This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage: Author Chat with Evan Munday

This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage is new to The Word On the Street in 2011! This new stage features hourly, genre-based, interactive programming sessions showcasing great Canadian young-adult books, authors, and artists plus the all-new Open Mic Hour. To celebrate, we have asked teens to interview some of the authors appearing on the stage! This questionnaire was created for Evan Munday, author of The Dead Kid Detective Agency, by teen blogger Joseph Halpern.

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Five Questions for Evan Munday:
1. You’ve been an illustrator, a graphic novelist, and a book publicist, what made you decide to write this novel?

Probably two things inspired the book. Being a sometime illustrator, you begin to rely on telling a story largely through pictures. With the novel, The Dead Kid Detective Agency, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could tell a story with only words. For me, it’s so much easier to draw a scene of someone riding a bike than describing it in words, so it was sort of a test for myself. But largely, the book was an attempt to create something awesome. Some writers want to produce something of literary merit; I want to produce something awesome. There have been some awesome books and series in the world of young adult literature lately, and I wanted to be part of that: I wanted to write a book about an awesome girl who solves neighbourhood mysteries and hangs out with dead people. I still love working in comic book form, but I think writing books works a different part of my brain that’s fun to exercise.

2. This book is a coming of age novel about ghosts and crime solving, what made you want to go down this route?

I’ve always been fascinated with genre writing. The mystery books or sci-fi books or fantasy books that interest me most are the ones that use the genre to tell a different story. So, it could be a science-fiction epic about space battles, but the book is also about, say, learning to cooperate with people you don’t like in order to accomplish things. Why not tell a coming-of-age story with a few ghosts and some mysterious crimes thrown in. I love reading books that meld genres, break conventional rules to tell a story that has many different elements from different types of books.

3. At The Word On The Street you’re on a mystery panel with Norah McClintock and Shane Peacock, two writers who have been working in the YA mystery genre for a while, do you feel this book leads more towards the mystery end or towards fantasy?

I think this book falls more into the ‘mystery’ category. When I have to describe it quickly, I tell people it’s like if Nancy Drew were goth and all her friends were dead. So while there are elements of fantasy (the dead kids), the book is otherwise pretty firmly anchored in the mundane real world. And part of the driving force behind the book was to treat macabre and fantasy elements in a way that makes them seem completely compatible with reality.

4. There have been a lot of young female detectives who’ve made an impact on the world of literature what makes October Schwartz different and were there any characters that influenced her?

October certainly owes a lot to the many young female detectives who have come before her. The ones that most readily spring to mind are Nancy Drew and Emily Pohl-Weary’s Natalie Fuentes from the world of literature, Veronica Mars and Velma Dinkley (Scooby-Doo) from the world of television, and Chance Falconer (Leave it to Chance) from the world of comic books.

What makes October different? Well, she’s certainly more goth than most of them. You wouldn’t find Nancy Drew listening to ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead.’ But I think, despite being wicked smart and resourceful, she’s also more unsure in her abilities than those other detectives. And I think that’s part of what makes her interesting. You can be extremely brave and clever and tough, but also feel completely lost, terrified and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

5. How have your other careers helped you in writing this book and do you see a long term series in mind?

I’d like to think my comic book work helped me write an engaging story. As with writing a book, when doing a comic book, you also begin with a blank page and you also have to hold your readers’ attention. So you want to include some twists and turns and feature a few action sequences, but you also want to craft characters that the readers’ are invested in, so that even the quiet moments of conversation are riveting. My career as a book publicist is  not as applicable to the writing process as it is to what happens now that the book is in stores. Doing publicity for dozens of books and authors in the past means I have some sense of how the book publishing process works and it helps me think of ways I can help (and hurt) the book’s promotion.

The Dead Kid Detective Agency is definitely a series (I’m hard at work on the second book), and ECW Press was really wise to include the first chapter from the next book at the very end of this one, so readers are left on a terrible, terrible cliffhanger.

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Evan Munday is appearing on the This Is Not The Shakespeare Stage in the “Mastering the Mystery” segment at 12:00 p.m. along with fellow writers Norah McClintock and Shane Peacock.

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