For Bess Braswell, publishing director for Inkyard Press, author Rex Ogle’s The Supernatural Society exemplifies the goals of the publisher’s new middle grade line. “Our middle grade wish list is for action-packed, thoughtful books with ongoing series potential, particularly involving humor, fantasy, and adventure.”
The Supernatural Society stars three sixth graders who team up to tackle East Emerson’s monster problem. In book one, Will, Ivy, and Linus investigate the mysterious disappearance of the town’s pets. Ogle chatted with PW about drawing from his own childhood to write relatable characters who star in engaging and lightly spooky adventure stories.
Many children’s book authors write the books they wish they had read as kids. Is that the case for you?
Absolutely. I definitely write stories for my younger self. But I also write them for my current self, as I’m a total kid at heart even now. I still play video games and watch cartoons and every Christmas I buy myself a couple of LEGO sets. But that’s why monsters, myths, magic, and mad science are the core of The Supernatural Society series. Because that’s what I loved as a kid.
Tell me about your protagonist, Will. Would you say you drew from your own childhood to craft his character? What about Ivy and Linus? Are they inspired by anyone in particular?
Will is totally based on me. He’s half Latin, like me. He’s the child of divorce, like me. And he loves X-Men, again, like me. As for Ivy and Linus, they’re based on my two best friends in middle school, who were also Korean and Black. We used to play D&D and pretend we were off having adventures and fighting for our lives. Which is very much what our trio of young heroes do in The Supernatural Society.
Monsters and other supernatural creatures are an evergreen topic for middle grade novels. What makes monsters so enduring? Do you have an all-time favorite monster that continues to inspire your fiction (or haunt your dreams)?
I grew up on the classic black and white Universal Classic Monster movies, and had a deep love for them as a kid. Nowadays, I love horror movies and pretty much anything scary. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I try to cram my Octobers with as much spooky as possible—which is why our first story opens in October. As for what scares me most... ZOMBIES, so you may be seeing those soon.
How did you come up with the coded messages and ciphers that appear throughout the book?
As a boy, I loved Encyclopedia Brown, and trying to figure out the case alongside the hero. Then I discovered the Choose Your Own Adventure series, which was another huge love of mine. So I grew to appreciate a book with extra pieces that you could explore. It adds a whole other level that engages readers and pulls them deeper into the story.
Talk about finding a balance between the fun story elements and more serious topics like divorce and confronting major life changes in childhood.
I think the best stories cover the spectrum between adventure and heart. It’d be boring to have a story that’s all one thing. But to have action and laughs and even some heavy moments is necessary. It makes it more like real life.
What can you tell us about the next book?
I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say you should NOT read it on a full moon. Yup, we’re talking werewolves. You’ll find more magic, monsters, myths, mad science, and the mystery of one strange town. And of course, ciphers, codes, and cryptograms. I hope you enjoy!