Interview with Derek The Ghost

I have a special treat for all the Middle Grade lovers out there. Derek the Ghost, Author of Scary School, has stopped by for an awesome interview. Haven't heard of Scary School? Check out the hilarious synopsis below, and then learn more about the equally hilarious author!

Scary School
by Derek the Ghost
Illustrator: Scott M. Fischer
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 21, 2011

Red Gray Goodreads Redcropped - backwards 2 
You think your school's scary? Get a load of these teachers:
"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex" Plus...
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch  And...
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky

What inspired you to write Scary School?
The first novel I ever wrote was originally called SCARY SCHOOL: BOOK 1 - MY HOMEWORK ATE MY DOG!  - it's a middle-grade fantasy series very similar to Harry Potter. The only problem was, it didn't have a whole lot to do with a "scary school". I just thought of that title and wanted to use it before someone else did. So my editor at HarperCollins read the book, and almost acquired it, but in the end, they ended up passing on it, but gave me the recommendation to write a book series called SCARY SCHOOL that was lighter, funnier, and more school-centric. I took their advice, which became the Scary School series we know today.  It was also great because for inspiration I got to use all of my favorite characters from the horror movies I loved, like Jason, and Freddy, and even the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park! I wanted to imagine what it would be like if they had all gone to school together when they were kids, and in my silly head, the reality of that would be pretty dang funny.

 By the way, the original book ended up becoming RUDY AND THE BEAST: BOOK 1 - MY HOMEWORK ATE MY DOG! which is available exclusively through my website at  - and you can get it on Kindle (just $2.99!) or paperback! For those who like dark fantasies like Harry Potter, I've gotten many responses that young readers enjoy it even more than Scary School! You can also have a lot of fun, find hidden chapter, and play cool games at I hope everyone can check out!

How did your writing career begin?
I think the most important year of my writing life was when I was 11 years old.  I had an amazing teacher named Ms. Russell who was incredibly encouraging and gave us tons of freedom to work on our own projects outside of class for extra credit. So my friends and I basically formed our own comedy troop and would write and perform skits just about every single day (we got a lot of extra credit). I incorporate a lot of these ideas in a new middle-grade book I just finished called PRINCIPAL MIKEY.  But back to the point, ever since that year in sixth grade, I've always felt like that same 11-year-old kid when I write, just trying my hardest to make my class laugh. I can still put myself in that mindset and really connect with the mentality and humor of that age group.  Besides humor, I think my other strength is my vivid imagination (whether it's new monsters, fantasy, magic, sci-fi), which happens to work very well for the genres that middle grade readers like.

Who was your favorite character to write?
I would have to say it's Petunia. She's a young girl who's completely purple from head to foot, like a petunia. Her hair also makes its own pollen, so she's constantly surrounded by bees and wasps that like to collect it.  The way she feels about her herself is similar to how I felt about myself at her age.  She feels like an outsider and is very lonely. The bugs that fly around her head are her best friends. Because of her loneliness, she loves to read more than anything else, so she becomes Derek the Ghost's biggest fan, because she loves to read his writing.  I get more into this in Scary School Book 2.

Did you have to do any particular research for the book?
Just watching a lot of scary movies and reading a lot of scary books so I'm familiar with all the different kinds of monsters that I can incorporate into the books. I also like to keep reading great Middle-Grade fiction to maintain the correct voice and know where the market is.

If you could describe Scary School in three words, what would they be?
Spooky, hilarious, super-awesome-series-every-kid-wil-love!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
For writing: just read and write as much as you can. The more you read and the more your write (especially in the genre you want to write in) the stronger your writing will get and the more aware you will be of your strengths and areas open for improvement. For publishing: if you are in the Southern California area, I'd actually highly recommend you take my class that I teach on getting an agent or publisher. I also teach 5-week children's and YA writing workshops as well as those special one-day workshops on getting published through Writing Pad in Los Angeles - so that's one option. If that's not an option, first off I'd advise you to complete your novel. That's an important first step. And when it's ready to be submitted, make sure you have a super-strong query letter and then get very serious and focused about sending it out, for which there are many different strategies that I wish I could get into, but that would go on for hundreds of pages. There's lots of good information about it online though.

Since Nawanda Files highlights books into movies news, what is your favorite movie that was adapted from a book?
Doesn't it seem like all great movies were adapted from books? Let's see: 2001, Jurassic Park, Silence of the Lambs, Shawshank Redemption, Harry Potter 3, Lord of the Rings... i could go on and on!

Thanks for stopping by Nawanda Files, Derek! Great advice for aspiring writers, and Scary School sounds like a humorous novel that Middle Grade fans will surely love!

Derek is an eleven-year-old ghost who haunts the classrooms and hallways of Scary School, writing down all the spine-tingling often hilarious things that go on there. Despite his ghostly state, Derek still enjoys reading comic books and hopes to one day become a master ninja. If that doesn’t work out, he will continue to share the fun of this very special, very secret school, so all kids can experience the scariest school on earth. Derek the Ghost communicates through the first-time ghost whisperer Derek Taylor Kent, who is a writer and performer in Los Angeles, California.

Be sure to check out the full series of Scary School. The second installment - Monsters on the March - is available now. 
 Monsters on the March (Scary School, #2)

Are you a Middle Grade fan? Do you love humorous books? What do you think of Scary School? Leave your lovely thoughts below!

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