REVIEW and INTERVIEW
The Iron Golem
(Monster Squad Book 1)
(Monster Squad Book 1)
by Christian Page
The Iron Golem is the first book in Christian Page's Monster Squad series for children ages 8 and up. The author stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review.
Monsters. Mad Scientists. Danger.
Dark forces are converging on the sleepy town of Autumn’s Hallow. Monsters in the woods, mad scientists on the loose and sinister minions lurk.
Four young friends must band together to uncover a secret plot that threatens them, the town they live in and the people they love. It’s up to Blaine Davis, Daschle Gaunt, Shelley Merry and Drake Harker, heirs to a fantastic collection of powers to stop an evil that threatens to consume the world.
Can the Monster Squad thwart the evil Victor von Frankenstein in time? It will take friendship, courage and smarts to find out.
Winner of New Generation Publishing's 2014 Children's Book of the Year Award.
“It’s alive… Alive!!!”
A soldier shouted in fear as the radio crackled with startled cries and the rat-a-tat of gun fire. A long hiss followed as the signal went dark. The old man lowered the walkie-talkie and surveyed the work of his team. Below the high cliff where he stood, sirens began to wail as gun fire and explosions wracked a lonely military base nestled between the painted hills of the Nevada desert. Above, heat lightning sizzled as a far off bunker crumpled in a roiling cloud of dust.
Emerging from the fog of destruction obscured by the darkening twilight, a massive creature stomped. Its eyes burned an evil green. Spot lights glared down trying to track the rapidly moving monster. Men in military uniforms scurried in pursuit. Tanks fired and machine gun studded Humvees crisscrossed the tarmac trying to halt its progress. Explosions threw up gouts of concrete, fire and steel but the creature was impervious to attack. The machines of war and heavily armed soldiers were like playthings. The giant swatted each aside easily.
The monster bound forward making a steady path toward the outer fence line leaving a path of destruction and chaos in its wake. The creature plowed thru the electrified fence tearing a massive hole that arced with blue lances of electricity. The heavy clomps of its footfalls echoed off the cliffs as it stomped into the darkening wastelands leaving only deep rectangular footprints in the desert sands to mark its passage.
“Master…” the radio hissed.
The old man raised the receiver eyeing the burning guard towers, smoking tanks and flashing emergency lights below.
“Report,” he whispered, his voice dry and ancient.
“The creature has been freed.”
“I can see that,” the old man allowed himself a rare smile. “Did you retrieve the object?”
“There were… complications…” his minion said nervously as a large concrete tower evaporated in a column of flame. “The woman was here… she proved… difficult.”
The old man growled, “Mina Harker…” He gripped his radio tightly, his gnarled fingers whitening, his momentary smile melting into a frustrated scowl.
“We barely escaped her.” A long pause. “What are your orders, Master?”
A small mushroom cloud blossomed on the horizon as the Monster encountered a final group of American resistance. The destruction soothed the old man’s nerves helping him to refocus. His grip on the walkie-talkie loosened.
“We will deal with the object and that woman later. Meet me at the rendezvous point in five minutes.”
“Yes, Master…” the radio squawked a final time.
The old man sighed as he watched the fires burn below reflected in the dark sunglasses he always wore, the deep lines on his face relaxing.
So, the mysterious Mina Harker was here. That would mean she too would be tracking the monster, his Monster. So much the better. The creature once released would track down those he sought, the heirs, like a dog to his bone. And once he had them and the powers they possessed… he would be invincible. But he would need to act quickly. He would need to make plans.
The old man watched as another section of building dissolved in a sheet of flame. His men had done well. While not a complete triumph, the release of his creature would prove decisive. Years of toil, sacrifice and planning would soon be paid back one hundred-fold. His mind raced with the needed preparations for the final stage of his master plan.
“Come if you will Mina Harker, my old friend,” he whispered. “Doctor Victor von Frankenstein and his Monster will be waiting for you.”
