To celebrate Paul Rasche’s birthday (on Sunday – don’t forget to look up Paul Rasche on Facbook and say happy birthday), we are publishing a blog post on the history of Smudgy in Monsterland, and launching the pre-order link for the novel itself.
If you haven’t heard about this book, you should have a look. It’s a wild ride, let me tell you. As Paul Voermans described it:
Rache has a wicked imagination. Smudgy in Monsterland’s action doesn’t stop and neither does the invention. Read if you dare!
Nasty, nasty, nasty.
If you want a non-stop ride into Hell, full of trickery and more than a little schadenfreude, is is for you. Not letting my kids read it!
Being the hows and whys of Smudgy In Monsterland.
I’ve written two novels, and both started with a crazy “What If…” concept.
The first one was “What if someone’s cat told them to f***off?” That led, naturally, to the story of the disintegration of a family into depression, insanity, and murder aplenty. Don’t worry, it’s fiction.
So that was my first novel, but, like many of our first attempts at the long form, it’s not something I would consider releasing into the wild. I’ll come back to it someday, I’m sure. It doesn’t even have a title at the moment.
I wasn’t even trying to think of an idea for my second novel. But it arrived, unbidden, much like a jigsaw puzzle that had been sent to the wrong address.
The “What If…” concept for Novel #2, ‘Smudgy In Monsterland’ is, effectively, a spoiler. That’s something I’d like to avoid, so what follows is a carefully worded sentence: The whole novel sprang from the idea of “What if someone was <<subjected to an extremely unusual punishment>> every day?”.
Stay with me.
The first challenge was to explain how such a circumstance could possibly arise. Then I had to explain the consequences and fallout of such an insane situation. It turns out that creating a setting in which such a thing could even begin to occur took a lot of words, so the central “What If…” concept of the book happens somewhere around the halfway mark. And that’s when things get really weird. No, listen – things get really, really weird. To quote my esteemed publisher, “It’s crazy as f*** – that’s why I like it.”
I knew right from the start that the title would be something ‘…in Monsterland’. And I knew that Monsterland would be a horror-themed amusement park. But it took ages to come up with Smudgy. I had Pooky in there for a long time, but it never felt right. There was a whole lot of ‘Find and Replace All’ going on. I laid in bed running through vowel sounds and compatible consonants every night. Smudgy finally came to me in a flash, and I knew instantly it was correct.
As a left-handed cartoonist, ‘smudgy’ is a word that had been a big part of my creative life, even since primary school. A perfect fit. (Left-handed people often smudge their ink, as they write from left to right. You get it.) Once you have a title that is a 100% definite lock, you have concrete. A box is ticked. It helps.
I made a number of attempts at starting the book, but nothing was working. I’m sure most, if not all, writers have experienced that feeling. Something fundamental was missing. It took a random conversation with my brother Nick to get it sorted. We were talking about our favourite movie genres. I couldn’t decide between ‘Nazi Occult’ (‘The Devil’s Rock’, ‘Outpost’), and ‘Space Madness’ (‘Event Horizon’, ‘Sunshine’). Then the light-bulb moment – what about a movie that was BOTH? I wasn’t (and continue to most definitely not be) in a position to be making movies, but I did have this half-formed idea for a book, and genre fiction is clearly the best type of fiction, so…
Now I had a crazy plot – “What If…”, and a crazy genre – Nazi-Occult-Space-Madness. A match made in Monsterland.
It turned out the stars were aligned for me. I had written my aforementioned first novel after a nasty break-up, having moved back in with my parents. And now, years later, I was in the process of building a house for the first time, with a dodgy builder. These are both long, expensive, painful stories. And the best thing to do when you’re embroiled in a long story that you can’t control is to create a long story of your own, that you have total control over. That’s called ‘a novel’.
And so Smudgy In Monsterland, after wandering aimlessly around in my head for more than five years, came out in a big hurry.
There were times I struggled with staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page, and again, I’m sure that’s something that all writers have been through. It helped to read bad fiction. I went on eBay and bought a bunch of cheesy 50s pulp fiction from the UK. They were alarmingly bad. It helped. I kept reminding myself that I’m not going for a Nobel Prize here.
I wrote more than 100,000 words in five months, and by the end of it there was a novel, and a house, and a mortgage. I’d finished writing a book. Now it feels like anyone who reads it gets hella insight into the kind of things I like to think about. I’m cool with that.
I’ve always thought that the best stories don’t have morals or messages or agendas. They’re just stories. In this respect, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from both Alice In Wonderland and Seinfeld. Let’s just have a bunch of crazy stuff happen, and not try to tell people how to live their lives. That would be fun. And that’s all we’re ever looking for, out where I’m at.