Q and A with bestselling author Max Brallier
Max Brallier is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than 30 books for children and adults. His books and series include The Last Kids on Earth, Eerie Elementary, Mister Shivers, Galactic Hot Dogs, and Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. His newest book, “The Last Kids on Earth and the Midnight Blade,” is in stores Sept. 17, and he will present a talk and sign books at an event hosted by Fiction Addiction at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Five Forks Library. Get all the details (including book purchase and signing line requirements) at https://bit.ly/2lSGqKG.
Brallier took a break from his book tour to answer some questions for Upstate Parent via email.
Upstate Parent: How does meeting your readers in person, as with your upcoming event here in South Carolina, influence your next idea? I’m sure their enthusiasm is both contagious and encouraging, especially since writing is (to some extent) a solitary endeavor.
Max Brallier: Those readers influence in so many ways! Like you said, writing can be really solitary. So it’s just so energizing to meet readers, hear what they think, actually see kids enjoying the books. It makes it all feel real. And kids’ imaginations – they’re just so incredible. Every time I do an event, I’m reminded of that. Kids always want to give me their ideas for what I should do in the next book, what sort of series I should do next, what should happen to certain characters, what type of monsters they want to see. And they always have the best ideas! In so many ways, what comes next comes from them.
UP: Books for young readers can set the tone for their feelings about reading. What are your thoughts about engaging them early and writing to their interests, without dismissing their depth?
MB: Yep, that's the challenge. To be as funny and excited and creative and thoughtful as kids are. I try like crazy. I try to entertain, I try to be funny. But I've been there. Being a kid is tough and complicated. So much to be confused about. Things don't add up. There can be a hurt around other kids, siblings, family, teams, school, teachers, new schools, moves, lost pets, and so on and so on. It can feel like it's coming wave after wave. When you get older you realize you've been through those waves before, you come out of them, you'll be OK. But for kids, once you leave the sort of safety of home – it can feel like those waves just keep coming and coming. And that's tough! So I try to write about that, too – a proper balance of funny and adventure, but also pausing and voicing that we all are living the tough stuff, too. I hope readers find that in my characters and stories.
UP: Just today, I read your contribution to the 40th anniversary edition of Bunnicula. What do you enjoy reading now?
MB: A whole mix of stuff. I try to stay fairly aware of what’s going on in the middle grade book world – especially because teachers and parents will often ask me questions like, “Hey, my kid loved ‘Last Kids’ – what else is out there like that? What can they read next?” And it’s nice to have a good answer to that – because getting a kid reading is a little like catching a fish. Once you’ve got them on the line, you don’t want to lose them, you know?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks – just finished Stephen King’s “Eyes of the Dragon,” which I had never read.
But basically, I read across the spectrum – by subject, level and format. Because that's what reading is all about, right? I have to stay open and curious and excited just like my readers. It's about entertainment, discovery, learning. So I read memoir, biography, science fiction, comic books, history, mysteries, westerns, graphic novels, screen plays and so on. A wonderful thing about visiting schools, bookstores and libraries is the travel. That's becoming my reading moment. And so often, when traveling back home, I'm reading new stuff just introduced to me by teachers, booksellers, librarians and most of all, kids.
UP: I’m sure our readers would love any thoughts you have about the importance of reading to and with children as they grow. We loved read-alouds here when my children where young, even when they could read well independently. Thoughts on enjoying a book together?
MB: It can be tough to sustain, right? Because parents have busy lives! Sitting down and reading with your child – it sounds like a no-brainer, but after a long day of work, after cooking dinner, after bedtime battles – it suddenly feels less easy. So I think it’s really important to find books that the parent and the child can both enjoy, whether it’s something where the humor works on multiple levels, or it’s an adventure that’s just super engaging. And it doesn’t need to be bedtime – any time is a good time for reading as a family!