Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chelsea Campbell's RENEGADE X marks the spot!

Look up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane... No it's Damien Locke and he is a confused teenager with a secret. Well, aren't they all. But, Damien has a super secret. The kind of secret that can save people or destroy them. In Chelsea Campbell's debut novel THE RISE OF RENEGADE X (Egmont USA, 2010), Damien teeters on the fence of greatness or supreme darkness. If you're like me and have to snatch up every superhero book out there or just need a good dose of storytelling, then you you will want to slip into your lycra spandex suit and rise to the occasion.

Can you talk to me about the decision to make this your first book? What inspired the story?

Chelsea Campbell: I wanted to write about a bad guy who had to save people. Or at least that's the idea I started with. The story changed a lot from that initial seed as I was planning it out and figuring out who the characters were, but I think it's still reflected in the story. Damien learns that no one is all good or all bad, and that even if they're labeled as a hero or villain, they're all stuck in between, just like he is.

I can see boys grabbing this book off the shelf just from the cover alone, and it doesn't disappoint. What do you say to the female audience out there that might be hesitant in reading this book (because it is a superhero male lead)?

CC: Being female myself, I like to write boys that girls can like. I mean, some female authors like to write about girls lusting after hot guys. I'd rather just write about the hot guys--who needs a middleman? Ahem. Anyway, I have heard from female readers who really thought they wouldn't like the book and who don't like to read about superheroes who were then glad that they'd tried it out because they loved it. The main character, who narrates the book, has a funny, sarcastic voice, and people like to see what he'll do next. People also tell me they love the female characters in the book, especially Sarah, Damien's quirky genius sidekick, and Kat, his on again off again villain girlfriend. So I guess what I'd really say to girls is read a sample and see if you like it.

(The first chapter is available on my website here:

Here is a taste: 
        Golden City isn’t your average tourist trap. Sure, it’s got its tall buildings, and the one street everyone knows the crazies hang out on—the teens with green hair and lip piercings that tourists think are an attraction somehow. Like they don’t have them at home. Traveling to see ordinary stuff like that is the same as going to a restaurant and ordering a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s a waste of time and money, and that’s not why people come to Golden City. Tourists aren’t here to throw pennies in old fountains or catch a play—they’re here in the hopes of spying some idiot in tights soaring past the skyscrapers. They want to visit superhero-themed diners and order Justice Burgers and Liberty Fries, served to them by an unhappy wage slave in a polyester cape. They want to visit the Heroes Walk in Golden City Park and see all the shining white statues of the superhero do-gooders who made the history books.

What are you waiting for!! Go read the rest of it! After you finish this interview of course, Chelsea still has lots of great things to say. Ahem, please continue...

Being a comic book geek, I read into a lot of references to other comic book archetypes in your story. Are you a fan of comics? If so, what are you reading (or did you read)?

CC: I am a fan of comics! But I hadn't read any before I wrote Renegade X. I LOVE most of the superhero movies that have been coming out in the past decade, and I can't get enough of Smallville. I know as a kid I wanted to read comics, but just never had the opportunity, and by the time I was old enough to realize you can get them from the library, getting started felt really overwhelming. A friend read the Renegade X, though, and was shocked to find out I hadn't read any comics, so he sent me home with a stack of graphic novels.

I think some of my favorite comics so far have been Batman--The Long Halloween, Arkham Asylum (the video game of Arkham Asylum was freaking amazing). I love Batman, and I love the villains. I think what makes Batman so great--besides, you know, Batman--is the villains. They have their own interesting storylines, and I would read/watch/play stories just about the Joker. I don't know if I can say that about any other superhero stories.

Chelsea you are just trying to win brownie points now. Okay, fine, it worked!! The Batman is the best. He does have the best rogues gallery. Okay, where were we? Oh right...

Can you talk to me about writing from a boy perspective and how you found Damien's voice?

