I’m thrilled to interview Mixed-Up Files member Jonathan Rosen and celebrate the release of his middle grade novel, From Sunset Till Sunrise. Huge congratulations, Jonathan! I’d love to know how you came up with the idea for From Sunset Till Sunrise and some of the changes your story went through before publication.
The idea for From Sunset Till Sunrise, was actually just a continuation of the ending of Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. When I wrote Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, I did so with the intent/hope that it might become a series. At least, I left open the possibility, by ending it by mentioning there might be a vampire moving in. I just loved working in this genre of horror/humor and hoped to continue. It’s a lot of fun taking horror tropes and twisting them. When Sky Pony talked about a sequel, it was before Cuddle Bunnies even came out. So, there was some discussion about what to make the next book about, but since the ending already had vampires, and they liked it, we just went with it.
Cuddle Bunnies played with movies like Gremlins and Fright Night, and From Sunset Till Sunrise also uses Fright Night, but there’s a lot of From Dusk Till Dawn and other vampire movies in there, as well.
As far as changes, there really weren’t too many, though I did go back and forth on who the main villain would be. But, there weren’t many others.
I read and loved the first book in this series, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, and will never look at stuffed animals the same way again. I plunged into From Sunset Till Sunrise, excited to see Devin, Tommy, and Abby again, and noticed that you gave just enough information for new readers to quickly catch up on what’s been happening in Gravesend. Can you share some tips for writing a series?
I think series are fun, but challenging. In From Sunset Till Sunrise, I alluded to what happened in Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, but never specified. That way, the sequel could stand on its own for new readers. They didn’t have to read the first one. But, if you did read the first one, there was still enough of a continuation for you to get references that new readers wouldn’t. When references are mentioned, the series reader can just smile and know exactly what is meant, but the newbie still has an idea.
It’s definitely tricky. Because, now we have established characters. Even though I did reintroduce them, and you get an idea of their personalities, it’s extra fun if you’ve already gone on the ride before. You amp up what they did the first time around, which for me, I loved pushing Tommy even further.
Tommy had so many zany ideas in the first book, I didn’t think it was possible to push him even further—but you definitely did that! You also let us see a lot more of spunky Abby in this book, which was awesome.
Your books are so funny—and you often make me laugh on Facebook and Twitter, too. When did you realize you had a great sense of humor, and how has it helped you?
Does it sound immodest to come here and say, “I always knew I was funny”? Well, I did! ? But, kidding aside, humor was/is a huge part of my life. Most of my family had good senses of humor. My immediate family and my uncle, as well. And, those are the types of movies and books that I gravitated to. As a kid, I watched so many old comedies with my dad, and they really were a great way to learn things like timing, and set-ups. Humor has always been a part of my life, and as you said, it has helped me, since I was very shy, quiet, and nerdy. And, like a lot of people with the same traits, humor was a self-defense mechanism. You’re not getting picked on, if you’re making people laugh. Well, that is if you’re not making a flippant remark that gets someone angry. ? As you get older, your humor starts standing out for different reasons. You start getting noticed for it, in good ways.
You not only have humor, you have a lot of heart, too. Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your childhood and why humor is such a big part of your life.
Between your humor and the surprising spooky elements, your books are awesome for everyone, including reluctant readers. They’re fast-paced fun reads! Do you have any advice for anyone who is trying to encourage kids to read?
Thanks for saying! First, I always let kids read what they want. I wasn’t a reluctant reader, but I read everything. Books, comics, magazines, etc. As long as someone is reading, I think that’s great. I have a reluctant reader at home, and quick chapters, with funny, fast-paced action, seems to work.
I love the creative ways Devin and Tommy protect themselves in your books—including bubble wrap, water balloons, and Super Soakers. This could definitely inspire teachers, media specialists, and parents to ask kids to write the creations they’d come up with if they were sucked into an adventure with Devin and Tommy. Any suggestions for a writing exercise they can use?
Writing for Devin and Tommy is one of the most fun things about this series. As I said earlier, it’s fun to take the regular tropes and twist them in a fun way. I made a list of so many things, and I wound up using only a small portion them. The key is to look up all the tropes for a particular monster or myth and see what you can do to substitute or replace any of them. In From Sunset Till Sunrise, Devin and Tommy are facing vampires without Holy Water around, so they had to improvise. A little garlic powder mixed into water balloons did the trick there, but look at the tropes and play with them. See what you can come up with.
That sounds like a fun writing exercise! I’d love to see the inventions kids come up with.
What type of research have you had to do when writing middle grade novels?
I am sooooo big on research. Names, myths, lore, everything. In my books, a lot of the characters also have names which mean things. Including the vampires. But, I do like to research everything I can while writing. Geography, history, etc. I researched all the ways to be able to defeat certain monsters. The characteristics of monsters. I want to take the familiar and mix them up.
What are you working on now?
My agent is starting to take something else out on sub, while I’m in the middle of another two humorous, middle grade books.
Ooh, I can’t wait to hear more about them when you can share. We need more of your amazing humorous middle grade books! Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know?
I just want them to know that I’m grateful for them. Seriously. I get such a rush out of knowing that someone is enjoying my book. It means everything to me. Also, please feel free to reach out. I have usually answered most messages.
Hopefully, I’ll have some news to share soon about other works of mine!
Thanks again, Mindy!
You’re welcome, Jonathan. I loved reading your books and interviewing you.
Enter the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a signed copy of both Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies and From Sunset Till Sunrise. Thank you so much for this generous giveaway, Jonathan!
Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies
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.
From Sunset Till Sunrise
Devin Dexter and his cousin Tommy just saved the city of Gravesend from the menace of magical, malicious Cuddle Bunnies brought to life by the warlock, Herb. But there’s no rest for the wicked, as a new mysterious neighbor moves in across the street. At night. With a coffin. Tommy immediately jumps to conclusions as he thinks this can only mean one thing: Vampires.
Devin isn’t so quick to believe, as he is struck by the neighbor’s daughter, a girl his age. Even though Tommy points out that they have never seen her during the day. Yet when she invites him to a dance at her school–the Nosfer Academy of Talented Understudies–how can Devin say no? Tommy, though, realizes that this is an opportunity. After tackling a wizard last winter, surely they can protect Gravesend from some measly vampires, right?
The winner will be announced on Sunday, August 26. This giveaway is open to anyone in the U.S. Good luck, everyone. 🙂