Hello Mixed-Up Filers!
We are in for a treat today! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this interview. As some of you know, I’m a huge comic fan, and Swamp-Thing, in particular, has always been among my favorites. So, when I found out that I was going to get to interview Kirk Scroggs, author of a new adaptation of Swamp Thing geared toward Middle Grade readers, I was absolutely thrilled.
JR: Hi, Kirk and thanks for joining us today.
JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about the DC’s middle grade books and The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid?
KS: DC’s middle grade graphic novels are meant to introduce kids to graphic novels and their iconic characters. I have to give them credit for approaching writers from all genres and age groups and encouraging them to think outside the box right off the bat. With The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, I pushed it a little further and said “What if I did a graphic novel that’s also diary fiction with a hefty dose of chapter books thrown in?” It’s designed to look like a real kid’s spiral who’s been spilling his guts onto the page and doodling a lot of monsters when he should be paying attention in class. In the process of reading his thoughts and doodles, we learn a lot about an outcast kid just trying to make through middle school while realizing his own budding superpowers and saving his school from dark forces at the same time.
JR: I love the idea of these iconic superheroes as kids. With yours, after I finally managed to wrest it away from my kids, I devoured it. I’m a huuuuuge Swamp Thing fan and loved what you did with the story. So, it seems like DC gave you the freedom to explore any story you wanted?
KS: I am so thrilled you liked it! It sure was fun to play around in DC’s sandbox of great characters. They presented the opportunity as a list of heroes/villains they were interested in developing with no limits on what we could do with them, as long as it was for young readers. There were maybe fifteen characters on that list and, honestly, once I saw Swamp Thing on there, all I could see was green. I whipped up a fake cover and the first four pages, complete with a spiral notebook background I had scanned. My first stab at it was called Swamp Teen. They loved it but quickly reminded me of the age group. So, Swamp Kid was born!
JR: You’re also involved with another huge cultural franchise, The Muppets. How has that experience been, and seriously, what’s Kermit like behind the scenes? I mean, nobody is THAT nice.
KS: That whole experience seemed like a dream. My biggest influence might well have been Jim Henson so getting the opportunity to write some bad puns and silly gags for those characters was like winning the lottery. And Kermit— what is it with me and Swamp Creatures? I’m still waiting to catch the real Kermit in the act. He seems so perfect. There’s gotta be a little diva under that felt facade, but I never saw it.
JR: I read that you love monsters. We’re kindred spirits that way. What was the first one you remember loving and also which are some of your favorites?
KS: As a kid, I loved anything monsters. Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Monster Squad. Every day was Halloween in my brain. I vividly remember seeing King Kong in the theater at far too young of an age, and during the scene where the giant snake attacks Kong on Skull Island the bulb in the projector went out so we could just hear the battle happening. I remember being outraged, and terrified. King Kong and Swamp Thing, and certainly Frankenstein, have that tragic quality to them. They are sympathetic and misunderstood under all the fur and moss and nuts and bolts.
JR: You named a lot of my favorites! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?
KS: I got lucky with getting an agent a while back. I had written a little tale called Dracula Vs. Grampa which became the first entry in Wiley and Grampa’s Creature Features. It was a long road to getting the first one published, but I’ve been very fortunate to always get to do my own illustrations. I’ve been building up quite a catalog of monsters and madness ever since. Little Brown Books really believed in me and now DC.
JR: That’s fantastic! Can you also tell us a little bit about what your writing process is like?
KS: It really is like Swamp Kid’s journals. I sit down, sometimes on the floor with a spiral or just some blank white paper and start doodling. Sometimes I even cut and paste with actual scissors and scotch tape. Once I’ve got a good game plan I move to the digital world and whip up a rough draft that I send to my amazing editor, who then mercilessly slashes it to ribbons!
JR: What was your favorite childhood book?
KS: Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends is still unbeatable in my book. Those scrappy little drawings he did for it and the level of humor at work.
JR: What’s your favorite movie?
KS: Jaws is my favorite movie and that’s the complete opposite of a sympathetic monster!
JR: That’s required once-a-year viewing in my house. Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
KS: I was a classically trained tenor in Milan where I played the role of Othello. Just kidding! That’s a tough one. I actually didn’t read a lot of superhero comics as a kid except for Swamp Thing. Mad Magazine was my thing and I loved spooky comics. Tales from the Crypt, Weird War Tales, Creepshow.
JR: Also a fun movie! What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any you can give to writers looking to break in?
KS: I can’t remember who said it, but it was don’t write for kids, write as a kid. It works out for me because I have the brain of an eighth-grader! As for breaking in, my advice is to be yourself and show us something new. Even if you’re doing a spin on a classic character, maybe one with a lot of moss hanging from him, do something fresh and original. Give us a couple of scenes that pull the rug out from under us or leave us thinking.
JR: That’s great advice! What are you working on next?
KS: I’m currently in the early stages of another DC project! I’m hoping to use a similar format and I’m guaranteeing multiple monsters.
JR: Multiple monsters works for me! How can people follow you on social media?
JR: I’d like to thank you once again for joining us today!
KS: Thank you, Jonathan! It was a treat!
Well, that’s it for now. So, until next time, thanks for reading!