Welcome to MUF, Deke Moulton. Deke (rhymes with ‘geek’) Moulton’s debut novel, DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER, is out August 1, 2023. Read on to learn more about Deke, including their love of middle grade books, the inspiration for their vampire story, and how their background as a US Army drill sergeant informs their writing.
MIXED-UP FILES: Congrats on the new book, Deke. Tell us a little bit about it.
DEKE MOULTON: Thank you so much for having me! DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER is a middle grade spooky adventure about two vampire brothers who are sick (in their own ways) of the secret life their mothers want them to live, especially when they find out there’s a serial killer in their small, sleepy Pacific Northwest town. Adam wants to use his vampire powers (and protections) to track down and stop the killer, whereas Victor sees the killings as a way to get guilt-free blood.
I honestly came up with the idea from a dream – I had this super vivid dream of being a middle-grade-aged vampire kid being accused of eating people and having to clear my name. My original idea has changed a lot over the drafts, but it was one of those moments where a super vivid dream becomes very inspiring.
MUF: Why vampires? Have you always been into them?
DM: Honestly (and I hate to admit this!) I have never been ‘obsessed’ with vampires. I’ve enjoyed vampire movies (I include so many references to THE LOST BOYS in my book for a reason!), but on the other hand, I went viral on Twitter for talking about how I accidentally ate at the Bella Italia of Twilight fame during my honeymoon without any idea what Twilight was.
Though part of my removal from a vampire obsession helped while I was writing – I explored different vampire myths without feeling too personally connected to any of them, which gave me some of the space to play with what myth is used for.
MUF: Do you love to be scared as a reader?
DM: I cannot do horror at all! If something is truly scary, I just have a hard time dealing! I adore spooky things though – I love witches and skeletons and vampires and ghosts. I love the idea that the spooky can be friendly and misunderstood and helpful (but once ‘spooky’ things are out to get me, I just don’t care for it much). That’s one of the reasons I love Halloween – even though traditionally it’s not a Jewish custom to observe it – just because I love all these little spooky things.
MUF: What made you want to write for middle grade readers in particular?
DM: I’ve always been drawn to middle grade books. Part of me wonders if I’m trying to ‘recreate’ a childhood I didn’t have, or if I’m really just in need of books that have a guaranteed ‘hopeful’ element to them. I’ve read adult books but get a little bored with the jaded atmosphere I find in so many of them. I don’t really care about adults being down and out, or having marriage problems, or having a mid-life crisis. I want to go on adventures with the full promise of life ahead of me!
MUF: Did your career in the military inform your writing in some way?
DM: Ha! Yes!! Though in some strange ways – I talk about different kinds of blood, which I learned about while doing ‘combat life saver’ courses. One of my supporting characters, Luis Espinosa, is a military kid and shares some insights that he learned from his father that helps the kid trio try to track down the serial killer.
But also in some surprising ways, too. I trained as an Arabic linguist during my service, and at one point, all my professors were Sudanese, so I made one of my characters Sudanese. Sudanese Arabic is surprisingly hard to find online, so I’m glad I have some authentic language in there!
I was also stationed in Vicenza, Italy, so my Italian character is a former nun whose convent was one I ran to weekly as part of my physical training regiment – the hilltop convent of Monte Berico. Also, that character’s name is Beatrice – I worked with an interpreter with that name, but because of the Italian pronunciation, I didn’t realize her name was actually Beatrice!
MUF: What are some other recent middle grade books you’ve read and enjoyed?
DM: I have been reading a LOT this year, so this will be a difficult list to manage, but I’ve been positively adoring the ARC I got of ALEX WISE VS THE END OF THE WORLD by Terry J. Benton-Walker at ALA, THE WITCH OF WOODLAND by Laurel Synder (which is an incredibly wonderful Jewish witch story!), SOUL LANTERNS by Shaw Kuzki was so phenomenal that I had to purchase it (after borrowing it from my library), HONEY AND ME by Meira Drazin was such a great look at the Modern Orthodox community.
MUF: What are you working on next?
DM: My next book is called BENJI ZEB IS A RAVENOUS WEREWOLF – which is a werewolf book based on Jewish werewolf mythology! I honestly had no idea there even WAS a specifically Jewish werewolf mythology, so it was really fun to explore that and build a story around that. It comes out next summer!