Montclair’s Jorge Aguirre Dishes Details (and a prequel) About Monsters Beware!

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Montclair’s Jorge Aguirre has MONSTERS BEWARE! coming out March 13th. It is the third book of his popular Chronicles of Claudette series, together with illustrator Rafael Rosado. Anticipating that milestone, he sat down with us to talk about the characters, future projects, and to provide a prequel to tide his fans over until mid-March. And that short story is available now — for free!

1. MONSTERS BEWARE!, the third in your Chronicles of Claudette series, comes out in mid-March. The first book, GIANTS BEWARE! came out in March of 2012. How does it feel to have this more than six-year project come to an end? Is it the end?

I REALLY hope this is not the end. I love Claudette and her world and there are so many more stories I want to tell. I think Rafael, my partner needs a little bit of a break. He’s been drawing Claudette since 2007 when we first began this journey. Writing a graphic novel is a lot of work, but nothing compared to drawing them. Drawing is incredibly labor intensive. He needs a break. As soon as Raf is ready, and I suspect he will be soon, I’d love to do more Claudette books.

2. What have you worked hard to keep consistent in the series and what have you deliberately changed, or allowed to grow?

There are character traits that don’t change from any of the books. Claudette always wants to bash something. Marie is always proper. Gaston is always a food snob. But within that, I’ve tried to write character arcs, which hopefully add depth to the characters. So, Marie started off as only wanting to be a Princess. Now she wants to be a diplomat too. Gaston wanted to be a pastry chef, but he’s also learning magic. Claudette… okay, she’s still basically the same. She learns and kind of forgets her lessons. I do that too.

3. There are a lot of loose ends that get tied in MONSTERS BEWARE! Was it difficult to find “happy endings” without falling into saccharine territory?

Short answer: yes. We didn’t want to have everyone hugging at the end. The ending was inspired by an idea our editor Mark Siegel gave us. He asked us to see if we could end the book in a way that could send the series off in a different direction. (I’m hoping and assuming we’ll do more books). So, the ending of Monsters Beware wraps up a loose end but also opens up a can of worms as to how this ending affects future dynamics and stories.

4: As with the first two books, there are a lot of tween-typical gross out jokes and scenes. What is your inspiration for those?

My sons and I were at the National Geographic Encounter Ocean Odyssey exhibit in Times Square. There’s this really cool part where the lights dim and you hear the sounds of the ocean at night time. It’s amazing and beautiful. I leaned over to my seven year old son after one of the underwater sounds and said, “That’s the sound of a whale farting.” Really dumb joke, but we laughed hard about it. So, let’s say the ocean inspires me rather than my own immaturity.

5. There seems to be a mythological influence in all three of Claudette’s adventures.

As far as mythology is concerned, one of my favorite memories of my late father is when we’d be driving from Ohio to Florida for vacation and late at night – like in the middle of Tennessee, my sisters and mom would be asleep, and I’d be leaning on the front seat as my dad told me stories about Greek mythology. My older son shares my love of mythology and loves George O’Connor’s Greek god books. Also, I’m currently reading Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey.

6. I understand you have written a prequel to MONSTERS BEWARE! now available in PDF form. Were there stories left untold for Claudette? Or is this a random act of kindness on your part?

Yes, I wrote a prequel short story called, “No Guts, No Glory, No Gelato.” It takes place just before the events of Monsters Beware. I really enjoyed writing it and you can download it for free here. This short story wasn’t cut from Monsters Beware; I didn’t start writing it until December 2017, long after we finished Monsters. But here’s the thing: we’ve dropped so much from my script of each book. We’ve cut whole storylines, even characters. Granted, we cut less and less in each book as I get the hang of writing graphic novel scripts, but I think we cut about 20 script pages out of book 1. I really want to fill out Claudette’s world. I get frustrated sometimes about the amount of story I cannot fit into one of our Beware graphic novels. Sometimes I wish I could do more set-up; more development; more word play. But the types of books we create call for a speedier pace. This short story gave me a little more storytelling real estate, and I loved it.

7. “No Guts, No Glory, No Gelato” works really well read aloud. Was that intentional?

It was supposed to be a podcast. Originally, I was influenced by the podcasts Disappearance of Mars Patel and The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. Those are kind of radio plays. I wanted to do a Claudette radio play. I think it would have been so much fun. So, I wrote a radio play. But then I had to be honest with myself about how long it would take and how many resources I’d have to use in order to make a radio play I would be happy with. I realized it would take more work than I could give it. So, I re-wrote the whole thing from scratch as a short story.

It’s also a little nerve-racking, because the short story is a format I haven’t really done before. It was challenging and I used new muscles. In other words, I did not know what I was doing. When I was done, I asked my sons to read it, and I was more relieved than I’d like to admit that they liked it. However, my older son said, “It’s really good, but no one’s going to read it.” So, I suppose if he’s right, then I just wrote it for myself. And that’s okay.

8. What comes next?

In May, for Free Comic Book Day we did a fun comic for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund comic. It’s thematically about free speech, but it’s influenced by contemporary events.

Also, it’s not official yet, but we’re developing two Young Adult graphic novels with First Second Books, but I can’t say too much more now. We also created some characters for our contribution to Comics Squad 3: Detention. Rafael and I are working on a book pitch to tell some stories about those characters because they keep coming back to us.

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