He chuckled as another explosion wracked the night… a night that reminded him so much of one long ago. The night that had set him on his path to destiny. The night Frankenstein met his Monster.
Praise for the Book
"A young adult novel bursting with re-imagined yet familiar literary characters, outrageously exciting action, and witty dialogue ... Highly recommended for fans of: Rick Riordan, Neil Gaiman's middle-grade work, and Trenton Lee Stewart and Carson Ellis" ~ Blueink Review
"The book is well-written and briskly paced; the author is clearly having fun, and the story reflects it ... Young readers will likely enjoy this nostalgic monster mash" ~ Kirkus Reviews
"What's not to like about mad scientists, pre-teen superpowers, and alien conspiracies? 4 Stars" ~ SPR
"The story was very good. If you love sci-fi, classic horror monsters or both then this story is definitely for you ... 5 stars" ~ Nerd Girl Official
By Lynda Dickson
In 1938, a spaceship crash-lands in Roswell, New Mexico, and a giant metallic man emerges, exposing four scientists to something that gives them incredible powers. In the present, Blaine Davis is starting seventh grade at Autumn's Hallow Junior High, Oregon, where Drake Harker has just moved to town. Along with Shelley Merry and Daschle (Dash) Gaunt, they discover they have some strange new abilities. But why is the principal of the neighboring school, The Grimm Academy, so interested in these four friends? What's with the mysterious creature seen lurking in the woods? And how are these events related to what happened in 1938? This disparate group of friends will have to band together and use their own innate talents and newly-found powers to defeat an ancient evil.
This story is an homage to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with characters named after many other well-known literary figures, both real and fictional. There are a lot of characters, and it's a bit of a puzzle trying to work out who's related to who across the two timelines - but that's half the fun, so I won't tell you. With plenty of action and character interaction, this is an interesting read that doesn't talk down to the kids and has plenty of references to keep the adults on their toes.
I look forward to sharing the further adventures of the Monster Squad.
Interview With the Author
Hi Christian, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Monster Squad:The Iron Golem.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
The Iron Golem is a fun old-school science fiction and modern-day monster mash-up geared toward kids ages 9-13… I tried to capture a fast-paced "Hollywood Tent Pole" style kids would enjoy, with enough classic literature and sci-fi references parents and older readers would get a kick out of as well.
What sparked the idea for this book?
My wife and I read to our kids ages 7 (boy) and 9 (girl) regularly. Over the years their tastes have shifted from picture books to Middle Grade and Young Adult – classics like Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter. I thought it would be fun to write a story my kids would enjoy – something with the action they gobble up, characters that would appeal to both girls and boys and humor parents would appreciate if they read together with their kids.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The idea – really the universe. I thought it would be fun to bring classic monsters into the modern world. I was an English Major in college and one of my focus subjects was Gothic Literature. Vampires and Zombies have gotten a lot of pop culture play in recent years but characters like The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Igor, Jekyll & Hyde, Quasimodo, The Headless Horseman… each remain largely untapped and are begging for a modern spin.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Oh… the toughest thing to nail down was the villain, in this book Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. He went through a lot of re-writes. The villain really makes or breaks a story (think Hans Gruber in Die Hard – the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as good without the brilliance brought to him by Alan Rickman). The problem is the villain doesn’t get nearly as many lines as the good guys. You really need to make every scene with the bad guy count to up the ante on the story and bring true danger to the characters. There is a larger villain beyond Victor which I tease in the book… but you have to read it to find out who that is… but I learned a lot from my time with von Frankenstein to make his mysterious master even meaner.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
Well, I hope they want to learn more about the classic characters brought to life in this modern (and admittedly very loose) re-telling. I hope kids seek out more information on Mina Harker, Victor von Frankenstein, Ichabod Crane, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, Dorian Gray… there is a rich world of stories and characters for them to experience and hopefully The Iron Golem helps to spark their curiosity.