CC: Well, it's been three years since I wrote the book, so it's hard to remember. I think in the beginning I was a bit nervous about getting a boy voice right, but that nervousness has faded over time, since no one has complained about it, lol. I tend to have male main characters in my books, but this was the first time I wrote one in first person. I knew I wanted Damien to be funny, but I'd done a LOT of pre-writing, where I wrote random scenes, experimented with what would happen in the book, with his character, how he interacted with other characters, etc. Stuff that wasn't meant to go in the book and that I could write quickly, just to get a feel for things. So I had all this pre-writing, and there wasn't really a lot of voice to it. And it wasn't funny. And also I wanted him to always be scheming and manipulating people, and that wasn't there either. So then it came time to actually start a real scene in the book, and it's like someone poking you with a stick, going, "Okay, now be funny!" At that point I knew a lot about Damien and what made him tick, but suddenly it was show time and I didn't know if I could pull off everything I wanted to. I decided to have him manipulating people in every scene, whether it was pulling off some big scheme or just something small, like getting someone to do what he wants. I also made him snarky and sarcastic and tried to get in his opinions about everything around him. The book ended up with lots of sex and math jokes, which I think says a lot about it, or maybe about me...

Well, you are visiting the Asylum. If there is anything you would like to talk about... No? Please, go on..

I love to speak with writers about the process of writing the first draft. How does Chelsea get through the first draft? What are your writing rituals?

CC: I like writing at night. My brain comes alive after it gets dark, maybe because I spent so much time in high school staying up too late writing. The only real requirement I have for writing, though, is quiet. I can't really handle distractions. I don't know if I really have a process for getting through a first draft... for some books, I write rambling notes to myself that sometimes end up being as long as the book does, just hashing out what the book might be about and how the story goes and what choices to make when. And some books I just say, "This is what happens here, here, and here," and then I write the book. For Renegade X, I got an idea and just sat down and started writing. It was kind of like the rambling notes to myself, except it was through the main character's perspective, kind of like journal entries, just talking about the people he knew and what his world was like. And it morphed all over the place and I had about 35,000 words of that (about half the size of the actual book) before I started writing any real scenes.

What is the most painful aspect of writing for you?

CC: The middle. *shudder* I hate middles. Beginnings can be troublesome and hard to get into, but they can also be fun. Endings can be tough because you've spent all this time building up to it and you want it to be just right, but, again, it can be fun, and when it's done you have the satisfaction of finishing. But with middles, what do you get? It's not new, it's not the end... and you've got to take everything you started in the beginning and connect it with the stuff you hope to do in the end. I feel like it's lots of pressure mixed with confusion, and no reward. Except, you know, the writing itself...

Right! I'm in the middle of a middle myself. Sometimes it makes you feel like Hoffman in Marathon Man. 

Everyone likes to know what advice other writers can dish out to fellow writers. Let's mix it up a bit and tell me what first time writers should avoid doing? What mistakes do you see a lot of them making?

CC: Fake conflict. Fake conflict is when the characters are worried about something, but you never feel like that something could actually happen, or when there is supposedly some kind of conflict going on, but it never affects anybody. Nothing actually bad ever happens, and the characters are always saying what horrible danger they're in, but after a while you get wise to it and you don't believe them. This can happen with large scale danger, like, "Oh no, I hope we don't get hit by that really fast train that's ten miles away!" or some smaller conflict, like the character's mom is the world's best rocket scientist and loves the main character to death, but consequently only has time to call them five times a day and can only hang out with them during their Saturday night ritual of eating chocolate and watching sappy movies for ten hours. *SNORE* It's fake conflict because even though they say there's a problem, there isn't really, and there aren't any real consequences. In that scenario, it's like, "Oh, no, your mom is really really successful and can afford to feed you and give you a nice place to live and loves you a lot and still spends more quality time with you than most parents, but maybe you have to, *gasp*, make your own dinners." It's something that doesn't actually cause a problem between the characters and in fact can be seen as an asset for the MC.

How did you prepare for the launch of the book?

