Welcome, readers, writers, and wild ones, too! We have a super spook-tastic treat for you today. Megan and Jorge Lacera, creators of the extremely popular picture book Zombies Don't Eat Veggies, are here sharing their newest picture book, The Wild Ones. The Wild Ones, which follows a group of friends who are trying to save their apartment from greedy developers, isn't just any picture book - it's a picture book formatted like a graphic novel, complete with mystery and monsters! If you're looking for an adventure-filled read, this is the book for you. Want to know more about Megan and Jorge's new book PLUS want a chance to win a fabulous treat from them? Read on...
Q: Hi, Megan and Jorge! Welcome back to #SeasonsOfKidLit. We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us again this year, and hear all about your amazing new book, The Wild Ones. Readers, if you missed their interview last year, make sure to click here to check it out.
Your new book seriously looks like such a fun and adventurous read. Can you share more about the story and the inspiration behind The Wild Ones?
M: Thank you for having us back! We are big fans of #SeasonsOfKidLit!
The very first spark for The Wild Ones was a conversation with our editor, Jessica Echeverria (Editorial Director at Lee and Low Books). The three of us were chatting about our shared love of classic 80’s movies like The Goonies and E.T. and how those films left indelible marks on our psyches. Kids had to take on big problems and they solved them with big hearts and a bit of magic. Jessica wondered if we could capture some of that kind of magic in a brand-new story for a new generation. How could Jorge and I say no to that? Challenge accepted!
J: The next spark: we observed that pop culture is obviously filled with monsters–though they are often the same monsters we see time and time again. We love Dracula and Frankenstein just as much as anyone, but there are so many other amazingly cool legends and creatures around the world. The monster world is diverse, just like the human world! So in The Wild Ones, our main characters are monster-obsessed (like many kids) but their favorite monsters have roots in their individual cultures.
Q: Your new book follows four best friends, known as the wild ones, who believe there’s a monstruo (monster) living in the forest at the edge of their town (Steelburg). When they find out their apartment building is set to be demolished by greedy developers, they’re convinced the monstruo can help them save the only home they’ve ever known. And so, they head out to the scary forest to find the monstruo!
Seriously, what a cool premise for a book. Can you introduce the characters to us?
J: Thank you! The Wild Ones are led by Valentina, who’s the smallest of her friends, but whose faith in herself and her friends is HUGE. Her favorite monstruo is La Tunda, a shape-shifter seen in Colombia and Ecuador, and who loves reggaeton and chocolate arepas.
Next is Xander, a firecracker and fiercely loyal friend. With roots in Haiti, his favorite monstruo is Loogaroo. Loogaroo can transform into a fireball and is a sucker for soup joumou.
M: Not much scares funny and confident Jasmine. She loves a big cup of chai with milk and spices and Bollywood movies–just like her favorite monster, Vetal.
And finally there’s Andy, who’s crazy about the Banshee and her wailing cries. Andy thinks the Banshee’s voice is beautiful...and he’s convinced she’s an Irish boxty fan, like him.
Q: What kind of monstruo do they encounter in the forest?
J: Well, we’ll have to let our readers find that out for themselves! However, we can tell you that Valentina, Xander, Jasmine and Andy are all 100% sure the monster is the one they each believe it is–which just so happens to be each character’s favorite monster. They can’t all be right, can they?
Q: The Wild Ones is a picture book with graphic novel qualities. How was the writing and illustrating process different from a picture book, like your popular book Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies?
M: We knew very early on that we wanted this story to be bold visually. Graphic novels are so popular, but many of them aren’t quite suitable for younger readers. Either the page count is intimidating or the subject matter is just a little too mature. So our goal with The Wild Ones was to hook those younger readers hungry for GNs with a book accessible to them. The process differed from Zombies in that it was much longer and involved many more rounds of revision.
J: So much revision! We wrote the script first and planned out conceptually the art with panels, word bubbles, and splash pages (think very specific illo notes for each spread). That took quite a while to nail. There are a lot of characters in The Wild Ones, several key settings, a pretty big story packed into 48 pages. We thought we had the story tight before moving on to the art. But as the illustrating got underway, we realized the need for more story changes. A spread planned as a two-page illustration actually worked better in panels. Or vice-versa. And then came the big blow. Our art director, Chad Beckerman, reviewed the dummy and said he loved it…but wasn’t yet clear on the story we were telling. Oof!
