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AL: What’s your relationship to Scooby-Doo, did you grow up watching the show?
MB: I did, yeah, I definitely did. I was an 80s kid, and my siblings and I would all watch Scooby-Doo together which was fun. And then, you know, Velma in particular I think just had a lasting impact on me. She did I think for a lot of girls in a lot of different ways. And I even dressed up as Velma for Halloween when I was in college. So she’s always felt really close to my heart.
AL: Do you have any other favourite personal memories related to Scooby-Doo, either from watching (the show) or writing the books?
MB: Yeah! I mean, you know, it’s one of those brands that is just so iconic and so beloved that I think watching how it has spanned so many generations has been really special. Even my nephew who is, I think he’s 9 right now, so you know, relatively young, he even had a Scooby-Doo themed birthday party a few years ago. So like, it’s just really neat to see generation after generation falling in love with Scooby and the characters and the stories, and the sort of vibe of it all, over and over again. So you know, it’s funny, when I was asked to do these books, and I started thinking about all the ways that Scooby-Doo as a brand has impacted my life, I really started to see those connections and think about you know, what a real, I don’t know. Like the way that a brand like that can impact a person’s life and memories and childhood, but even adulthood too. And it’s just really fascinating to see.
AL: How did you come to work on the Daphne and Velma books?
MB: Well, so they’re published by Scholastic, and I worked at Scholastic for a very long time. Not in editorial, but in corporate communications. And as a result, just have lots of great relationships with various people within the company. But meanwhile, while I was working my corporate life, I was also a writer on the side. So I ghostwrote a couple of bestselling YA novels, and then I secured my own book deal under my own name, a book called The Hive which came out in September 2019. And then when I left Scholastic, I intentionally left to focus more on my writing. And one of the first things I did was reach out to – so here’s where I’m going to make a confession. I am the world’s biggest fan of The Babysitter’s Club. And have always wanted to be connected to that brand however I could. And I did a lot of corporate communications work for The Babysitter’s Club, so helping the launch the social media profiles from Scholastic, and writing a lot of marketing and communications content for the BSC. But as I was leaving Scholastic that’s when news of the new Babysitter’s Club on Netflix had hit. And so I was hoping that there would be connected book properties to align with the new Netflix show. So I reached out to the head of licensing at Scholastic, just to remind her that I was also a fiction writer, and if she ever needed any Babysitter’s Club help, I was here for her. And instead she came back and said “We don’t have any BSC plans, but it feels like you would be perfect for this new trilogy that we have coming out.” So she connected me with Beth Dunphey, who was the editor of the trilogy. And we started talking, and it sounded, it just sounded right up my alley. So that’s the sort of long winded story of how I came to write Daphne and Velma, was because I ended up being an organic fan anyway, and a YA writer. And that’s what they were trying to do, was trying to reboot Scooby-Doo for a YA audience, focusing just on Daphne and Velma, as these teenage best friends, turned enemies, turned best friends again. Who are solving mysteries in their free time. And one of the first conversations, I should say that I had with Beth, the editor, about these books, was you know, what sort of vibe are you looking for. And she mentioned that the vibe they were really going for was sort of Veronica Mars but for books. And that really just set me off because I’m a huge Veronica Mars fan. So it was that combination of me being a writer, having just stepped away from my corporate life to focus more on writing, reaching out about a completely separate property, and then getting into this conversation about Daphne and Velma, and how iconic they are, and how much I related to them and had grown up with them. And the rest is history.
AL: Was writing a career that you had always been interested in and pictured yourself doing?
MB: Oh yes. Yes, for sure. I was a big reader, obviously still am a reader. But as a kid, I mean, I have an identical twin and we’re both big readers, and we used to literally bring our books to the dinner table. And our parents would be like “Guys, can you put the books down for five minutes and eat your pasta?” You know. So, big reader, and I ended up writing my first ever short story when I was in fourth grade, obviously having no idea what I was doing, but still writing something that I still remember the title of. And just from there, you know, growing my skills as a writer, in all sorts of genres, including poetry, throughout high school and then majoring in English in college. And then sort of dabbling in screenwriting, a little bit post-college. But also intentionally chose a career where I could focus on writing. So corporate communications is very writing heavy, and you know, that’s what, I wanted to make sure I was doing that in my day job as well. But yeah, writing fiction and specifically, writing young adult fiction, which I sort of rediscovered when I was in my 20s, and saw this amazing genre of authors writing this outstanding teen fiction that I really wish I had had when I was a teenager. And so it all just sort of came together, so it’s been – you know, I’ve been really lucky that I was able to sort of parallel track both of my dreams, right. One of which was working in a fast-paced publishing company on the corporate side, and on the other side, writing. So, a lot of late nights and a lot of early mornings, but yes, writing is what I’ve always wanted to do.
AL: And was that fourth grade short story what sparked your interest in writing or was there something else that really sparked that moment?