CC: I have a website where I blog, though it's funny because before I was published, I blogged ALL THE TIME. And now that you'd think I'd have anything interesting to say... I clam up. I'm also fairly active on twitter (, and that's hurt my blogging, too, because I'd rather just tweet something. I also did a book giveaway on Goodreads, had bookmarks made to give to people, and had a launch party in real life.

What superhero/villain would you NOT want to be and WHY?

CC: As much as I love him, I wouldn't want to be the Joker. He has too much turmoil. He'll never be really happy, and he can't/doesn't trust anyone. He does things that are really awful, and I don't think he'll ever really love Harley, no matter how hard I ship them.

So, fellow reader, which one are you? Hero? Villain? Or teetering on the fence with a burning X? I think you know by now where I stand (on top of a precipice brooding through a dark cowl waiting for some Joker to come along).

Chelsea, Thank You so much for stopping by. I really enjoyed RENEGADE X and I hope it is a great success for you and may your writing continue to soar into the atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

School may be out, but Jarrett Krosoczka's LUNCH LADY is in!

Every hero has their choice of weapon for fighting evil all over this giant blue marble. From Batarangs, Adamantium claws, a golden lasso, heat vision eyes and a spatchula. Wait, what? A spatchula? You heard that right. Not only did we see Bruce Wayne return from the dead and Robert Downey Jr. relaunch into the stratosphere in Iron Man 2. The literary world was given a heroic size tater-tot smackdown in the latest release of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series. I'm talking about Jarrett J. Krosoczka's LL4 or to the lay person Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jarret at the LA Times Festival of Books and with a little greasing of the pan I was fortunate enough to catch him for a few words during his super(hero) busy schedule. So grab a large spoon and let's dig in.

What brought you to writing for children?

Jarrett Krosoczka: I just always loved to tell stories with words and pictures. I also worked with kids at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for many summers, so that certainly influenced me to write for a younger set, too.

Can you talk to me about your writing process? Are you a jam through the first draft type? Or work through it with an eagle eye perfectionist type?

JK: The way it tends to work for me is this—I get an idea, so I immediately open my sketchbook and draw the character. From there, I start making story notes in-between my sketches. I attempt to map out the story (if inspiration is cooperating) by creating a story mountain (beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.) Next, I make page after page of story notes, in the order I imagine them happening. Then, I make thumbnails of all the pages I have to tell the story. (In a picture book I tend to have 32 pages, in my Lunch Lady graphic novels, 96 pages.) I try to figure out what event will happen on what page. After that, I write a manuscript and then make rough pencil sketches of the illustrations.

But that stage from initial idea to a fleshed out manuscript with thumbnails? If inspiration doesn’t cooperate, that could take years!

Do you have a writing "ritual" that has to happen before putting the words to paper? (reading a certain book, watching a certain movie, loads of research, drinking chocolate milk through your nose)

JK: I’ve learned that the best course of action is to just live my life and pay attention to the world around me. Inspiration will hit when I least expect it. (And if I were to just sit at my desk, staring at a blank piece of paper, waiting for an idea—I probably wouldn’t have any books published.)

I found myself laughing out loud at so many of the moments in The Lunch Lady books. What is the most important aspect - outside of character - for you when writing stories like Cyborg Substitute, League of Librarians, etc?

JK: Aw, thanks! Well, you took my answer! The biggest driving force in writing each Lunch Lady book is figuring out who the villain will be. But I also place a high importance on the pacing of the story. I make an effort to not have the major beats of each story fall on the same page in each book. Sometimes my readers are in on the villain’s identity, sometimes it’s a surprise to them.

I'm a HUGE comic book fan and I am very excited to see that graphic novels are blossoming in the young adult/middle grade reader world with stories outside of the Marvel and DC Universe. What made you want to write this story in this format? Was it always intended to be a gn/comic?

