Today is my birthday, my anniversary, AND the book birthday to a sequel I was incredibly happy to see. What a day!
Diana Murray has visited my blog numerous times over the years, but it was back in 2017 that she stopped by to talk about Groggle, the cutest little monster you’ve ever seen (thanks to Bats Langley’s illustrations paired with Diana’s fantastic text). Groggle was celebrating Valentine’s day in a very unusual way (and it’s one of my favorite classroom reads for Valentine’s day). Imagine my delight when I found out that Groggle had another holiday picture book! BUT I’m getting ahead of myself.
Diana Murray is the author of over twenty children’s books, including Jr. Library Guild selections like CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown 2016) and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES (HMH/Clarion, 2020), as well as the bestselling UNICORN DAY series (Sourcebooks), and award-winning early readers like PIZZA PIG (Step-into-Reading/Random House, 2018). Her award-winning poems have also appeared in magazines such as Highlights, High Five and Spider, as well as many poetry anthologies. She grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her family. You can learn more about her at her website.
GROGGLE’S MONSTER HALLOWEEN is another fun holiday romp. Groggle meets up with his friend Snarlina (whom we met in the first book) to go trick-or-treating. BUT the problem in the first book reappears: Groggle’s monster appetite. As you can imagine, this is even more problematic with Halloween goodies. I’m sure you’ll guess where the problem leads, but the ending (and every treat and character introduced) are still a surprise. This is another picture book I need to add to my classroom collection as I bet it’s going to be another holiday favorite.
Welcome back Diana!
Me: I’m so excited to see Groggle again in another holiday book. This is now your third series and/or sequel. How does a sequel come about? Is it simply writing a new draft, a publisher’s request, or sales (i.e., if it sells well, then there should be a sequel)?
Diana: I’m so excited to see Groggle again, too! I enjoyed imagining what might happen in his world.
As far as series go, for me, it has been a different situation for each book. For UNICORN DAY, for example, the first book sold extremely well so they asked me to work on a sequel. I suggested UNICORN NIGHT. After that, they specifically requested a Christmas one. UNICORN CHRISTMAS (the third book) comes out in October. I’m excited to say that there are several more planned for after that (on new themes, but keeping with the “Day” concept).
I didn’t expect GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE to have a sequel. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever written a new text with a sequel already in mind. But we kept getting requests from enthusiastic readers! It was nice to hear that they wanted more. The illustrator (Bats) and I talked and decided, hey, let’s give it a shot. The editor didn’t know I was working on a sequel text. I submitted the manuscript to her and (happily) she loved it.
Me: Of all the holidays you could’ve picked, what made you decide a Halloween story was the way to go? Was that your idea or the publisher’s?
Diana: It was my idea (and also Bats’ idea) and just seemed like a natural choice. Monsters and Halloween go together.
Me: With the first Groggle story, I know you pitched the illustrator (Bats Langley) for the book and got to work with him. Was that the same this time? Did you get to work as closely together?
Diana: We didn’t necessarily work “closely” together. Any feedback I had about sketches and such was sent through the editor, not from me to Bats directly. The first time, the story of Groggle was inspired by an illustration created by Bats. He painted an adorable monster eating a heart-shaped valentine. We were both represented by the same agent at the time. So it felt right to submit it together. And this time there was no question that we would work together again. I think it must be quite rare for a sequel to be illustrated by someone else. I don’t think I’ve seen an example of that. Bats’ art is in large part what makes the characters who they are.
Me: I completely agree! You’ve already seen Bats’ work in the previous Groggle book, as well as being a fan of his work. Were there still illustration surprises when you saw the final product?
Diana: Oh yes. Loads of spooktacular surprises! Like the mummy having a spa day. So hilarious and unexpected! Also, I was really curious about what costume Bats would choose for Groggle, as I didn’t specify. I thought the pirate costume was perfect! And my favorite spread is probably the one where Groggle and Snarlina are walking up a long path to the werewolf’s house. It’s so delightfully spooky! Seeing the illustrations is always my favorite part of the process. I feel lucky that I get to see such a talented artist bring his own point of view and expertise to the project.
Me: I love that the character trait we saw in the first book continues to be a problem here in this story. Was that something you always intended? What was something that surprised you in the writing of this story?
Diana: Groggle’s “monster appetite” is essential to his character, so yes, I felt it was important to incorporate that again. But if a third book were to come along, I might need to switch that up a bit. Or not.
Me: First Groggle celebrates Valentine’s day, then Halloween. What is your favorite holiday? Is it one of these, or may we hope for yet another Groggle tale in the future?
Diana: As a matter of fact, my favorite holiday is Halloween! There are some Halloween props that I keep as decorations all year long. Like my spooky old-timey haunted phone! I just love Halloween decorations. I also like dressing up in costumes and so do my kids. I’m not a big candy fan, though. Anyway, my favorite is Halloween followed by Christmas as a close second.
Me: Ahh! So maybe Groggle will get a Christmas story. 😉 I know you have quite a few books coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about them?
Diana: I do and I can! It’s very exciting. A few on the horizon besides GROGGLE’S MONSTER HALLOWEEN are:
UNICORN CHRISTMAS (Sourcebooks, Oct 2022), in which the unicorns must help Santa and the reindeer finish delivering presents;
MERMAID DAY (Sourcebooks, 2023), fourth book in the UNICORN DAY series;
LOVE STINKS! (Step-into-Reading/Random House, Dec 2022), in which a lonely skunk searches for true love;
SOMEDAY, MAYBE (Holt/Macmillan, Mar 2023), in which kids envision all the fun jobs they could do in a high tech future;
FIREHOUSE RAINBOW (Little Golden Books, Apr 2023), a color concept book about a diverse and busy crew;
SLEEP LITTLE DOZER (Random House/2023?), about a little bulldozer who spends bedtime with Papa when his Mama is out working late (this title was supposed to come out in 2020 but got delayed due to a change in illustrator.)
And then there’s a bunch of other stuff I can’t quite talk about yet.
Thanks so much for the great questions, Jena!
Oh my goodness. You are on fire Diana! Congratulations! I can’t wait to read all of those. They sound fantastic. Thank you for stopping by my blog again.
Dear readers, today is the book birthday for GROGGLE’S MONSTER HALLOWEEN. I highly recommend tracking down a copy to read, if you’re a fan of Halloween like Diana. There are some wonderful monster prizes inside that you won’t want to miss.