In our home, Adam Rex—the author of Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (a New York Times best-seller) and Frankenstein Takes the Cake—is a literary hero. His first youth novel, The True Meaning of Smekday, was published in 2007, and his second novel, Fat Vampire, was published in July. He grew up in Phoenix, went to school at the UA and moved back to Tucson a year ago. Rex will read at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 24, at Antigone Books (411 N. Fourth Ave.), along with Jillian Cantor and Janni Lee Simner. For more on Rex, go to www.adamrex.com; for more on Antigone Books, visit www.antigonebooks.com.
Your first book, Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, was a best-seller, right?
It was on The New York Times' Picture Books Best-Seller List for two nonconsecutive weeks around Halloween of (2007), so forever more, I'll be able to call myself a New York Times' best-selling author, even though I'm stretching that a little thin. It would be nice if something else I did got on the best-seller list so I didn't feel like I was holding on to my high school football days.
How did you start—as an illustrator, or as a writer?
An illustrator. I wrote for fun long before I got any of my writing published. ... Professionally, I was definitely an illustrator first, and I worked for a lot of role-playing gaming companies. I did a lot of work for Dungeons and Dragons and this card game called Magic: The Gathering for years, which paid my bills. I was working for them while I was trying to get into the kids'-book industry. ... My first kids' books were as an illustrator only. ... I actually consider my first book (as illustrator and author), Tree Ring Circus, (to be) my third book, because I illustrated two others before that, for Amy Timberlake and Jill Esbaum.
Smekday is an unusual story about an alien invasion. Where did you get the idea?
It sparked in my mind from this argument that I had always thought might be valid from my undergrad days, as a more militant animal rights-type person ... about the caliber of animals that were stupid, so we get to eat them. Everybody has in their mind this concept that an alien invasion will be by aliens of superior intelligence, but by that argument, then you must agree that if they ever came, and are vastly superior to us, they should be able to eat us. No one ever believes that should be true.
The cats save the day, in a way, and that's pretty cool.
It's sort of a War of the Worlds homage, or a rip-off, depending on your point of view.
You had mentioned that there's movie-studio interest in Smekday.
DreamWorks optioned it, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are going to make it. I'm still waiting to hear about that. They've been developing it for a couple of years now, I think, and it's still not technically green-lit.
The book has a young African-American heroine. That would be cool to see on screen.
Assuming they don't fuss with it. They can pretty much do whatever they want with it at this point. I'm not at the point in my career where I have a lot of control. ... I'm sure they'll run the script by me just to be polite, but that doesn't mean they'll necessarily take any of my notes.
What's Fat Vampire about?
Fat Vampire is about Doug, who is sort of a vampire accident. He's not the sort of person who normally would be turned into a vampire. He's 15; he's short; he's a little overweight; he's socially awkward—and now he's going to be short and a little overweight forever.
So this could be a book alternative for kids who absolutely hate the Twilight series.
I hope so. I always want to interject that I did not read the Twilight books, and I did not write my book as some sort of response to them. But it may very well serve that function for some people.
It's good that you're in Tucson for local readings, like the one at Antigone.
I'm also so happy about the (Tucson Festival of Books). Sometimes you don't even know what your audience is going to be when you go out to do a reading. I was invited to a bookstore in Washing-ton, D.C., to do a reading and sign books afterward. I find out I'm there for toddler time: a bunch of young moms and 2- or 3-year-olds. I've written nothing that's appropriate for 2- and 3-year-olds. That was the bookstore's fault. Anything can happen.