A fun, fast-paced YA read chock full of zombies, werewolves, vampires—and a crew of misfit kids.
Shelf Unbound: Monsterland is an amusement park featuring real vampires, zombies, and werewolves. How did you get the idea for Monsterland?
Michael Okon: I was binge watching a movie marathon with my son, the classics—Goonies, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park. I’ve always wanted to write a monster book but could never settle on the monster I wanted to write about. While watching those movies, it hit me like a ton of bricks: why isn’t there a theme park with monsters? I called my brother immediately and told him about a theme park with zombies. He said no, it has to be werewolves, vampires AND zombies. I started beating out the storyline that night.
Shelf Unbound: You have teenage protagonists—why choose teenagers rather than adults?
MO: I loved and hated being a teenager. A lot of the emotions I felt when I was a teen carried over into my adult life. I learned how to sort through them and learned how to control my emotions. I identify with teens more than adults, even though I’m turning 40 next year. I understand teens and the angst they go through. All the teens in the book have a little bit of me in them when I was 17.
Shelf Unbound: How did you develop the character of the theme park owner Dr. Vincent Konrad?
MO: That’s a great question. My favorite type of character to write is the antagonist. I always like to give my hero a real baddie. Someone who is larger than life. I will always think to myself when writing, how is the hero going to get out of this? I want Dr. Vincent Konrad to be the epitome of evil, but the whole world doesn’t see it. He is a façade. Monsterland is just the first step in his evil plan, that actually goes over quite well for him. I took antagonists from old movies and some businessmen who have a flair for the theatrics and stirred them into Vincent’s soul. He was, by far, the most fun villain I’ve ever written.
Shelf Unbound: You are a prolific writer, primarily of thrillers. What interests you about writing thrillers?
MO: I love creating a universe for my story, and keeping people on the edge of their seats. I know the end to every story that I have mapped out—even Monsterland is a planned seven-book series, and I know the ending to it as well. Writing thrillers, I believe, captures the audience’s attention. I want people to forget about their world when they enter mine. I feel thrillers can easily accomplish that.
Shelf Unbound: What book will we see from you next?
MO: Monsterland 2 is coming out on my 40th birthday, May 26th, 2018. I’m already knee-deep in Monsterland 3. Plus, I’ve already started beating out Monsterland 4 & 5. It seems I’m going to be writing about monsters for the foreseeable future.