JK: As am I! The initial thing that would become the Lunch Lady books was actually a picture book about kids who debated what their lunch ladies did after school. One kid thought that maybe they were spies and that quickly became the more interesting story to tell, but it no longer fit into the format of a picture book. I tried writing it as a chapter book, but that format wasn’t visual enough for the humor I wanted to use. I even put together a pitch of Lunch Lady as an animated TV show, but when I realized that I would relinquish all rights and the story may not even end up being about a lunch lady, I backed off, determined to find the right format for my story. Not too soon after that, I contributed a piece to Jon Scieszka’s Guys Write for Guys Read.

I furthered the adventures of one of my childhood comic book heroes. I fell back in love with telling stories in the comic book format and realized that it would be perfect for the story that I had about a crime fighting lunch lady. (And the timeline for all of that? 2001-2005.) 
What storylines did you read/are you reading? 

JK: I have boxes of Batman, X-Men and Spiderman books from my teenage years. I was into monthly comics when the X-Men split into the blue and gold teams and when Spawn and Image debuted.

And now? I love the Scott Pilgrim series, The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Davis, Monkey vs. Robot by James Kolchalka, Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, Anything by Gipi, and for memoirs - anything by Jeffrey Brown, Blankets by Craig Thompson, and Stitches by David Small.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent release of Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown?

JK: In LL4, Lunch Lady and Betty look forward to a few weeks of summer camp. They’ll be able to just serve food, not worry about any shenanigans. But Hector, Terrence and Dee are at camp, so you know they’ll be sticking their noses into something. The legend of the camp swamp monster puts an end to any outdoor tranquility our heroes were looking forward to.

What authors/books inspired you to become a writer?

JK: My favorite books as a child were:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
The Fudge series by Judy Blume
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Bunnicula by James Howe

I’ve had the honor of meeting Mr. Howe and Ms. Blume, Ms. Cleary is my Facebook friend and perhaps someday I will jump into a time machine to meet Mr. Dahl.

I'm with you on the time machine trip to meet Mr. Dahl! He is one of my absolute favorites and huge inspiration to me. 

What mistake do you feel many first time writers make when putting together their first book?

JK: I would say the biggest mistake would be to think that the book will automatically find an audience. I tour (and have since the beginning) quite a bit, visiting schools, libraries and stores and attending conferences and literary festivals. A great online presence is important, but warn shoes and frequent flier miles still matter.

If you're not an illustrator but really want to write graphic novels/comics, what advice can you give those of us wanting to write them?

JK: Just write your story. Just as in picture books, if the publisher really likes your manuscript, they would match you with an illustrator.

Is it hard to sell a comic story without the illustrations?

JK: I don’t know, I’ve never tried. But I can say that art can quickly grab someone’s attention more than words can. I broke into the market with my promotional postcards featuring my art. I figured that even if the editors were throwing away my postcards, they’d have to look at the art on the way to the waste basket.

If you could be any character from literature, who would you be and why?

JK: Anne of Green Gables. She led a good, long life.

I want to thank Jarrett for checking into the Asylum for a spell during his awesome blog tour. It has been an honor to host him here and I can truly say how wonderfully nice he is (I'm not bias because our daughters share the same first name). I look forward to reading his stories and I hope there will be many more to come. To learn more about Jarrett, check out his website here - Studio JJK.

To follow Jarrett on his next stop of the blog tour, please stop by Graphic Novel Reporter tomorrow!

You can also check out the kick off to Jarrett's blog tour here at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Yes, it's here, ARCHVILLAIN Friday. If you read Wednesday's interview with Barry Lyga then you are as excited as I am to get your greedy hands on this book. But since I am feeling rather villainous today (yes, I know villainous is not a word) I am going to tell you that I already put my eyeballs on this book and you will want it. Muahahahaha!

But you, yes you again, now have the opportunity to own your very own AUTOGRAPHED ARC of ARCHVILLAIN if you do the following.

1) Rob the federal reserve in Gotham... er, uh, just kidding. DON'T DO THAT.  Okay, let's start over.

For every villainous act you perform you will be graded on the point system. And since only heroes do positive things, we will count every act as a negative one. Example. Post this on your blog and get -2 pts. Post this on Twitter and get -1pt. Get it!? Isn't that brilliantly evil? It really is. You should be so lucky to be in the presence of a mind this heinous. Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, the contest. Get cracking, show the Asylum your best villain moves.

