I’m thrilled to interview Mixed-Up Files member Jonathan Rosen and celebrate the release of his debut middle grade novel, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. Huge congratulations, Jonathan! I’d love to know how you came up with the idea for Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies—and some of the changes that happened between your first draft and publication.
For a while, I’d been wanting to write a humorous “horror” story. Nothing gore-filled, but definitely having a little fun with the genre. Sort of along the lines, of the movies I used to watch as a kid. Fright Night, Gremlins, etc. I knew I wanted the plot to be, the hot, new Christmas toy, coming to life and turning evil. But, at the same time, I wanted it to be funny, and kept picturing cute, evil, stuffed bunnies. Something, every kid would want, and also want to cuddle. So, Cuddle Bunnies, was then a natural name for it. The whole premise was very funny to me. I, also, wanted the “villain” behind them coming to life, to be as funny as anyone in the book, and he wound up being one of my favorites. As a matter of fact, I think he’s my kids’ favorite.
As far as changes, there really weren’t too many. The major one, was changing Tommy from friend, to cousin, which I think, actually, works much better. There has to be a reason why Devin has to put up with Tommy so much. The other thing, believe it or not, was I lengthened scenes with Abby, and added a couple of extra ones. Abby was a big hit, because after all, who doesn’t love a bratty, little sister? I had to live through it myself, so I made Devin suffer, also!
I love Abby! She’s such a vivid character and I think most people can relate to an attention-stealing younger relative. Herb is one my favorite characters. I love how quirky he is, and how he looked surprisingly different from the image in my mind after watching his unusual belongings being moved into his house.
What surprised you the most while writing Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies? Did you ever consider a different animal besides bunnies?
I don’t know if I was surprised, but I really had a great time writing it. I don’t recall ever having an easier time letting the story flow through. I loved the characters and the story, and looked forward to returning to it each day. Like every author, I enjoy what I write, but this particular story, made me laugh a lot, while writing it. I was also surprised at how much I loved the villain. He was definitely the most fun to write.
Funny, but it was ALWAYS going to be bunnies. I even had Cuddle Bunnies as a product, before the title. I wanted the cutest, non-threatening animals there were, and turn them into evil monsters. At around the halfway mark of the book, the title came. It was originally going to be called, To Kill a Mockingbird, but somebody told me that title was already taken, so I had to come up with something else. Once, I thought about it, the second title seemed to fit much better.
So many people have a person in their life who causes all kinds of trouble. What things does Devin love most about his cousin…and what would he change about him, if he could?
Devin loves Tommy’s self-confidence. As Devin mentions in the book, he likes that Tommy seems like he knows what he’s doing, whether he does or not. Devin is the opposite of that. Very unsure of himself, and nervous about facing his fears.
But, on the other side of the same coin, Devin hates how smug Tommy is. He also doesn’t know whether what Tommy is saying, is true or not. Tommy always thinks he’s right about everything, and that grates on Devin. Tommy also gets into mischief, without worrying about consequences, and unfortunately, Devin lets Tommy talk him into things, which causes Devin to get into trouble.
Believe me, I’ve had many friends like that!
If Devin had magical powers, what would he do with them?
The first one that comes to mind, would be invisibility. He’d have been able to use it to spy on his neighbor, or hide from the Cuddle Bunnies. They’re definitely sneaky.
You have such a talent for writing both funny and scary! How were you able to balance both of them throughout your novel?
First of all, thank you!
Honestly, the main priority with this one, was the comedy. I went out to make this one as funny as it could be, while still adhering to the story. I didn’t want to put in jokes for the sake of putting in jokes. They had to fit and advance the story. Even many of the scary parts, have comedy elements, because I find it humorous at times to be scared. There is a comedy element to that. And they mostly, went hand-in-hand throughout.
If anything, I had to work more on the scary parts, by visualizing a scary movie and when an audience would jump. The humor came naturally from that.
In between the laughs, I definitely experienced scary movie moments in your book! What scared you the most when you were younger, and how did you handle it?
Jonathan’s parents got rid of the freaky clown, but it looked a lot like this one. Having that in my house would give me nightmares!
I hate to even answer this one, since my close friends use it all the time, by posting things for me, but clowns. I couldn’t stand clowns. And, to make things worse, for some, horrendous reason, my parents bought this Papier-mâché clown, and it terrified me. And no lie, it was possessed. It was hung on a hook from the ceiling, but no matter which way you turned it, it turned back to face the room. Seriously. I hated that thing. Then, when Poltergeist came out, forget it. That clown had to go.
As far as handling it, I’m not sure that I ever did. I hated that clown. I guess, my way of facing it, is a future story with Devin and Tommy, which focuses on an evil clown.
That clown is really freaky! I’m glad it gave you great material for a book, though. I can’t wait to see what happens when Devin and Tommy battle an evil clown in the future.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m all in on the sequel to Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. The title is being changed, but in this one, Devin and Tommy have to battle against a theater school of vampires.
That sounds awesome. I can’t wait to read it! Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know?
I like long walks along the beach, on moonlit nights. Oh, sorry, that was for a different questionnaire. What I’d like them to know is, I thank you for reading. I appreciate each and every one of you! Also, I’d love to hear from you! I loved writing Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, and hope you all enjoy it!
And thank you to Mindy, for the interview! It was a lot of fun!
You’re welcome, Jonathan. Thank you so much for letting me interview you—I loved reading your responses and am thrilled to share them with our readers. And thanks for donating a signed copy of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies for a giveaway!
You can find out more about Jonathan on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Twelve-year-old Devin Dexter has a problem. Well, actually, many of them. His cousin, Tommy, sees conspiracies behind every corner. And Tommy thinks Devin’s new neighbor, Herb, is a warlock . . . but nobody believes him. Even Devin’s skeptical. But soon strange things start happening. Things like the hot new Christmas toy, the Cuddle Bunny, coming to life.
That would be great, because, after all, who doesn’t love a cute bunny? But these aren’t the kind of bunnies you can cuddle with. These bunnies are dangerous. Devin and Tommy set out to prove Herb is a warlock and to stop the mob of bunnies, but will they have enough time before the whole town of Gravesend is overrun by the cutest little monsters ever? This is a very funny “scary” book for kids, in the same vein as the My Teacher books or Goosebumps.
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The winner will be announced on August 31st. This giveaway is open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada. Good luck, everyone. 🙂