How long did it take you to write this book?
All told about a year from first idea to book in print.
What is your writing routine?
After the outline process (which took a few months) I would try to pound out a chapter a week. From there it was editing and pitching which took far longer than the actual writing process.
How did you get your book published?
I contacted several agents (about 60 total) and after getting interest from a few, settled on one who showed the most interest and had a decent track record getting authors published. We then pitched about two dozen publishers and I netted with two offers – one was an e-publishing deal that was not self-publishing but didn’t have great terms and the other was from a British self-publisher who was willing to put a substantial amount down on the production and promotion for the book and was interested enough in the book that they offered a book prize. I went with the latter.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Be patient and resilient. It takes a long time and you have to be willing to change your writing quite a bit in the process. Ultimately, it makes the finished product stronger but it can be pretty brutal - especially when the process involves so many "No's" and so little actual constructive feedback (until you start getting reviews after the book is published).
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like sports and, of course, I’m rather fond of my family :)
What does your family think of your writing?
My kids think it’s cool that Dad wrote and published a book. When we received the first paperback copy of The Iron Golem my 7 year-old saw it and said "Oh my god, Daddy! Your book is real! You could actually sell this in a store!!!" My wife is supportive but writing a book takes a lot of time. I think she is glad I am taking a break between book 1 and book 2 (unfortunately, book promotion is as time consuming as writing…).
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in small town America in a nice suburb of a small city in the Midwest. I was the youngest of 5 kids and spent most of my youth either playing with friends getting lost in the woods behind our house for hours at a time, playing on sports teams or working on my Dad’s farm on the weekends.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
My mom, who the book is dedicated to, got me into reading. She was a voracious reader consuming at least 1-2 books a week for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I was a bit of a spaz in school, truth be told. I think our family doctor diagnosed me as "hyper" – which as an adult seems hilarious! So I really didn’t have a lot of time for reading. But around the age of 11 my mom introduced me to Fighting Fantasy novels – choose your own adventures that involved building a character and fighting monsters – and I was hooked! The first "real" book I ever read was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. That sealed the deal. In fact, I’d love to get a copy to Terry as a token of my appreciation for his influence on me. I still like his books to this day.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
After reading The Sword of Shannara… it sparked an interest in telling stories. My first book was called the Adventures of Murray Slovack – about a slacker teen whose fantastic daydreams have a habit of coming true – cloak and dagger, swords and sorcery, salty seas and sassy tails... I started writing it when I was around 14-15. I didn’t finish it but the DNA for telling stories was activated and I have been dabbling ever since.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I don’t see how they couldn’t. I think the biggest influence from my childhood was my sense of humor. Coming from a big family who works a ton with their hands, you can’t help but have a bit of a salty zest for humor.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Well, we’ve talked Terry Brooks. I think other artists who have had a huge impact include: Steven Spielberg (the action and characters he creates are amazing), Eric Kripke (I love his TV series and the biting dialogue of his heroes and particularly villains), Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the teens he writes have great voices with stories with terrific pacing) and literally a host of others too long to list.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I’m pretty new to the writing thing so other than the odd review or interview request, not so much. But I love feedback and if people want to contact me would love to hear their thoughts. My email is email@example.com.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
The second Monster Squad book, Jekyll & Hyde, is about 75% done. It moves the action from Autumn's Hallow, Oregon, to London and Transylvania where you meet a cast of new monster-inspired characters and learn more about the deeper, darker plot Victor von Frankenstein has in store for our tween-age heroes. I am also kicking around a new book, a little older and darker in focus, tentatively titled The Unseen, about twins separated at birth but bonded by a terrible fate. You can learn more about each on my website.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Chris. Best of luck with your future projects.
About the Author
Christian Page loves stories that combine fun, action and adventure. A father of two, he lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States with his wife, son, daughter, overly plump cat and under-behaved dog.