Follow this Blog -3pts
Post to your blog -2pts
Post to Twitter - 1pt
Post to Facebook -1pt
Comment on this post and tell us who your favorite villain is -2pts

Add them up, or subtract them down. Make sure to leave links to your posts and your email in the comments so we have a way to contact you, should you be so lucky. And so we can check up on you and make sure you are being a creep. I would say good luck, but that would be too nice. How about break a leg! Muahahahahaha!

This contest will end on Wednesday June 30th at Midnight PST. The winner will be announced on Thursday July 1, 2010 right here at the Asylum.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fan Boy seeks Archvillain in Barry Lyga

There are days when you are positive that they are going to revoke your geek card. I didn't make it to opening night of Iron Man 2, and as of this writing I still have not been to see it. Gasp! I have turned off the lights so when they come knocking, I can pretend I'm not home.

But, alas, my geek status has returned and may have been bumped up a few notches. I might even get a key to the city. Okay, lets not get too ahead of ourselves (not yet anyway). Why all this geek talk, you ask? Listen up my fellow nerd herd, I've had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Barry Lyga about writing and his upcoming, facemelting book ARCHVILLAIN (Scholastic Press, Oct 2010). Yes, I have laid eyes upon the book and I even have a signed copy to give away (starting on Friday). You can now, kiss the ring. I know, I know, just get on with it, Bub!

Can you talk to me about the transition of writing comics into books? What do most writers not know about the comic writing process?

Barry Lyga: Well, for me the transition has really been in the other direction -- going from books TO comics. I did write some comics years and years ago before my first novel was published, but I had always been a prose writer dabbling in comics. Nowadays, I'm working on my first graphic novel, which is a whole different way of writing. When you write a novel, you're trying to show the reader the story, and the reader is your only audience. When you write a comic, you have to TELL the story in such a way that the artist can communicate it to the reader for you. Basically, the artist is your first audience and then the artist has the responsibility of conveying your story. It's a whole different mind-set.

I'm big on getting reluctant readers started on reading. You have a non-fiction book that discusses this topic. Can you give a few pointers from the book on how we can get more boys to read?

BL: Actually, that non-fiction book was about using comic books in schools. The reluctant reader angle was just one of many we tackled. I never think in terms of, "How will I get someone to read this book?" I think the author's responsibility is to tell a story that people will enjoy. To me, the worst thing you can do is shove a book in some kid's face and force him to read it. Research has borne out that kids read when they're in a reading environment. So, if we want kids to read, the best thing is for them to have parents and siblings and friends who read.

Well said. Okay people, put down that TV remote and start reading! Kids you have no idea what you are missing.

Superhero and Villain stories seem to be huge these days (they always have been for us comic nerds) but can you tell me what inspired your soon to be released novel ARCHVILLAIN?

BL: Well, it's sort of a strange combination of things. The publisher actually approached me with the basic idea. They said, "Wouldn't it be cool to do a story about a kid who's a villain, not a hero?" And I mulled it over for a long, long time -- years, actually! I kept saying that I wasn't interested, that I wasn't the right guy to do the book, and they kept asking. And then one day, it occurred to me: If the kid was really, REALLY smart and sarcastic and sort of self-absorbed... It would work. He could be a villain, but he would never in a million years think of himself as a villain. Once that clicked for me, I realized how I could approach this idea, and the rest is (or will be) history.

I'm sure there are many people like myself chomping at the bit to read this book. Can you tell me a little bit about the story?

BL: ARCHVILLAIN is the story of Kyle Camden, a really smart 12-year-old who is the most popular kid in town. One day, Kyle gets exposed to some alien radiation and becomes even smarter...and he gets super-powers, too! Now he has a choice: He can fight crime and help little old ladies across the street...OR he can use his powers to play pranks on people and try to kill the local super-hero (who has now become more popular than Kyle -- how dare he???). From the title of the book, you can guess which way Kyle leans. :)

If I was a young girl and I was hesitant about reading superhero books, what could you tell me to get me to read them?

