Welcome, readers, writers, and monsters of all sorts! We have quite the treat for you today. Michael Regina, author and illustrator of The Sleepover and Adamsville is here with us. Michael is sharing an in-depth look at his origin story as an author/illustrator of graphic novels and also an up-close look at his books. Just wait until you get a peek at his work. Want to know more about Michael, his monstrously good books, PLUS want a chance to win a very special treat from him? Read on...
Q: Hi, Michael! Thanks for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us, and hear all about your Graphic Novel, The Sleepover. It seriously looks like a terror-ific read! Can you share a little about yourself and how you got started writing and illustrating comics and graphic novels for kids?
A: Hi! Thank you so much! I think my origin story began with the movie Jaws. I saw it very young, I believe around age 3! To make a fishing pun, I was hooked! That movie began a love of storytelling in me that only grew as I got older. As a young kid, I was mostly interested in just drawing comics, but as I got older, I began to take an interest in writing. I think most of this came from not knowing other writers out there who were willing to write me a story to draw, as well as my desire to tell my own stories the way I wanted to tell them. So, in college, I began learning how to write, with plans to go on to become a filmmaker. I wasn’t super interested in making comics at this point because, at the time, comics in the United States were so superhero-focused. But once it became clear that I could make the kinds of books I was interested in, meaning horror comics for kids, I returned to trying to make comics again.
Q: Love the pun and love that origin story. Thanks for sharing it with us!
The Sleepover follows Matt who learns his nanny has unexpectedly passed away. To make matters worse, Matt's single mother—unable to take any more time off of work—is forced to quickly hire a new nanny to watch over Matt and his younger sister, Judy.
Matt soon starts to suspect something may be off about the new nanny. Could the new nanny be a monster?
This is such a cool premise for a spooky story. Can you share more about it and the inspiration behind it with our readers?
A: After finishing my last graphic novel series, Adamsville, I was thinking about the kind of story I wanted to tell next. Some of my favorite stories are small contained stories, like Coraline and Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Or the movie Signs by M Night Shyamalan. That premise of children or a family trapped inside of a house with a monster really intrigued me. So I started thinking about what that kind of story might look like if I wrote one, and the idea came to me that I could tie it to some events that happened in my own life.
After my parents separated, my mom managed a restaurant and worked late nights. To help keep the house in order, she hired a live-in nanny named Ruby. Ruby, unfortunately, got sick and passed away. It was devastating to my sister and me. We loved her like family. As I thought of what kind of story I could tell, my memory of these events returned to me. It seemed so full of meaning and depth that I could turn it into something special.
I was driving to renew my driver’s license when this idea came to me, and I got so excited. I decided to just lean into this concept of creating a monster story based on my own life. So I decided it should be a sleepover party with characters based on some of my best friends at the time these events happened in my life. I set it in the ’90s and came up with a monster I thought was pretty terrifying and also, hopefully, complex. It was a really exciting period of creative energy. Because of all the personal connections within the story, it’s a book that means so much to me. It’s a love letter to Ruby, my family, and friends at that time… And hopefully, a meaningful discussion of grief and supporting one another.
Q: What was the illustration process like for The Sleepover? Did you write the entire story first or did you map out the panels/illustrations first?
A: I always try to write several drafts of the book in their entirety before I start drawing the book. This doesn’t always happen, because sometimes I get anxious to start making some art! With The Sleepover I wrote something like 6 drafts of the book in screenplay format (my preferred writing format for comics) before I began really digging into the artwork. Then, I went through the whole script and did rough art of the pages to try and get a feel for the flow of the story–I learn a lot about what is working and isn’t in this phase. Once the book is roughed and reading well, I dove into making the final art.
The truth is that the processes are always kind of colliding on each other as I go. While I’m writing, I might also start roughing out some pages that I think are reading really well. Or I might go ahead and draw a page or two. I will focus on one process primarily at a time, but sometimes I want to break up the monotony of things and switch things up for a day or two before focusing back on the main thing.
Q: You are also the author/illustrator of Adamsville, books 1-3, which features a town overrun with monsters and kids who are trying to avoid the monster invasion. Can you share a little about each book with us? How did writing a series differ from writing a single book?
A: Adamsville is my version of The X-Files for a kid audience. It’s funny, because I started writing that series just before the sort of kid horror boom began with Gravity Falls and Stranger Things. I’m really glad to see these styles of story finding their audience.
The first book, The Unknowns, introduces us to the world and our two main characters, Chloe and Todd. Chloe witnesses a monster attack a kid on her street, but even more concerning is when her neighbor rescues the boy and then erases his memory of it happening! She befriends the schoolyard conspiracy theorist, Todd, and together they begin to discover a mystery that makes them question everything they knew about their city and their families.
I wouldn’t want to spoil much past that, but book 2 takes place at their school during a dance (I had so much fun with this concept) and book 3 brings it all home for an exciting finale where all the mystery is revealed.
Writing Adamsville was quite a bit different from writing a single volume book like The Sleepover. Every book built on top of the other, so it was easier to go into making the next book and know what the rules of the world were, or where I wanted the story to go, so that the story would continue to the next volume that I had outlined.
This has its pluses and minuses. The downside to making a series is that you will spend a good chunk of your life executing one story. When I finished Adamsville, I really wanted to just make stories that would stand on their own so that I could explore new ideas with each new book.
Readers, would you like a sneak-peek of Chapter 1 in the Adamsville series? Click here!
Q: What is one of your favorite Halloween memories?
A: As a kid Halloween was a lot of fun! But I’ll be honest, I didn’t really fall in love with it as a holiday until I became a parent. Now it’s like Christmas around this house. From October 1st until Halloween we watch a lot of scary movies as a family. We put up decorations in the house and yard. It truly is my favorite month of the year. I try to go to a haunted house or two during the month. I also read a lot of horror short stories and comics to get in the spooky Halloween mood.
So, I don’t know if I have a specific favorite memory as much as I love the tradition of it all. I’m very much looking forward to it this year.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite Halloween Candy and what candy pairs the best with your book?
A: Oh! Reese’s Peanut Butter cups are hands down my favorite candy.
A good candy for reading The Sleepover would have to be some sort of snacking candy so you can munch on it the whole time you’re reading. I think I would say a bowl of popcorn with peanut M&Ms and a soda. Read it like you’re watching a movie!
Thanks again for joining us, Michael! We can't wait to check out all your amazing books!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: I would be happy to offer 10 signed bookplates!
Thanks for such a cool treat!
Contest Details: We are raffling these awesome gifts out to 2 winners - the winners will be able to keep one and share them with friends! Afterall, what's better than sharing spooky gifts this holiday season? To enter to win, 1) share the post on social media and 2) leave a comment below and thank Michael for stopping by!
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Treats 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 Michael Regina:
Michael Regina has been drawing comics since the third grade, and his passion for art and storytelling has stayed with him his whole life. He studied painting and drawing at the University of North Florida and minored in literature. Michael is also the creator of the Webtoons.com featured comic Adamsville. When he’s not making comics, he loves fishing, begrudgingly rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and spending time with his family. They all live in Jacksonville, Florida.
For more about Michael, check out the below links:
To Purchase Michael's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!