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Tim Miller: Developing the World of the Fart Monster

April 24, 2018

The Fart Monster is back again in the brand new chapter book series The Fart Monster and Me. These book will have children crying with laughter. Anyone who has spent time with a young child will know that toilet humour keeps them entertained for hours!

Ben’s invisible friend, the Fart Monster made a sudden appearance in his backyard one day and has been around ever since. They are inseparable – despite the obvious drawbacks – but young boys are not bothered by a bit of extra smelliness.  Or are they?

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Words | Tim Miller

Creating the new chapter book series, Fart Monster and Me, was quite challenging. While the fart monster in the picture books is beloved by kids everywhere, the entire concept needed to be re-worked for an older reader.

The first step was to develop the world of the fart monster and create a set of rules that I’d actually need to stick to as I was writing the new adventures. The most significant of these rules was how the fart monster would be able to interact with the world. In the picture books, he was the stuffed toy that came to life in the boy’s imagination and was responsible for all those horrific- smelling farts. For an older audience, a stuffed toy wouldn’t have the same appeal, so the first book in the new series became this fart monster’s origin story. No longer the toy, the fart monster is now an alien from another planet that only his best friend can see.

You might have noticed that in the picture books, there was no need to name the boy. With limited word count, a name was never essential to the story. Mum and Dad were characters that interacted with the fart joke, not each other, to provide the punch line. This completely changed as I built the Fart Monster and Me universe. The boy needed a name – Ben Dugan. Like our reader, Ben’s older too so he can continue to be relatable. He’s at school and has homework, he likes playing in the backyard and worries that the kids at school might not think farts are funny (I have no idea why he’s worried about that – everyone thinks farts are hilarious). Mum and Dad needed to be fleshed out; they could no longer just be the punch line of a joke. They have jobs and meaningful conversations, and have become the authoritarian figures that can juxtapose the fun light-heartedness of the fart monster’s character.

The structure and vocabulary were challenging to adapt. I worked with the editorial team at HarperCollins Publishers to ensure that we were choosing the right level of vocabulary for the intended reader. Furthermore, even the sentence and chapter lengths have been strategically edited to ensure they’re right for this audience. While on one hand I want the books to challenge the reader, I still very much want kids to enjoy them and not be discouraged if a word is too hard. I’ve learnt that there can be a fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.

In essence, the characters are familiar, but have evolved. The one thing – and the most important – that has continued through the transition from picture books to chapter books is the humour. The fart jokes in the picture books that made kids laugh are throughout the chapter books. I now have the chance to expand on them and tell even more of them. These are still books that kids will choose to read, and that’s the reason why I write them – because if kids discover the joy of reading on their own, they enjoy reading for the rest of their lives.

Jessica Seaborn 2018

Tim Miller lives in Sydney and is an Australian bestselling children’s author. By day, Tim is a Marketing Manager and in his spare time he writes hilarious books for kids of all ages. His first picture book, There is a Monster Under My Bed Who Farts, was an instant hit. He’s now published six picture books, including Dinosaur Dump and Don’t Spew in Your Spacesuit.

Tim’s most recent publications are two fiction books for emerging readers called Fart Monster and Me: The Crash Landing and Fart Monster and Me: The New School.


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