An interview in partnership with Charles Austin Muir and Kara Picante Muir
The Children’s Book Review
Destined to tell weird, spooky stories for readers of all ages, Charles Austin Muir has joined forces with his wife, artist, writer, and entertainer Kara Picante Muir, to create a coloring book that fits the bill! Pug Monster Gallery is a fun, funny, and entertaining coloring book sure to delight dog lovers and horror fans.
In this conversation, we talk about pugs, creative ideas, overcoming fears, making art, and coloring. Boo-ckle up, keep calm, and spook on!
So, the first and obvious question is, why pugs?
Charles Austin Muir: Because we love pugs, they’re so clownish and spirited. We had three and they gave us love, joy, and inspiration.
Pugs are pretty cute. What gave you the idea to do a horror-themed pug coloring book rather than something considered, perhaps, cuter?
Kara Picante Muir: Pugs are cute—but they’re also monsters! We used to sleep two of ours side by side, and the breathing sounds they made inside their kennels sounded like a horror movie. Anyway, after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2019, I started drawing again and sketched a bunch of pugs as famous horror villains. My husband—who’s a horror writer—loved my characters. He wrote Pug Monster Gallery as if they were portraits in a private art showing hosted by Igor Allan Pug, aka “the Treat Master.”
I understand you [Charles] used to be afraid of dogs. How did you overcome that fear, and did that experience influence the stories in the book at all?
Charles: Definitely. Fifteen years ago, Kara insisted we get a dog. Even though I’d always been deathly afraid of dogs, I agreed to adopt a small one. So we interviewed with a rescue organization, and the moment I saw Iggy, I fell in love with him. He was a Boston-Chihuahua- pug mix. He had behavioral issues, but—maybe this sounds strange—being an Asian adoptee raised by white parents, I saw a little of myself in him. He’d been rejected twice and seemed afraid he would never find a loving home.
We adopted Iggy shortly after our first meeting. Our pack eventually consisted of three pugs and a pit lab mix. I put what they’ve taught me about dogs into Pug Monster Gallery. Our pug monsters would rather suck you into the couch than swallow your soul. They’re spooky but still dogs at heart.
The artwork in the coloring section of the book is not the typical, bland line drawings you usually see in kids’ coloring books. Tell us a little bit about your style of drawing, what inspires it, and why you think kids will like it so much.
Kara: My style of art has often been referred to as “quirky” and comes from a lack of training, ha!
As a child, I had wanted to be an artist of some kind but lacked direction, encouragement, and focus. I did dabble in drawing and painting in my adult years, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I really put effort into it, partly to distract myself and partly because, between illness and quarantine, I was stuck on the couch most of the time. Ultimately, I draw for my child self, the little Kara who loves what I’m doing and is so proud of me for doing this now. Hopefully, if my inner child enjoys my pug monsters, maybe actual children will enjoy them, too.
Charles: I’d like to add that Kara’s mash-ups cover all kinds of pugs, including mixed breeds. We love our pug mixes! Also, we didn’t want a book full of pictures of the same generic cartoon pug with simple monster embellishments. We wanted action, emotion, and detail—what we loved about the books we devoured as children.
We love the blank section at the end for readers to make their own creations. Do readers ever share their creations with you? What have been your favorites?
Charles: Readers have shared their coloring work with us, but so far, only one creation: “The Tentapug.” He looks like a giant, walking octopus with fangs, and he loves to eat airplanes, although in the picture, he is devouring a building. Thanks, Atticus! If anyone cares to share a creation inspired by our book, we’d love it if they tagged us on our Facebook pages.
What would be your response to someone who thinks coloring is boring and conventional?
Charles: It’s interesting to me that an activity like coloring could be taken to the same value judgment system that is crushing our sensibilities on a societal level.
Are there any pug monsters that didn’t make it into the final version of the book?
Kara: I had several that were left out to avoid copyright issues. For example, Pug’s Play, Jabba the Pug, Puggy Krueger…also, Pug Crite, inspired by the ‘80s sci-fi horror movie, Critters. Charles’s cousin, Brian Domonic Muir, created the Critters and wrote the first movie.
