asked that a lot, and I really do not remember. At all. I had always wanted to write a Jumanji-esque book where kids used a board game to escape from a monster world, but I don’t know what specifically made it all come together. That is kind of unfortunate, because other writers have these beautiful stories about the plot coming to them in a dream, while I have to shrug and say “dunno.”
In terms of time, Monsterville took about six months, but that’s from starting to going on submission with my agent – not any of the edits that happened later. That one was fun, because I didn’t have an outline. I had a piece of construction paper I used to draw the board game on, and I went from there. It looks like a five-year-old drew it. As proof, here it is!
If you had to descend into Monsterville, what three items would you take to help you?
My pit mix, Archer; my invisibility cloak; and my silent four-wheeler.
What are your favourite middle-grade books this year?
Of the ones that were JUST released, I really enjoyed The Last Boy at St. Edith’s and Voyage to Magical North (for the record, people, Claire and I became crit partners BECAUSE we really liked each other’s books).
I can confirm that. In fact, Sarah and I started talking because I saw the blurb of Monsterville and loved it. Finally, Sarah, what are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on revisions to a MG book about a boy who finds himself stuck in an alternate reality where he can only go home by using video game smarts to beat “levels” where he has to be someone else. I’m still working on the hook, but I’m actually enjoying the writing process!
If you liked VOYAGE TO MAGICAL NORTH you will love MONSTERVILLE and I’m willing to prove that. Check back tomorrow for details of a special competition for UK readers!