Ruthless Fun With Allan Woodrow

We’re excited to introduce you to a new–and hilarious–chapter book series. Allan Woodrow’s new Zarchary Ruthless stories will delight even the most reluctant readers.

Zachary would do anything to join the Society Of Utterly Rotten, Beastly And Loathsome Lawbreaking Scoundrels, the world’s most horrible gang of super villains. So when Zachary hears SOURBALLS is looking for someone to join their nefarious gang, he jumps at the chance. Besides, his parents want to send him to Good Samaritan School. Sailing off to the Fortress of Mayhem in SOURBALLS‘ Evil Blimp may be Zachary‘s only chance for a truly rotten life.

Zachary and his sidekick, Newt, hatch a devious plan. They will turn the mayor into a zombie who obeys their every whim. Unfortunately, zombie lasers are out of Zachary‘s price range. All he can afford is a Box of Rotten: a box filled with rather pedestrian evil goodies such as zucchini-flavored gum, a rubber cockroach, and a jar of boll weevils. But Zachary and Newt are not the only ones itching to get into SOURBALLS. Armed with only their cheap Box of Rotten and a large helping of luck, they have to fight not only to join SOURBALLS, but to survive! Bwa-ha-ha!

Why is it important for kids to read about rotten characters?

Kids learn from reading. How can a kid be truly rotten without being exposed to examples of rottenness? Not from our broken school system, where teachers routinely teach about “laws” and “ethics” and other tripe. We’re cranking out goody two-shoe kids at unprecedented rates! Did you know authorities say that truly rotten, evil kids are at their lowest levels in years? Our so-called fair press conveniently glosses over those facts. Sure, there are more partly horrible kids than ever. But truly rotten? Nope. I hope to change that. If I can make just one kid more rotten from reading The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, then I feel I’ve done my job.

Do you have your own zombie laser? If not, can you tell us about one of your rotten pranks?

Zombie lasers run in the millions of dollars, so while I’ve always coveted one they just aren’t realistic on a middle-grade author’s salary. While I would love to go into detail on a rotten prank that has succeeded, my lawyer recommends I keep my mouth shut, at least until the statute of limitations expires. Ask me again in 2016.

Zachary buys a Big Box of Rotten. If I were to buy a Big Box of Tips for Writing Humor what would it include? (I think I can scrape up $12.35.)

The Big Box of Rotten is a pretty miserable set of rotten clearance items, but it’s all Zachary can afford. I’m afraid you $12.35 only buys you Writing Humor scraps, too. So here you go: humor on clearance:

  • Pickles are funny. Cucumbers, less so. That’s because the letter P is the funniest letter in the alphabet. I’m giggling just writing this. P! Hysterical.
  • Kids love slapstick comedy, yet slapping sticks together don’t even make them giggle.
  • It’s really hard to write jokes. But it’s a lot easier to write funny situations. I don’t really write jokes. I just try to think of funny characters and funny situations and the jokes organically erupt. Think of a funny, offbeat character or a funny, offbeat personality quirk. Put him in an odd situation. Like my Uncle Bobby (may he rest in peace), the funny will spontaneously combust.
  • Carrot bread. Marginally funny, but less funny with cream cheese frosting. I’m not sure why.

I loved the running gag about Zachary’s, um, slightly lacking evil cackle. Have you mastered your own Bwa-ha-ha-ha?

His cackling problem, unfortunately for him, continues to haunt him in the upcoming sequels. I have a mediocre evil laugh. About a 6 out of 10, with ten the highest. Only the fiendish Mr. Maniacal has ever recorded an official 10 in the evil laugh Olympics. He’s the gold standard. Maybe someday. Sigh.

Zucchini-flavored gum is funny. What’s the funniest food? Funniest sound? Kitchen appliance? Cartoon character? Book character? What makes a particular word funny?

Ahhh—too many questions! My head is going to explode!

Luckily, I have the Encyclopedia of Funny Factoids here in my bookshelf, so I can merely look these up. Unfortunately, it’s the British edition, circa 1948.

Funniest Food: Bangers and Mash

Funniest Sound: The Queen’s britches ripping

Funniest Kitchen Appliance: Fish and chips fryer

Funniest Cartoon Character: Ally Slooper from Ally Slooper’s Half Holiday

Funniest Book Character: Miss Havisham

What makes a word funny: Quoted from the Encyclopedia, page 286: “’Ello, guv’ner. Anything with  “bloody ‘ell” is a hoot and a holler. “I’ll boot you in the bum, now bugger off.” A bit dodgy, no? But “I’ll Bloody ‘ell boot you in the bloody ‘ell bum, now bloody ‘ell bugger off.” Now that’s the dog’s bullocks and Bob’s your Uncle, eh?”

Does your family think you’re as funny as the stories you write?

Not at all. In real life I’m a bitter, twisted man who hasn’t smiled since 1989. Just make sure your ball doesn’t land on my yard. I’m keeping it. But I do like to walk around sprouting a fake British accent and using words like dodgy and bugger. They find that hysterical. Go figure.

I laughed—out loud—on almost every page of THE ROTTEN ADVENTURES OF ZACHARY RUTHLESS.  Which middle-grade books make you laugh?

If you laughed out loud on almost every page, I hope you were reading at home, and not, say, on the bus. “Mommy, why is that strange person laughing so much?” “Just don’t make eye contact, honey.” For me, a little known series called The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is awesome. I forget who writes them, but you should look it up. Google it. I just finished the Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, which I found hysterically wonderful. Lincoln Pierce, the mind behind Big Nate, is terrific. Going back a little bit, I adored the Lemony Snicket series. Travelling back in time even more, Roald Dahl remains unmatched in brilliant kid satire. Very recently, there’s this Allan Woodrow guy. Watch out for him. He’s an up and comer.

Growing up, Allan Woodrow was cursed with a boring, happy and loving family, giving him nothing interesting to write about. He resented it for years. Eventually, a voice inside his head convinced Allan to write children’s books. At least that’s what he thinks the voice said; it was muffled because Allan had a bad cold. Regardless, The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins Children’s) is his debut novel. It released in Spring, 2011, with additional Adventures launching every six months. Allan lives in the Chicago area with his wife, kids and two goldfish. The goldfish are particularly nasty.

Links to more rotten fun:

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Please leave a comment to enter to win your own copy THE ROTTEN ADVENTURES OF ZACHARY RUTHLESS!

(Open to fans of humor anywhere in the world.)

Sydney Salter is the author of JUNGLE CROSSING, a middle-grade novel that sadly lacks zombie lasers, boll weevils, or zucchini-flavored gum, but does include crocodiles, jaguars and Mayan warriors.

Sydney Salter