Sarah S. Reida Discusses Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production
Interview sponsored by Sky Pony Press
The Children’s Book Review | October 21, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: Monsterville is described as Jumanji meets The Goonies—a fast-paced adventure where board games come alive and winning your life depends on applying monster movie rules of survival. From where did you draw your inspiration for the book? Did the movies mentioned play a role in influencing the plot?
Sarah S. Reida: I have always loved the concept of the movie Jumanji, but I liked the idea of having the characters of a book go into the game (as opposed to having elements of the game infiltrate the real world). Also, since I’m a huge fan of anything Halloween, I wanted to play with monsters as the theme of the game.
Goonies was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, especially because of the action/adventure plotline where the characters worked together to reach their goal (i.e, find a pirate ship laden with treasure, which is beyond cool). In Monsterville, the characters venture into the monster homeland of Down Below, with the goal of rescuing Lissa’s sister.
The protagonist, 13-year-old film-obsessed Lissa, discovers a shape-shifting monster in the woods and decides to film the greatest horror movie of all time…until her little sister is kidnapped. It sounds spooky! However, it’s also been flagged as a funny book. Can you tell us how you found a balance between the scary and the silliness?
I love books with balance. You can have high, scary stakes without getting too serious; and a lot of that is helped by the characters. In Monsterville, Lissa is a city kid who moves to the country. She has a certain attitude about it, which is checked by the “literally huge Boy Scout” (in her words) she befriends. That interface – and Lissa’s personality – is the source of a lot of the humor. Then, there’s the fact that the monster discovered in Lissa’s back yard isn’t your “traditional” type of monster . . .
Filmmaking is a huge part of Monsterville. Did you need to do any research about the filmmaking process?
Yes! I am a huge movie fan, and I wanted to bring some educational elements into the book by teaching kids about the craft of film-making. Lissa sees her world through the lens of a camera, so she’s always thinking about how life would look like if framed as a scene – she knows camera angles and terms that an aspiring film-maker would know, and these terms are utilized throughout the book and included in a glossary. The fun thing is that kids won’t even notice they’re learning! The educational components come out naturally, as part of Lissa’s way of thinking. Mrahahahahaha!
While I know a fair amount about film-making (and movie trivia; I am a walking Wikipedia – it’s rather sad), I read a great deal of books and articles to make sure that the educational component of the book was accurate. Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! is the coolest book ever. That’s a book on screenplay-writing that presents the sixteen “beats” of any movie with proper structure, and the beats can apply to novels, too.
Who do you envision reading this book? Which age group do you think your book is the best fit for?
Any kid from the ages of 8 to about 13 would enjoy this book, especially kids who enjoy the following:
- A fast-paced action/adventure, because the bulk of the book is a rescue mission involving monsters (with their own forms of booby traps).
- A book that is scary but not too scary – this is a great book for kids who love monsters and Halloween.
- A humorous book – one of my major writing influences was Judy Blume and her terrifically funny Superfudge.
- Non-readers – If you are a parent who wants to encourage your couch potato to read, the Monsterville film element will appeal to them.
Your website offers some resources for teachers and movie quizzes for kids. Will you describe to our readers what they can find there and how these resources could enhance their reading experience of Monsterville?
The movie quizzes are just for fun, and they draw from my own obsession with movies. While I am still developing the quizzes, I have a Pixar quiz, Disney quiz, scary movie quiz, Jim Carrey quiz, Bill Murray quiz, etc. Suggestions for new quizzes are welcome!
In terms of the educational resources, I designed these after I presented at a number of schools in southern Illinois for my school book tour. That helped me hone in on not only what I wanted to make available as resources for Monsterville, but also those resources I felt would help teachers to encourage kids to read. These include:
- Reading questions for Monsterville (both chapter-by-chapter, and covering the entire scope)
- Film-related reading exercises for the non-reader
- Tips for aspiring writers (based on the questions I received)
- The Monsterville expanded film glossary
- Camera shot types (with examples) and exercises
What was your journey to becoming an author?
Like a lot of writers, mine is a story of never giving up. I wrote my first middle grade book in 2008. Now, eight years and four books on submission (where you try to sell your book to publishers via a literary agent) later, I finally can hold my published book in my hands!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
It really depends. I work from home and for myself, which gives me a good deal of flexibility. I write or revise for at least three hours a day, and I’ve learned to only write when I’m inspired. When I force the process, I always end up deleting most or all of what I’ve written.
Before we end, is there anything else that you would like to tell us about yourself or Monsterville?
Sure! One fun element of Monsterville is that in this first book, Lissa is guided by her vast knowledge of monster movie rules. In the second, I use spy movies as my blueprint. This means that I can justify watching hundreds and hundreds of movies and calling it research.
Being a writer can be really frustrating a lot of the time, but that part sure is fun.
Written by Sarah S. Reida
Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure.
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! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.
But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescueand face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.
Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher:Sky Pony Press | 2016 | ISBN-13:978-1510707337
About the Author
Sarah S. Reida is a writer, lawyer, and ugly animal advocate. A graduate of Saint Louis University (B.A). and Case Western Reserve University School of Law (J.D.), Sarah makes a living helping veteran business owners compete for federal contracts. She and her husband Scott live in the Atlanta area with their dog and four cats. Contact her via email at sarahsreida [at] gmail [dot] com or via Twitter at @sarahsreida.
To learn more about Sarah (and take fun movie quizzes and access resources for teachers!), visit Sarah’s website at: http://www.lissablackproductions.com/. The literary rights to Monsterville are represented by Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency, and the film rights are represented by Pouya Shahbazian of New Leaf Literary (Divergent, The Selection).
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview with Sarah S. Reida about Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production was sponsored by Sky Pony Press. Discover more great writing and illustrating artists in our Showcase. You can also learn more about marketing books and finding an Author Showcase book marketing plan that is right for you here …