Welcome to #SeasonsOfKidLit, everyone! I'm ecstatic to have NYTs Bestselling Author and Illustrator of Goodnight Goon, Mike Rex, on the blog with us today. Goodnight Goon is an absolute favorite in my house, so I was beyond thrilled when Mike said he could join and share some behind-the-scenes looks at his books and process. Want to know more about Mike and his fun-loving monster books? Read on...
Q: Hi, Mike, thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! I'm excited to have you and talk about your awesomely spooky and fun books. Goodnight Goon is a favorite in my house. I have to ask, what prompted you to write this hilarious parody of Goodnight Moon?
A: The truth is, I didn’t really plan to write this book. I had been studying the rhythms and layout in “Goodnight Moon” one night. It’s never been my favorite book, and I didn’t grow up with it being read to me, but it’s such an important picture book that I felt I needed to dig into it a bit more. Anyway, I was looking at the cover and the word “Goon” popped into my head. Immediately, I imagined a monster parody of “Goodnight Moon,” where instead of everything being sweet and cozy and cute, it would be creepy, icky and spooky. I mentioned it to a friend who was an assistant editor and he laughed out loud. When he became an editor a few years later he called and offered me a contract.
Q: How did it feel when you saw your book appear at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers' list? That is something so many writers dream about!
A: I felt justified. I felt like all the decisions in my life that I made to get into illustration, go to art school, work in children’s books had all been correct. I was right. Growing up, my parents always supported my artistic aspirations, but no one else did. I constantly got told I was wasting my time by most adults, teachers, and even my high school principal. So having a number 1, and more important, a steady career, made me feel like I had been right. I could do this!
Q: Goodnight Goon has some pretty hilarious spin-off books. Can you tell us a little about We're Going on a Goon Hunt and The Runaway Mummy?
A: Runaway Mummy was done so fast I barely remember how it happened. As for “Goon Hunt,” I’d been looking for a “Goon” sequel for years. I’d written a few, but my editor and I never really thought they worked. The hardest part about parody is that you need a title that everyone knows but can also be adapted into something else. Finding the right book is hard. Anyway, the term “Witch Hunt” had been in the news a lot and, of course, I quickly wrote a draft of a book called “We’re Going on a Witch Hunt.” I was about to send it when, again, “Goon” just popped into my head. I did a fast re-write and sent it off and my editor quickly signed it up.
Q: You've written and illustrated over 40 books and have even had your popular GN series, Fangbone, turned into a cartoon. That's impressive! Is there any book you've created, or any accomplishment in your career, that stands out as your favorite?
A: Actually, I think it’s over 50 at this point! I’m always proudest of my most recent book. “Your Pal Fred” is a huge, colorful, goofy, funny graphic-novel about a little robot boy who wakes up in an awful post-apocalyptic world. Fred is programmed for kindness, and he proceeds to try to change that world. Marketing called it “Mr. Rogers on Fury Road.” It’s me on the page, warts and all.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who's starting out as an author/illustrator in the industry?
A: Know what’s happening in the market today. Go to a bookstore and read and look at the books that are being published now. Then go to a library and look at books from the last 80 years! Look at them and study them. Read 100’s of picture books. 1000’s even. Decide which ones you like. Ask yourself why. And then write and draw and draw and write. I see people starting in this industry who are so concerned with how to query and how to contact an agent and all that other business stuff. Most of that can be learned very quickly. But learning to write a good picture book will take a long time. And my last bit of sage advice…A picture book is not a short story with illustrations!
Thanks again for joining today, Mike! This was absolutely inspiring!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
A: Here’s a trick. When writing a picture book see if you can do it in 14 sentences. One for each spread. Seriously. You’ll learn very quickly what you need and what you don’t need.
And a treat! A signed copy of Goon Hunt.
Thanks for such an amazing trick and treat, Mike!
Contest Details: To enter, leave a comment below and let Michael know what part of his interview inspired you most. One winner will be announced in 7 days (that's October the 14th; plenty of time to enjoy it for spooooooky season).
*Note: Book giveaways will be shipped in the US only.
Reminder: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes.
About Mike Rex:
Mike Rex has been writing and illustrating books for children since 1995. He has made over 50 books including the #1 bestseller “Goodnight Goon,” and the popular “Fangbone!” series, which has been made into an animated TV show. He also is the creator of “Eat Pete” and “Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots.” His newest book, “Your Pal Fred,” is a feel-good comedy graphic novel about the “nicest boy in the apocalypse.” He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two teen sons.
To learn more about Mike, visit the below links:
To purchase Mike's books, or to leave a review on Amazon, click here.