Please give Tamara a warm welcome.
- Can you tell us a bit about your book, Welcome to Monsterville?
It’s the story of Jen, a twelve-year-old girl who moves with her parents to the all-monster town of Monsterville. Jen befriends a young ghost named Cal, who takes it upon himself to help her adapt to monster life. Unfortunately, Cal and the other young monsters are a little misguided when it comes to helping, so Jen gets totally lost in a mess of monster misunderstandings.
The story is for ages 6-11, although I have several friends in their 20s and 30s who are personally interested in the story world. On one level, it’s a cute and funny story about a spooky town, but there are also themes of honesty, identity, trust, and cross-cultural friendships.
- When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
It’s been my dream since I was a kid, but I didn’t really get serious about actually doing it until about five years ago. For the longest time, I wrote novels, short stories, and poetry for fun, but for some reason, I only had professional aspirations with regard to my screenplays. After struggling with that for far too long, I realized I wanted to create a finished product that can stand on its own. I still write screenplays, but I know I can’t make those into movies all by myself. Novels, on the other hand, are something I can see through to completion and guarantee myself that I’ll have something to show for it.
- You’ve participated in Nanowrimo several times. How has this shaped your journey as a writer?
All those word wars (timed writing challenges) have given me an idea of how much I can accomplish in a certain amount of time. That’s helped me keep my goals realistic and given me some baseline numbers to keep me on track. NaNo is also a great community where I’ve met a lot of friends, some of whom are also self-published authors. It was great to be able to ask questions of someone who had gone through the process before me.
- When & how did you get the idea for Welcome to Monsterville?
It started as a cartoon series. In 2009, I teamed up with animation artist Veronika Aleksyeyeva and we created the Monsterville world. She designed all the characters and scenery and all the other visual elements and I wrote a few seasons’ worth of scripts. We sought out funding and other production necessities, but as a two-person indie operation, it was hard to make that happen. I pitched Monsterville to animation companies all across Canada and beyond, but to no avail.
I love the series so much, though, that I refuse to give up on it. “Welcome to Monsterville” is the novelization of the pilot episode. I intend to make a whole series of books, utilizing previously written scripts and also new story ideas I’ve outlined since then.
- How much planning do you usually do before starting a new novel?
In the case of Monsterville, I’ve already spent years fleshing out the story world, so I thankfully always have a starting point. For novels as well as scripts, I like to have a complete outline before I start writing the first draft so I know if there’s a topic I need to go research beforehand. I usually don’t start writing the first draft until I’ve at least got a rough idea of what I want for the ending.
- What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you, and how do you make it easier for yourself?
The first draft is the hardest because I have to conjure something out of nothing. Having an outline is a huge help for that. Regardless of what phase I’m working on, it can sometimes be hard to focus. Sometimes I use music or go for a walk to get back into the mindset of the story world.
- Why did you choose to self publish Welcome to Monsterville?
Because I wanted it published! When the manuscript was completed, I took it around to a few publishing houses, but they all turned it down. Most of the publishing houses I researched didn’t even want to hear from anyone without an agent or they didn’t want to see any unsolicited works at all. That left me only with the self-publishing option. I procrastinated for a long time, always hoping that I’d find yet another publishing house that’d look at my manuscript. Finally, one day, I decided that I’d done enough waiting around and my luck wasn’t going to change unless I changed it.
- Do you plan to self publish all your future works or are you interested in traditional publishing?
I would much prefer traditional publishing so I don’t have to do all the marketing myself. I’m great at writing but I’m still learning the marketing side of things. I would much rather have the marketing clout and literary cred of a traditional publishing house. That said, I’ve learned so much in self-publishing my first book that I’ve got no problem with continuing to do it on my own.
- If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t try to write “normal” or “cool.” Write “you.” That is, make sure you aren’t just writing things because that’s how it’s expected to go in a story. Challenge your own assumptions and find your style that way.
- What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I’m currently working on the second Monsterville book! I’m aiming to have it available by the end of the year.
Tamara Hecht is a writer, illustrator, filmmaker, and story enthusiast. Her favourite holiday is Halloween. “Welcome toMonsterville“ is her first published book. Check out her website or purchase your copy today!