BL: I have to be honest: If you were a young girl and you were hesitant about superheroes, I wouldn't force them on you. Kids become good readers when they enjoy what they read. There are so many different kinds of books out there that there's no reason for anyone to be persuaded into reading something they're not inclined to enjoy.

You talk in great detail about the writing process on your blog (which is great for writers to read). What about the process of juggling several projects at once? How does that work for you and how do you keep it all straight?

BL: For me, the key to juggling multiple projects at once is to be sure that they're all in different stages. If I were starting four books at once or revising four books at once, I'd be in a straitjacket by now! So I always have each project at a different stage: Revising one while researching another, starting on a third, and maybe wrapping up a fourth. That way, each project feels fresh and I don't get burned out. It's working so far -- we'll see how the rest of the year goes!

If you could write a storyline for any comic book character who would it be and why?

BL: I would love to get my hands on either Superman or Wonder Woman for a nice arc -- figure six issues or maybe a chunky graphic novel. I have ideas for really great stories for each of those characters and I would love to tell them.

I also really like Captain Universe, a somewhat obscure Marvel character. I could do some cool stuff with that one, I think.

In your opinion, who is the nastiest villain of them all?

BL: If by "nasty" you mean "harmful," it's probably someone like Darkseid or maybe the original Lex Luthor. If by "nasty" you mean "disgusting and vile," it's probably someone like Anton Arcane.

Well, I'm pretty sure you blanketed all kinds of the nasty with those choices. Who needs a shower? The good thing for you is that there are so many great books by Barry that you will have plenty of reading material to keep you busy for awhile. I know I will be cracking open my Wolverine: WDE book again!

To learn more about Barry and his world, check out his website and numerous insightful blog posts here.

Stop back by the Asylum on Friday (6/18/10) to find out how you can score the Autographed ARC of ARCHVILLAIN (Scholastic Press, Oct 2010)

Until then, keep practicing your plans for world domination and your dark throaty laugh.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Holy 700, Batman!"

In May of the year 1939, Detective Comics released issue #27 pulling back the curtain to reveal a brand new character known as The Bat-Man. This caped crusader was dressed as a bat who would swing down from building tops and put the clamp down on thugs and villains. Thanks to Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the world would never be the same.

Tomorrow, June 9th, is the release of the 700th issue of The Batman. Pretty astounding accomplishment for a comic book. Not many storylines have made such an impact on world culture. I've seen pictures of kids in Africa wearing Batman shirts. Now, whether they know who the Batman is or not, it has reached far and wide.

Being a Batman fan (understatement) this is a awesome day for me. I will be standing outside the comic store with bucket in hand to catch all the drool that will be leaving my gaping mouth. If you walk by and see the guy who looks like a beached fish sucking air, that will most likely be me or one of my geek brethren.

So stand up and give a toast to the caped crusader, the Dark Knight, the man who has recently come back from the dead.

Long live the Bats. Thanks to all those writers and artists through the years who have kept me entertained and keep me coming back for more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Greg Trine's Super(hero) Writing Hijinks

I love the smell of comic books in the morning. The feel of the inky pages between my fingers. And  the stories and heroes they introduce to the world of readers. When a new superhero hits the world and is pressed between the pages of a middle grade novel I go bonkers.

Awhile ago I discovered a series of books written by Greg Trine called Melvin Beederman Superhero. Up there with the likes of Pilkey's Captain Underpants, Melvin is a young bumbling hero with a pet rat and a powerful partner in uncrime named Candace. I recently introduced my six-year-old nephew, Austin, to the series by reading him the Attack of the Valley Girls. He couldn't get enough. Reading this book to him even trumped the Wii. Reading 1, Video Games 0. 

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with authors who write books that I admire, want to read more of and wished I wrote, I have to speak with them. So far, they have all been wonderfully amazing and open with their time. Mr. Trine is definitely in the league of writing superheroes, so let's go into his lair and find out what he has to say.

