As an early fan of Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer, there’s a special place in my heart for the Monster & Me series by Paul Czajak. Monster strikes me as a larger than life version of something every kid needs to follow. He loves to play, has a gentle spirit, and a short attention span. Hmmm…yep. He reminds me of my own kids. It’s only natural that I want to follow his every move. We all know by now that Monster has lots of needs just like every kid out there. Monster Needs a Christmas Tree is waiting to be wrapped and placed under YOUR tree.
Welcome back to Carrie On…Together, Paul!
Hey Carrie! Thank you for having me!
How did you go about creating Monster as a character? Did he adopt any of your personal traits?
Monster was born the day my daughter said, “My monster needs a haircut”. I thought it was brilliant that she would have a monster that needed a haircut. Then after watching my kids it was obvious that Monster needs a lot of things so I started writing each one down. What was interesting is how monster went from the original idea of MY monster which would suggest a pet like relationship with Boy, to just Monster who is now a Boy’s best friend. When I was creating the character on paper Monster became a combination of my kids. He has the creativity of my daughter (7), who I honestly think had enough tape and paper she could build a working rocket; and my son (9) who is the most generous kid and always in a good mood. You Mash those qualities together and you get a Monster who is larger than life.
What do you feel is the key to having a character with series potential?
That is a tough question because I didn’t go out and say, “Today I am going to create a character for a series!” I wish it worked that way because that would be really, really easy. Instead the the two characters just emerged. But If you look at what I did create I think what you can say about Boy and Monster is that they are likable, relatable (yes I know it’s a Monster but he has childlike qualities) and you can put them in a number of different situations.
In Monster Needs a Christmas Tree, Monster and Boy take a very creative approach with their tree. Have you always hosted a traditional tree in your own home or do you veer to a more creative approach? (Is there a story behind the type of tree you chose for Monster?)
We have always done a traditional tree in our house. The closest thing to a non-traditional tree was when I was a kid, I think it was 1980. My parents bought a real tree but it was covered in white flocking to make it look like it was covered in snow. Ahh... the 80's. Such an odd era.
As for the tree Monster created, I got the idea at a florist shop when the store had several potted poinsettias all stacked like a tree. I took it one step further with Monster using what ever plant he could find. I wanted Monster to think outside the box, plus I thought the picture would be cool.
That just goes to show that ideas are everywhere!
In our previous interview, we learned that Monster sings a little song to help him fall asleep. If Monster rewrote the 12 days of Christmas song, what would he include?
The first thing Monster would change out is all the birds. Not sure what was up with this guy and birds but man was he obsessed. So I will only go with those seven.
7 days of presents
6 books of reading
5 gold rings (it’s really the only good present in the song. Monster is silly but he isn’t an idiot)
4 Bags of Skittles
3 Songs to sing
2 blue canary night lights (the dark is still creepy)
And 1 Best friend Boy to share it all!!!!
Does Monster have a favorite holiday song?
Little Saint Nick, redone by Dr. Teeth and the electric Mayhem. The Muppets are big with Monster and he really likes Animal in that version.
The rhymes you incorporate are so much fun, Paul. As writers, we are told not to submit rhyme unless it is absolutely perfect. What do you recommend most to other writers that are trying to perfect the art of rhyme and meter?
First of all I don’t believe there is a perfect rhyming book. With the different ways people pronounce words you can never be perfect for everyone. That being said the rhyme and the meter has to be perfect for most. I would never dissuade someone from trying to write in rhyme. But if you have a hard time hearing the meter then don’t try it until you can. I would suggest reading several rhyming books and tapping along with them until you can hear the meter.
Once you write something, have someone else read it back to you. They don’t automatically know the meter up front, so this way you will hear the good and the bad immediately.
Thanks for joining us again, Paul! I love how this this book celebrates many aspects of Christmas and winter at once.
For you, my readers, there is still time to win one of three copies of Monster Needs a Christmas Tree at Paul’s Goodreads Giveaway. Good luck! But before you leave to enter the contest, please leave Paul a comment or question below. (It's your chance to tell Paul what you think Monster needs next.)
Paul Czajak got an ‘F’ with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper and after that, never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. Living in Massachusetts with his wife, and two little monsters, Paul has rediscovered his passion for writing and looks forward to sharing his stories for years to come.
To find out more about Paul, and to read his blog, visit www.paulczajak.com.