Mymcbooks Interview with Author Derek Taylor Kent.
Derek is an eleven-year-old ghost who haunts the classrooms and hallways of Scary School, writing down all the spine-tingling often hilarious things that go on there. Despite his ghostly state, Derek still enjoys reading comic books and hopes to one day become a master ninja. If that doesn’t work out, he will continue to share the fun of this very special, very secret school, so all kids can experience the scariest school on earth. Derek the Ghost communicates through the first-time ghost whisperer Derek Taylor Kent, who is a writer and performer in Los Angeles, California. http://www.scaryschool.com/aboutauthor.html
Kent has been writing since the age of 15, creating various forms of amusement with premises not quite as spooky. For one free-form assignment in a UCLA astronomy course, Kent penned an interplanetary-themed story aimed for a younger audience, using his professor, Simon Balm, as the main character. After some tweaks and some illustrations, Kent had “Simon and the Solar System,” his first book aimed for younger children.
As an undergraduate student in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television in the late 1990s, Kent produced a short musical called “Michael Jordan’s Magic Shoes.” With just a boombox and other minimal props, Kent told a story centered around the famous basketball player’s discovery of sneakers with mystical powers. To read more about the author visit http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/2011/04/alumnus_derek_taylor_kent_to_release_young_adult_novels_scary_school
Derek Kent is the author of Scary School.
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read?
Oh my goodness, I just went on a reading spree over the holidays with everything that had backed up of the year! I read a bunch of YA books. Some of my favorites have been: My Life as a Stuntboy, The Future of Us, Vicious Little Darlings, Shark Wars, My Life Undecided, The Beyonders… oh, and also World War Z, Ready Player One, and the Hunger Games series.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
I remember our class writing assignments in the second grade when I was seven years old. I was always the one writing the longest, craziest stories. I kind of lived for creative writing in school, and I was the kid who would read the dictionary during free reading time. When I was 10 years old I started writing my first “book” which was really just a collection of silly poems that I was working on with my friend for years and years… that book is still ongoing and has become like my journal but filled with poetry and songs.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
It came natural, but in the sense that I was always able to make my class laugh with my writing, so I guess I was natural at jokes and comedy. Becoming a good writer though takes a lot of hours reading and writing. No one is a natural at that. It’s pretty equivalent to the work that goes into it. I received a lot of encouragement from my mom and family, but the inner drive came from within.
What was your favorite children’s book?
When I first started writing children’s books, I was writing an epic fantasy series in a Dr. Seuessian style. So Dr. Seuss was definitely my favorite books… of his books, I loved The Lorax and If I Ran the Circus the best. For chapter books, I was into whatever the funniest books were -Wayside School, Dr. Doolittle, and Roald Dahl.
What inspired you to write ‘Scary School’?
Actually, the idea for ScarySchoolcame from my editor at HarperCollins. I had written a book series called RUDY AND THE BEAST: Book 1 – My Homework Ate My Dog! It’s a fun fantasy series in the vein of Harry Potter. At the time, however, the title was SCARY SCHOOL: Book 1 – My Homework Ate My Dog! HarperCollins came very close to buying it, but in the end decided it would be better if the series was lighter and funnier and more school-centric. I thought that was a great idea, and the idea seemed to practically write itself – about a scary-themed school. So, based on their feedback, I wrote Scary School immediately afterward, and luckily, they loved it and gave me a three-book deal for it! BUT, the good news, for those who like darker YA fantasy, RUDY AND BEAST is now available exclusively through my website at ScarySchool.com – just go the the Scary Store – http://www.scaryschool.com/bookstore.html
Are you working on a new book?
Yes! I actually just turned in book three ofScarySchool, and there will hopefully be a bunch more coming after that! I also recently finished a new book called PRINCIPAL MIKEY about a 10-year-old kid who becomes principal of his school! I’m working on that with the illustrator of My Life as a Stuntboy – Jake Tashjian! I also have about four other secret project books I’m starting or researching that I will hopefully be finishing this year. But, in the meantime, you can look forward toScarySchool#2 – Monsters on the March coming out onJune 26, 2012. It really takes the series to a whole new level and brings us out into the very scary, and very silly world that the characters inhabit. You’ll get to journey with the students to Monster Forestto meet the King Zog the Terrible. But things don’t go as planned, and the poor students will be lucky just to make it out of there alive!
What is the most difficult part of writing?
Cutting out sections or jokes I love for the sake of pacing :(…
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?
I love to cook and eat! You will see a lot of that come out in my books during the school lunches 🙂 I also have a production company out here in LA and we do a lot of funny sketches and shot films that you can check out at www.SadNinja.com. I also teach YA and Children’s Writing at a writing school here in LA called Writing Pad (writingpad.com). There’s also a publishing and querying class, so if you’re in the SoCal area and are interested in writing children’s or YA or have a book you want to get published, I recommend checking out writingpad.com. It’s a great writing school for writers of all levels.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?
JK Rowling. Mario Batali. Kurt Vonnegut’s zombie.
What author inspires you the most and why?
JK Rowling. The Harry Potter series kicked me right in my ghostly butt to start writing novels instead of picture books. I loved how she was able to create such a rich, magical, unique world that felt so real and important to all of us.That’s what I want to aspire to as well.
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Haha! Well, luckily the reviews fo rScarySchool have been extremely positive. If it were a movie on Rotten Tomatoes, I think we’d be polling at 99%, so I can chalk up the 1% to being out-of-touch elitists 🙂 But, if they have good, constructive criticism, I love hearing that. Those helped me make improvements in Book 2 of Scary School after seeing the a couple criticisms pop up a bit too often. I haven’t had any bad writer’s block yet. I think because I just can’t afford to have it at this stage in my career! Often times to get me in the mood to write, I would read Harry Potter Book 7 and that would do it. So maybe read your favorite books to get the juices flowing?
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
A lot of laughter. My goal was to write the funniest YA book series ever with Scary School. I go for at least three laugh-out-loud parts on every page. I’m not trying to be Shakespeare or win any Newberry Medals…. I just want the reader to laugh harder than they ever have reading a book.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I have a pretty busy schedule with all my various projects, so I don’t have a rigid writing schedule. I fill every moment of spare time I have with reading, writing, or researching and I seem to get a lot accomplished with that system.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
My first piece of advice to parents would be to not do the selecting, but to let the kids select. If the kids select the books themselves, they will form an immediate bond with it and want to read it. You know, like picking out their own pet or a menu item at a restaurant. They will also usually pick a book that looksFUNto read. It’s important for new readers to have fun while reading. If parents force “eat your vegetables cause they’re good for you” type of books, a kid probably won’t enjoy it and will get turned off to reading because of it. Everywhere I go, it’s the kids who are able to pick out their own books and are allowed to read fun, silly books that develop a love of reading. As they get older, they naturally gravitate naturally toward smarter more adult books, so parents shouldn’t worry about that.
What advice you would give to new writers?
Read and Write as much as you can. Especially in the genre you’re looking to write in. Know the market and what’s hot right now. Be excited about your writing and about yourself, or else no one else will be.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Just that I hope they will all check out ScarySchooland have a great time reading it. I also created a really fun website for it at www.ScarySchool.com. You can tour the school. Meet the students and faculty. And there’s also lots of fun easter eggs. If you beat the video game on the website, you will win the weirdest trophy ever. And after you finish Book One, you’ll have to go back to the website in order to unlock the secret last chapter that will lead you straight into Book 2!
Thank you for this interview.
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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