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Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Derek Kent, author of the Scary School Series

I'm so thrilled to have author Derek Kent stopping by today for a guest post and giveaway! Derek is the author of the Scary School Series, a scary awesome middle-grade series. You can check out my reviews of Scary School #1, Monsters on the March (Scary School #2), and The Northern Frights (Scary School #3) was just released.

Scary School
by Derek Kent
Harper Collins

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 hungryTyrannosaurus rex!
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
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!

Books 2 and 3

Watch the Scary School Trailer

A Ghost’s Inspiration
By Derek Taylor Kent

Hello everyone. My name is Derek Taylor Kent (AKA Derek the Ghost). I’m the author of the middle-grade book series Scary School from HarperCollins. Book one came out last year and received some great notices and even won the Children Literature Network award for funniest chapter book of 2011! Book 2 of the series came out June 26, 2012 and Book 3 the June after that. In case you don’t know much about it, it’s a series about a school where just making it to lunch with all your arms and legs is considered the great day.

For this blog, I was asked to talk about what inspired me to become a writer. It’s a question I get asked a lot. As a children’s author I do many school visits and it’s one of the most common questions asked by kids. So, I have a few stock answers in my back pocket that I’m always ready to pull out.

However, now that I’m sitting down and really analyzing the question, I realize that inspiration is a very mysterious thing that deserves to be delved into more deeply than my back pocket.
I think a profession is very special that requires inspiration before even being considered. Do accountants get the question: What inspired you to become an accountant? Or: what inspired you to become a lawyer? Or even: What inspired you to become a doctor? I’m not saying that great stories of inspiration aren’t possible for those professions, I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s a question they get asked a lot because inspiration is not a prerequisite. Plus the story of inspiration probably wouldn’t be very interesting. Most would probably be: I was inspired by the idea of having a steady, well-paying job for the next forty-five years.

Fair enough.

Sometimes, I envy them for having that stability, but alas, that will probably not be the case for me, because I am inspired to write children’s books. I get paid in the sound of children’s laughter and the joy of enriching young minds. I also get a little bit of money, but not yet enough that I can quit my day job fixing things in my apartment complex. But, to be honest, I’d rather have half my arm down a toilet drain than be crunching numbers or looking at blood all day, so it will do for now.

I believe that inspiration for a profession can be broken down into three categories:
  1. Childhood environment.
  2. Moments of epiphany.
  3. Adulthood passions.
I’ll go through how each one of these inspired me to become a writer.

Number one. My home environment.

I grew up in a very artistic household. My mom is a very popular artist named Melanie Taylor Kent. I’ll wait while you Google her to see her artwork. Pretty amazing, right?

When my mom’s art career took off, my father quit his job as a lawyer to stay at home and run the art business. So I grew up in an environment where the example was that pursuit of creative endeavors can not only be viable, but can be hugely successful. Granted, it was the 80s.
My mom’s art business was huge. She was doing commissioned works for Disney, Warner Bros., Lucasfilm, Steven Spielberg, Hanna Barbara and countless others. Plus, my mom was always very, very encouraging of mine and my sister’s creativity. She seemed to desperately want us to follow in her footsteps. I wasn’t a good artist, but my sister is. I gravitated more toward writing and acting, and Mom’s eyes, I was William Shakespeare and Robin Williams rolled into one.

So, I had a lot of support at home, as well as an in-house example that creativity can be quite lucrative. I was probably doomed.

But that’s not to say that there wasn’t an example of hard work being essential. My mom taught art classes in LAUSD schools for ten years. When she started trying to sell her paintings, every gallery and publisher rejected her. She had to go to art shows in parks for years to prove that there was a market for her art and that it could sell. And that’s exactly the stage that I’m at right now. Every weekend I’m at bookfairs and author festivals, signing my books and trying my best to create a sensation one book at a time.

I have no idea if it will eventually pay off like my mom’s did. But I am a little bit hopeful because kid’s books are pretty much recession-proof, while her art business was not.

Number two. Moments of epiphany.

I think we all know these specific moments of great clarity and happiness where our destiny seems crystal clear before our eyes. I remember when I was nine years old I wrote a story in my fourth grade creative writing class. It was a story about how far I would go eat my favorite food, which at the time was Stouffer’s frozen noodles romanoff.

The teacher read the stories in class the next day, but I was out sick. However, the teacher sent home a card with my sister. It was a get-well card from my class, but on it, my classmates had written how funny the story was and that the teacher had said it was the best story in the class. Apparently I had everyone on the floor laughing, but I wasn’t even there to see it. It’s probably much better in my imagination anyway. I had an epiphany that writing stories that would make all my friends laugh was what I wanted to do. The following years I would be writing skits and plays constantly to perform for the class and all of that pretty much continues to this day. It still comes very easily for me to make my friends laugh and also nine-year-olds.

Number Three. Adulthood passions.

When I was fifteen years old, I became obsessed with Dr. Seuss. Like all kids, I loved him when I was six, but I reread his books when I got older with a whole new appreciation for the imagination, poetry, and creative wordplay.

I really, really wanted to be the next Dr. Seuss. So, I started writing children’s picture books in his style. The intention was to have my mom illustrate them and we could sell them as a mother-son duo. There were just a few problems. My stories were epic. Way too long for picture books. They turned out to be more of a cross between Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Oz told in rhyming couplets than your average five-minute picture book. Nobody had every seen anything like it. The other problem was I had left for college and my mom was going through a divorce and she couldn’t finish the illustrations (although there are countless incredible sketches of the fantastical world we created).

But I kept plugging away with this epic book series for ten years. I even got an agent for it at one point, but nothing would ever come of it. Just as my Dr. Seuss dreams were fading, I started reading the Harry Potter series. I had another moment of epiphany that occurred through following my passion for literature. This is what I should be doing! Writing novels where I can create an entire unique world and not be foiled by the constraints of picture books.
It was my love of Dr. Seuss that gave me the bug for writing children’s books and my obsession with Harry Potter that inspired the idea of writing novels.

There were several failed attempts of novels at first, but eventually I finally got my first book deal with the Scary School series. And now, I receive emails from kids every day telling me how much the book makes them laugh. And every time I get one, I’m nine-year-old Derek again having an epiphany that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

You can check out more about the Scary School book series at

Derek Kent
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.

Win an ebook copy of Scary School #1!
Derek has generously offered an ebook copy of the first Scary School book to one lucky winner. If you have a young reader in your life, this would make the perfect summer read.
-open to anyone who can read ebooks
-will end 7/7
-must be 13+, one main/free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Love the look of Scary School and defiantly has the summer feel to it.