Bruce: I'd written a story for the earlier GUYS WRITE FOR GUYS READ collection, so I guess that means I was in some way part of the Guys Read gang (although they never showed me the secret handshake). Being a mystery writer, I presume I was on their list of candidates for selection in this new collection -- and I'm honored to have been chosen.
I've always dreamed of being a monster hunter personally. Is this a factual retelling or was it something you had brewing?
Bruce: Alas, this isn't a factual retelling -- but wouldn't that be cool? I'd been a big monster fan since the days of making Wolfman and Dracula models as a kid, and when Jon Scieszka invited me to contribute a story to the collection, I wanted to do something that was less detective-y and more monstrous. This idea of kid monster hunters came to me during my brainstorming session, and it struck a chord.
In your opinion, what makes a story thrilling and how do you balance it from being too creepy or scary for young readers?
Bruce: Making a story thrilling is largely about getting us to care about a character and then putting that character in deep, deep doo-doo. And that's true no matter what genre you're writing in. What scares us most, I think, is the unknown. If you can play with that fear during the course of your story, you can milk a lot of thrilling moments from it.
I think kids today can handle a lot gorier, scarier stuff than they could when I was growing up, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should give it to them. I balance the scary stuff with humor, which works as a safety valve for letting off the reader's tension, and I use my best judgment as to how much creepiness appropriate for young readers. R.L. Stine set that bar pretty high, though, so I've got a lot of leeway.
Why do you think young readers are drawn to these kind of stories? Did you read them growing up?
Bruce: Young and old, we all love being scared silly on occasion. Kids like a safe scare, just as much as adults do — it's one way to feel deeply without putting yourself in actual danger. I used to love supernatural tales as a kid -- especially this collection of supernatural stories called MAINLY IN THE MOONLIGHT, which I must've reread a half-dozen times. And of course, I watched all the monster movies my parents would allow.
What terrifies you? Do you bring any of that fear to your writing?
Bruce: I don't want this to sound macho, but I'm rarely terrified, and when I am, it's by more adult concerns like political demagogues, paying taxes, and so forth. On a more mundane level, rattlesnakes creep me out -- but I haven't used them in a book yet.
In this "Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter" story, I incorporate something that used to mildly creep me out in childhood. My friend Billy and I used to explore the storm drains under the city streets, which was spooky, but fun and adventurous at the same time. (Kids, don't try this at home!)
Can you tell me what the most thrilling book is that you've ever read? Why?
Bruce: I actually don't think I can single out one book, but I can give you a top 4:
THE HUNGER GAMES -- riveting, dramatic story
THE LIGHTNING THIEF -- just pure, thrilling adventure
ROBOPOCALYPSE -- deeply creepy tale of robots taking over the Earth
BEAT THE REAPER -- intense, gross and funny (not for kids)
And last, but not least, do monsters exist?
Bruce: As Shakespeare put it, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And I think that includes monsters, angels, and other things we can barely imagine. For me, the best attitude is, "there might be monsters."
Very well stated, Bruce and Bill. At the Asylum, we know there are monsters lurking... watching... waiting.