Charles: We still incorporated some popular culture references and listed our influences in the acknowledgments. Except I forgot to mention Rod Serling’s television show, Night Gallery.
So, you [Kara] now have two doggy coloring books; what do you have planned for the next one?
Kara: The first book was actually a full-color storybook about a pug who searches for her favorite chew toy after it mysteriously goes missing. The next one is about an aging rescue pug who loses the use of his hind legs, then learns how to use them again after his momma is diagnosed with a serious disease. It’s inspired by our first rescue, Iggy, and how he helped me through my first year of cancer treatment.
Do you [Charles] like drawing and coloring? If so, what is your favorite thing to draw or color? And why?
Charles: I used to love drawing. Now, for various reasons, not so much. But as a child, I drew for three to seven hours a day, completely absorbed in alternate realities heavily influenced by comic books. My favorite instructional book was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.
What would your advice be to kids who want to “stretch their creative muscles” after being inspired by Pug Monster Gallery?
Charles: Be open, be excited, and try all sorts of things. Coloring, drawing, writing, painting, sculpting. Make comics, greeting cards, trading cards, puppets, mazes, and crossword puzzles. Write a poem, a script, an essay, or a short story. Jump right in—no need to wait till you’re “the right age” or “educated” enough. There’s no perfect starting point. You have what you need in front of you, even if it’s just scissors, a paper bag, and a box of Crayons. Get to work. Finish what you start. If you feel up to it, share your creation with someone. People want to hear what you have to say; believe that.
As for the ones who try to discourage you, make more stuff! If someone says you’re wasting your time, make more stuff! You may not crank out masterpieces right away, but you’ll get good with repetition. Keep walking the path of creativity…the world will be a better place for it.
About the Book
Written by Charles Austin Muir
Illustrated by Kara Picante Muir
Ages 8+ | 74 Pages
Publisher: Biggy Sancho Books | ISBN-13: 9781734934649
Publisher’s Book Summary: THE PUGS swept through the town in every shade of fawn and black, yipping and snorting and panting and screaming. And then, just as mysteriously, they took to the skies again and vanished…”
These are the words of Igor Allan Pug, your guide to the spookiest flat-faced canines from the ocean deep to the far reaches of space. Follow the master of thrills and chills as he takes you on a private tour of his one and only PUG MONSTER GALLERY. Straight from his pug-a-normal files, Igor gives you the scoop on Loch Ness Pug, Pugfoot, and other smoosh-nosed sensations, along with a coloring section packed with creepy pug mugs and a place to create your very own pug monsters.
A SCARY-but not TOO SCARY-picture book for artists and word lovers ages eight and up about the cutest little creepers in this or any other world!
Buy the Book
About the Author
With a background in English literature, Saturday morning cartoons, and classic horror comics, Charles Austin Muir was bound to tell weird, spooky stories for readers of all ages. His Splatterpunk Award-nominated collection, This Is a Horror Book, is an Andy Warhol-meets- Michael-Myers free-for all for the “mature” reader, whereas Pug Monster Gallery combines his childhood love of Tales from the Crypt and Schoolhouse Rock with…wait for it—pugs! A former cynophobe (someone who fears dogs), he does not regret adopting three pugs and a pit lab and hearing them go bump in the night.
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About the Illustrator
Kara Picante Muir is an artist, writer, entertainer, and founder of doggy-themed children’s book publisher Biggy Sancho Books. She was a massage therapist for 20 years before learning she had colorectal cancer in 2019. During chemotherapy, she began drawing pet portraits and found that one particular dog breed looked adorable when she transformed them into monsters from books, movies, and folk tales. When not drawing spooky pugs, she can be found blogging about her art, life, and cancer experiences at The Adventures of Kara Picante.
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This interview—Charles Austin Muir and Kara Picante Muir Discuss Pug Monster Gallery—was conducted between Charles Austin Muir, Kara Picante Muir, and Dr. Jen Harrison.