I can very safely say that when I was a teenager with his dreams of being a special effects makeup person quickly fading I didn’t really see myself writing stories at age 43. Not that I am doing it professionally, in any way, but that I would have written, er, fourteen books, I think, and would have sold books to strangers, and would have done the things I have was never something that would have crossed my mind. And when I look back at the story that set me in mind to WANT to write stories and to keep writing them I can’t say that I saw a day when I would write not one but three books for children and a series for all ages. I was into horror and dark stuff. I was into creepy and moody things. I wrote because it was my way to reach out to the world and to sort of bottle the weirdness that I seemed to produce by the gallon.
I have talked about all of this before.
It’s not new.
What I am getting at though is a little different.
I never had an intention to write anything other than dark and spooky stuff. Not out of any snobbishness but out of the sheer fact that I just couldn’t see it.
Not at 15.
Not at 20.
Not at 25.
Not at 35.
Well, maybe at 35 I was softening because around then I was starting to think about flying sheepies and that was the downfall.
While I think most people would agree that they’d rather write for a living, or at least for some sort of gain, those of us with the bug to write write because we have to. It’s just what we do. I didn’t and don’t write with money in mind, no, I write because a strange notion catches me off guard and I feel the need to write it and see where it goes. So when I write a story it’s because it’s something that draws me to it.
So you see, I never set out to write books for children, or families, it just worked out that way.
When I wrote THE MEEP SHEEP books they came from a silly idea I fleshed out at work with a friend and from a strong friendship with the woman that became the inspiration for the main character. I realized that I wanted to tell a story that, while still weird and dark, embraced other things that I loved – fairy tales. There’s something innately magical about fairy tales that embraces the dreamer in me and shows the world not lit by fires but lit by fading sunlight with the world tilted at an angle. Fairy tales are dangerous, when done well. Apples are poisoned. Fairies bite. The woods are dangerous. Oh, but there is magic as well, the magic of wishes and dreams and hopes. Those are the things that I wanted to capture in my MEEP SHEEP books. The spreading of darkness to oppose the light. It’s my hope that I am successful in how things came together.
The books for kiddos came to me from out of nowhere. The first one, DANNY FRANKENSTEIN, was inspired, as I have mention previously, by two guests of our weird little convention we did here in Flint. Two friends that shared a love of monsters, a love that had followed them from childhood. And the story was there, a boy that loved monsters and who needed them as the world closed in around him. Monsters were his happy place, their loneliness echoing his own and in them he found solace. The story wasn’t meant to scare but was meant to offer kids going through a hard time themselves a character that they might relate to. While he was inspired by other people, Danny was as much about as anything else because he could have been me, in many ways. I loved the weird and scary and my love for those things always seemed to keep me at arm’s length from a lot of other kids until I met other kids that, like me, loved the strange. Then the world opened up around me.
The second book came from the same place. A story that wasn’t like the others. A story that wasn’t about the sort of monsters I usually wrote about. This monster was different. This monster was maybe scarier because it was one that the little girl of the story loved, and loved without question. So was born LITTLE SUE AND THE MONSTER, the story of a little girl torn between mother and father and finding a monster in the middle. Little Sue’s book was the first one that I could have realized fully with color pictures to accompany things. I had wanted to do that with Danny’s book but my own budget and limited art skills penned me in but I think that works. I think Danny’s book works without pictures whereas Little Sue needs them, and thanks to a talented friend she has what she needs. Hers is as lonely of a book as Danny’s but there’s a uniting factor that comes into play and shines through my third book for kids as well.
LITTLE O AND THE STORMS sprung out of a story my wife told me of a little girl being bullied at school by a girl that claimed to be a friend. The heartbreaking sadness of the situation made me want to do something, some small thing, for her, to tell her it was OK and that she’d be OK. That was how the story was born. I struggled over it more than I had with the other two because it dealt with bullying and that’s not something that you should fool with without some thought. You don’t want to inspire a kid to do something they’ll regret. The story ended up as another with no art but, again, the story was more important than the image, not out of a sort of god-complex but because I think the story is what matters most, not how you see it.
What unites the books for kids is the hope that sits at the center of all three. The hope that all kids have until it’s snuffed out. And with the hope there is the belief that you can find yourself, and your friends, just as you are. That you don’t have to change.
And that’s what drew me to write those books.
Not a desire to scare but a desire to soothe and to pass on the hope that sustained me and sustains me still.
I don’t know that that makes my books better, worse, or the same.
I just know that I wanted to write stories about kids that didn’t have a lot of stories told about them. The kids who lived at the back of the class, in the corner of the room, and in the dark of their bedrooms.
Kids who could use a little hope.
And it’s my hope that in a small way I can give them some.
At this point, I just want to tell stories. Whatever they are. Whomever they are for.
That’s what matters.
That’s all that matters.