The story behind the story: by author Lili Wilkinson
I was six years old the first time I went on a plane. I spent the whole flight looking for Care Bears in the clouds. I read a lot and had a fierce imagination. I searched for magic and mystery everywhere, inspecting the back of every wardrobe for pine trees and scouring our house for secret passages. I arranged prisms and crystals so they’d make rainbows in the hope they’d attract fairies. I raided the pantry and tried to make myself a monster the way Frankie does in Vivian Alcock’s The Monster Garden.
I have a five-year-old now, and he’s just the same. He’s desperate to discover hidden tunnels, or to develop a superpower, or for one of his toys to come to life. I love seeing this unbridled imagination, and do whatever I can to encourage it (sometimes I go too far, like when I introduced two cheeky felt mice that kept stealing the gifts from his advent calendar, and he ended up having nightmares about them).
I love the humour and imagination and character that you find in junior fiction, and after Banjo and I devoured Real Pigeons, the Treehouse books, Princess in Black and the Jasmine Green series, I started to think… maybe I could do this?
I had this idea floating around in my head – what if some kids found a recipe for making a monster? But they didn’t have the arcane ingredients the recipe called for, so they substituted with round-the-house ingredients. And they ended up with a round-the-house monster. I pitched the idea to Albert Street Books publisher and all-round legend Susannah Chambers, who thought it had potential. And then came many meetings and brainstorming sessions as we hashed out exactly how the series would work. Duncan came on board, bringing so much style and energy to the project, plus editor extraordinaire Matariki Williams, and Kirsty Lund-White, who worked some kind of literal magic to create the dynamic design of the books. HOW TO MAKE A PET MONSTER truly is a team effort – there are no solitary geniuses in attics here, only funny farting monsters. The collaborative nature of junior fiction makes it so much fun to work on – it’s a pleasant break from the often lonely intensity of writing YA (don’t worry, teens, I’ll never leave you).
Writing for a new age group has brought about plenty of new challenges – it’s hard to condense a story into a tenth of the word-count I’m used to! But mostly it’s been tremendous fun. I’m currently finishing up the text for HOW TO MAKE A PET MONSTER 2: FLUMMOX, as well as brainstorming monster ideas for #3. I can’t wait to start visiting schools and talking to kids about these books – I hope kids find them fun and funny, and that it inspires them to go looking for secret passages or friendly monsters around their own homes!