M: Double oof. That was hard to hear, but he was right. If he wasn’t clear on the story, then the dummy wasn’t working. We needed a little time to regroup at that point–it can be hard to see something with fresh eyes when you thought you were at a totally different point (aka, we thought we were nearly done!). We realized then that we needed to push more on the graphic novel elements–make the story even more cinematic. We need each illustration to work even harder.
J: We also had to make some tough choices. We cut our friend group from five down to four, as we weren’t giving our wild ones the time they needed to shine…and the focus they needed to tell their story.
M: I still miss that guy. But yeah, the story got stronger and stronger with each revision.
Q: Does Halloween play a role in The Wild Ones?
M: Very much so. The Wild Ones apartment building is set to be demolished on November 1st, the day after Halloween. It’s Halloween night when the kids decide to try one final thing to save their home–head out to the scary forest in search of the monstruo.
Q: Will The Wild Ones be available in Spanish like Zombies?
J: Yes! My first language is Spanish so it makes me very happy that Lee and Low will release The Wild Ones in Spanish simultaneously with the English edition. The title is Los Bravos; Yanitizia Canetti did the translation (she also translated Zombies) and her work is wonderful.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween and/or fall?
M: I love that on Halloween, people are silly and weird–even people who have a hard time embracing those qualities on ordinary days. It’s a great holiday to be imaginative and fun. And there’s something magical about trick-or-treating…it really has the power to capture the connectedness of a community.
J: The cooler weather and changing colors on the trees. I was born in Colombia and raised in South Florida. We didn’t have either of those things there so it’s always a treat for me.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite Halloween Candy? And/or, what candy pairs the best with your new book?
M: Reeses. Peanut butter and chocolate is the ultimate.
J: At one point, Andy had a little sister named “Baby Ruth.” Unfortunately, she had to be cut. *Sniff.* Let’s all have a Baby Ruth candy bar in her honor.
Thanks again for joining us, Megan and Jorge! We can't wait to check out your new book!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: Treat! We'd like to offer one critique of picture book manuscript OR dummy OR 45-minute Zoom ask me anything session.
Oh WOW! Thanks for such a super sweet treat!
Contest Details: To enter to win this amazing giveaway, make sure to 1) share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below thanking Megan and Jorge for stopping by!
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Books will be shipped in the US only*
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Jorge & Megan Lacera:
Jorge Lacera was born in Colombia, and grew up in Miami, Florida, drawing in sketchbooks, on napkins, on walls, and anywhere his parents would let him. After graduating with honors from Ringling College of Art and Design, Jorge worked as a visual development and concept artist and is currently the Art Director on the new entry in the Bioshock video game franchise. As a big fan of pop culture, comics, and zombie movies, Jorge rarely saw Latino kids as the heroes or leads. He is committed to changing that, especially now that he has a son. He is the co-creator of ZOMBIES DON'T EAT VEGGIES, the illustrator of XO, EXOPLANET written by Deborah Underwood, and the illustrator of PRUETT AND SOO, written by Nancy Viau. You can find him online at studiolacera.com.
Megan Lacera grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with a book always in her hands. She became a writer and creator of characters and worlds for entertainment companies, and later formed her own creative company to provide strategic and marketing consulting and IP development for large companies and start-ups. After reading many stories to their son, Megan realized that very few books reflected a family like theirs—multicultural, bilingual, funny, and imperfect. She decided to change that by writing her own stories for publishing, animation, and film. You can learn more about Megan and Studio Lacera at studiolacera.com
Megan and Jorge are represented by John Cusick at Folio Jr.
For more about Megan and Jorge, check out the below links:
Readers, Megan and Jorge's new book is scheduled to release in April. To pre-order your own copy, check out the below links!
Bookshop (Spanish): https://bookshop.org/p/books/los-bravos-jorge-lacera/20439138?ean=9780892394821
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!