Your Melvin books have a lot of great humor in them. How important is it for you to make these books funny and have you had to dial back on any of the humor? (per editor or publisher request)

Greg Trine: I naturally lean on the humorous side of life, so writing the Melvin books are a good fit. My editor is pretty behind me on all the crazy rule breaking I do as far as narrator intruding into the story and such. Her only stipulation is that it be G-rated.

Let's say I am a young girl reader, what can you tell me about the Melvin books that would make me want to read them? Do you think girls shy away from it because it is Superheroes?

GT: I think girls go for these books because there's a female sidekick. The writing is very boyish, which is something I can't control. My masculinity is going to come through in my writing whether I like it our not, and I think it should come through—otherwise I'd be homogenizing the prose to suit the reader and I'd hate to do that to them.

Melvin is a great leaping off point for young readers to get into comic books and superhero books. Have you ever thought about giving us a glimpse into Melvin's world when he is a teenager? It would be a cool graphic novel! (plus he would be a riot to hang out with)

GT: I haven't thought of that, but what a great idea! When I wrote the first Melvin book, which I thought was going to be a stand-alone book, I pictured Melvin as much older...possibly twelve or thirteen. I'd love to see Melvin face some teen issues. Melvin on a date? funny would that be? I have to run the idea by my editor. Thanks for the idea.

Can you tell me what some of your influences where growing up? Who did you read? How did their stories affect you?

GT: I'm rather embarrassed to say that I grew up in a household of nonreaders. That being the case, I was probably influenced more by TV than by books. Melvin has always seemed to be a cross between Get Smart, George of the Jungle, and Super Chicken. The silliness is from Get Smart. The intruding narrator is straight out of George of the Jungle. And the superhero...well, there's a little Super Chicken in Melvin, I think.

Filmmakers can get put into a cube when they make a certain genre of movie, does this happen to writers when they write MG or YA? If so, why do you think that is?

GT: I do feel that my publisher is really pushing the humor angle with me. They've passed on a few more serious books. So I think the cube thing happens because of economics. The writer is creating a readership and switching to a new genre would be starting over.

With that said, you have made the leap from MG to YA with your book The Second Base Club. Did you find this to be a difficult transition? Can we expect more YA from you?

GT: One of the reason that Holt took on The Second Base Club is that it's very funny. Realistic, but funny. So we're still going after the same type of reader. After writing eight Melvin Beederman books, though, it was difficult to break away from Melvin's (or rather the narrator's) voice. In the early drafts my editor would write in the margins, This sounds like Melvin! Eventually, I was able to make it sound more teenish.

I'd like to do more YA since it's such a booming market right now. But I have to admit that I'm probably more of a middle grade novelist at heart, which is why Melvin runs a little old for a chapter book and why The Second Base Club is a rather young YA.

The final installment of Melvin Beederman in July and The Second Base Club in Oct. Are you floating on marshmallow clouds or what?

GT: It's a pretty exciting year. But now the pressure's on. What's my next book going to be, and in what genre? I have a funny middle grade I'm working on now. My agent is pretty excited about it and that's always a good sign. Hopefully, my editor will snatch it up.

I read on in your bio that you like to make up ice cream flavors. Is this true? That rainbow trout one sounds like a doozie! What would be the ultimate ice cream flavor?

GT: I don't really make ice cream—I wish! I was just being silly. Anything ice cream that involves chocolate is a very good idea, possibly with pretzels and root beer on the side.

Greg was being silly, but of course the Japanese do have a fish flavored ice cream and it sounds rather, well... fishy. Anyone brave enough to try it, let us know how that goes.

I want to give a SUPER Thank you to Greg for dropping in and talking with us. Melvin is a great book to get those reluctant boy readers started on. There is plenty of humor and action to keep them glued to the seat of their stretchy spandex uniforms. Check out Melvin's website to learn more. Melvin Beederman. Until next time, up up and... Crash! Splat! Kerbonk!