(Interview/Giveaway): Chris Wieland, Author of The Crabtree Monsters

Posted June 30, 2022 by shooting in Author Interview, Giveaway / 8 Comments

This is a sponsored post, courtesy of The Children’s Book Review and Susan R. Stoltz. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Thanks to author Chris Wieland for answering some of my questions about his book The Crabtree Monsters. Please read to learn more and then enter the fab giveaway below! 

1. Each chapter in the book has its own title, often a fun one! Why did you decide to do this, and do you have a favorite?

I’m glad you liked the chapter titles! They were actually really fun to write, which isn’t the reason I wrote them, but it was definitely a side benefit!

I did this for a couple of reasons. The first was motivational for my readers. When I was a kid (and even now when I’m reading for fun) — especially at night —I’ll tell myself, “OK, one more chapter, and then I’ll go to bed/get back to work/clean up the kitchen/etc.” But the best books are the ones that, when I finish that chapter, some element or plot twist keeps me engaged enough that I have to go on. “One more chapter” becomes “well, I can’t stop now!” I wanted that for my readers, too. So, for example, when they read Chapter 12, which is called “The First Day of School is Like Prison,” there’s some fun stuff in that chapter. Our hero gets worked over by mean girls, mediocre teachers, and more, plus we move the plot. But then you get to the end of it, and Chapter 13 is called “And Then We Actually Go to Prison,” and I hope that my readers are looking at that and thinking, “Heck, I’ve got a few more minutes of reading time.”

The other reason I did it was to have another place where I could showcase the voice and tone of our hero, Kat Dylan. Kat’s a tough kid, and she’s in the middle of a life-and-death situation. But she also doesn’t take herself very seriously (at least not internally). I thought about what she might say if she was telling the story to a friend and how she’d split up the story, and the titles started to come to me that way.

As for my favorite, it’s a tie between two chapters at the end – really the climax of the book (spoilers). Chapter 59 is “The Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done,” which is exactly how I think Kat would refer to the brave and heroic (but really dangerous and maybe pretty stupid) thing she does at that point. And Chapter 60 is “Right After the Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done,” which still makes me laugh and feels like the best way to describe the denouement or declining action of almost any adventure story.

2. The book follows a thirteen-year-old named Kat Dylan. What made you decide to have a female protagonist?

When I first wrote this story years ago, it was a film script that featured a teenage boy detective and his goofy little brother sidekick. The script got optioned by a production company in Los Angeles and was in development for several years. When the company lost its funding and the rights reverted to me, I didn’t want to try to pitch a years-old script over and over again, and I decided that I believed in this story and many of the characters, which is why I turned it into a book.

But at the same time, my older kid Grace was starting to read chapter books at this point, and I was looking high and low for female heroes who were tough, smart, and funny the way some of my childhood heroes were. It was hard to find one! And that got me thinking. The boy detective of my story was good and fun, but there are tons of great boy detective characters. I needed a girl detective who could be every bit as tough and smart as any boy.

The biggest benefit to creating Kat was that Grace became my #1 editor, and she really helped me understand how a tween might see the world and might adapt to the kinds of life and death situations Kat encounters in the book. Having the “real live Kat” next to me as I worked on the book made Kat sharper, funnier, and more interesting, and it put the adult characters more on their heels than they ever had been. Even Alec, the goofy little brother sidekick, saw his jokes get funnier and his emotional range grew because I had something stronger for him to react to.

There’s a downside to this, of course. If you let your kid play the part of a kiddie noir hero like Kat Dylan, they’re apt to act that way in real life sometimes, too. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end. But it’s worth it.

3. Since this is only the first Kat Dylan mystery, do you know how many books there will be in total?

I don’t know the total yet, but we’ve plotted out until Book 6. After that, we’ll see. One of the things that’s important to me in this series is that every book builds on the one before. Kat and Alec will not just solve a crime and then go back to the status quo. I’m writing the second book now, and what happens in The Crabtree Monsters is still resonant for them. Each of these adventures changes Kat, Alec, and other characters forever. So, once we get to the 6th book, it’s possible that it’ll feel like an entirely new series, even though Kat (and Alec) continue to be front and center.

4. What do you love most about your book’s cover?

I can’t say enough about the cover or the incredible artist Leanne Franson! I love how she’s captured the spirit of the two main characters, the colors of the fall setting, and how she’s made the Monster Gang masks easily identifiable but distinctive for this story. Leanne also created the logo in the bottom corner, which will be a constant on the books going forward. But since each book is going to take place in a different season (and because Kat and Alec will age, albeit more slowly than I do), the images in that logo will change as we go.

I wanted a cover that felt classic but also would catch my eye in a bookstore, library, or online. I think we’ve accomplished that because of Leanne’s great work and because of the overall design by David Robson (who also helped develop the title font for this book and the whole series).

5. What words would you use to describe The Crabtree Monsters (funny, scary, mystery, etc.)?

Wow, that’s not easy. I would say that The Crabtree Monsters is a tween mystery loaded with twists and turns and that at its center, we’ve stuffed in a lot of heart and sometimes warm/sometimes combative humor between our protagonist and her sidekick.

So … it’s (at times) funny, exciting, harrowing, mysterious, and even (at times) gut-wrenching.

6. Was there a character in The Crabtree Monsters that you especially loved writing about?

It would be Kat and Alec. I love these two and their relationship. They are always picking on one another, bickering like crazy, and not afraid to call each other out. But at the same time, there’s a deep love and trust between them. They always have each other’s back, and they understand that they’re never really alone. No matter what the world throws at them, they’ll face it together.

I feel like writing Kat brought me closer to my kid and made me a better, more empathetic parent. It also helped me understand how tough, smart, and emotionally focused someone has to be to do something really heroic, like seeking the truth and knowing it might not be the answer you want. And writing Alec was energizing – all the side jokes and wisecracks that I’d ever dream of making are on the table with him. I rarely get the chance to laugh in the face of danger, but he does, and that’s a great feeling.

7. Is there anything else you think we need to know about this book or series?

I just hope that readers enjoy spending time with Kat, Alec, and the people in Crabtree, Michigan and that they’ll come back for more. Mystery is my favorite literary genre, and I think it’s because everyone – whether you’re a tween or a grown-up – has at one point or another felt like they are alone, that the odds are against them, that the people they know may or may not have their best interests at heart, and that they still have to fight for what’s right. I’ve tried to capture that in this book, and Kat and Alec are going to keep at it as long as they can, or at least through middle school. On the back of the book, we write, “Life’s a mystery when you’re thirteen …” That’s true, but it’s also true when you’re 14, 25, 36, 40-whatever, and so on. I hope people come along and solve these things with Kat, Alec, my kids, and me.

Thanks so much, Chris! The Crabtree Monsters sounds like such a fun book for all readers. 

Now it’s time to win some goodies…

Giveaway Details

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

A signed copy of The Crabtree Monsters and a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card.

Four (4) winners receive:

A signed copy of The Crabtree Monsters

The Crabtree Monsters Book Giveaway

If the above doesn’t work/load, go here to enter the giveaway!  

8 responses to “(Interview/Giveaway): Chris Wieland, Author of The Crabtree Monsters

  1. Aw I love author interviews. You asked such great questions! I was interested particularly in reading about the author’s choice to name the chapters in the way that he did and write about a female protagonist. I remember reading the Percy Jackson books when I was in middle school and feeling the same way about those chapter titles as the author described. What a lovely conversation :))

    claire @ clairefy

    claire @ clairefy recently posted: My life has changed. (Korea diaries #1)

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