MB: I mean, I think that was the first output that I can remember that felt like, it felt like I was drawing a line in the sand, of like “Oh, I can do this.” I wanted to write something, and I just wrote a complete short story. But I think what really sparked it was just the fact that I was a huge reader. So you know, I’ve mentioned the Babysitter’s Club – my sister and I were obsessed with BSC but also, Sweet Valley Twins. And also a host of other now vintage YA novels and middle grade novels from the 80s. And read them obsessively and also, I sketch quite a bit too, and so we also spent a lot of time as kids literally inventing book series, and not writing the books, but instead drawing the covers, and like literally creating a series of them that were just the covers – so not content on the back end, but we would think of a name of a series, dream up these characters, sketch them out, write the blurb on the back, and pretend that there was an actual book inside. So that sort of connection to series in particular, to series fiction, was very organic and started at a very young age for me.
AL: When you came to work on the Daphne and Velma books, were there any discussions that you had with the editor on you know, where they came to focus on Daphne and Velma specifically?
MB: Yeah, I mean, it’s really an interesting story because you know, Scooby-Doo has always been in the universe in a lot of different ways since its creation – so there’s been feature films and comics and chapter books, and obviously the original cartoons and then the spinoff cartoons and things like that, but I think Scholastic in particular has had great success pairing sort of what’s happening in pop culture like movies and TV, with books. So you see, you know, the Nancy Drew show on the CW, and now there are Nancy Drew books that Scholastic publishes in light of that. There’s Mean Girls, so Scholastic published a Mean Girls novelization. So they have a lot of examples of those kinds of properties that have done really well in YA. And I think the editorial team was probably brainstorming one day, and seeing what’s coming ahead in terms of pop culture in the world at large, and one of those things was the SCOOB! movie, which had been announced at that time. And so I’m guessing that they just started brainstorming internally about how could they put a fresh take on the brand in a way that made sense for Scholastic. And you know the Daphne and Velma focus hadn’t really been done before, and so they took it and ran with it.
AL: And I think this is really the first Scooby property in book format that’s really marketed towards young adults, what was the goal with doing that, do you know?
MB: I can’t speak to the goal specifically, other than, again, their recent successes in very similar properties. And I also just think, you know, it was high time for Daphne and Velma to take a starring seat in that property. And it is such an organic fit to have Daphne and Velma as teenage girls you know, focusing on their friendships and their relationships and their relationships with their families, and what does it mean to grow up, and all sorts of those big questions that young people face, and to put it in the world of Scooby-Doo set against the backdrop of well, we live in a town in which there seem to be a lot of unexplained mysteries, or at least the aura of Scooby-ness and mystery and wouldn’t it be great if we could partner those up in some way, and explore two girls coming of age against that kind of backdrop.
AL: Each book in the series is an original mystery, so what inspired the idea for The Dark Deception?
MB: It’s a really funny story. Yeah, so what I love about the trilogy is that yes, each book is a standalone mystery but there’s also an overarching mystery that they’re trying to solve, that extends into each book. In a way it reminds me of A, Veronica Mars, that we’ve already talked about, but B, The X Files in the sense that you know, most of the episodes were standalone mysteries, but there was always this overarching question that they were pursuing. And that’s the same vibe that we wanted to put in the Daphne and Velma books. For the Dark Deception in particular, I had just signed the contract for the book and I was supposed to send a couple of ideas for what the standalone mystery could be to my editor, and then we were going to meet and talk about it and choose one. And I was really sort of, just like throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what would stick in my head, and one day I went to the beach because it was the middle of the summer, and this was 2019 so pre-pandemic, and I was at the beach and it was a gorgeous day but there were millions of clear jellyfish in the ocean and so they were washing up with every wave and my mom, I was with her, she pointed and said “Look at those jellyfish, they look like diamonds.” And I truly started thinking, “Oh, that would be so neat if diamonds washed ashore, like what’s the story there” and so I turned that into, “Well, what would happen in Crystal Cove if suddenly a bunch of sparkling jewels washed up on the shore? Why would someone do that, how would people react, would they steal them, or in the case of the Dark Deception, do they think that they’re haunted or cursed so they don’t want anything to do with them? Where did they come from, why would someone do that?” And so, the story just sort of spun from there. So it was really, I’m grateful that I took a beach day that day.
AL: Can you explain what your writing process was for it, especially coming in to write a second book in the series?
MB: Yeah, so, book one is written by Josephine Ruby, and then I wrote book two and book three, which is coming out this coming July. So obviously, I needed to do a real deep dive into book one, right, because that author had done a ton of the backstory already, so I needed to make sure that I was really familiar with it so I could carry it through to books two and three. So the first thing I did was read book one a couple of times in a row and take some pretty copious notes. And then when it came to actually fleshing out the story, I ended up writing an outline first, a pretty detailed outline, it was probably three to four pages long. Just sort of arching out the plot points and the story, and then I sat down with my editor, she reviewed it, and then Warner Bros. had to review it as well, because they are the owners of the Scooby-Doo property. And then they came back and approved it, and I was good to go. It was a pretty quick turnaround time in terms of deadline. So then I essentially just sat down and started writing it. Always referencing book one, like several times I had to go back into book one and remind myself of how something in particular had been structured there. Again, to make sure that I was bringing that thread through into my books as well.
AL: And with having a first book to go off of, were you trying to match the style that was written for the perspective of Daphne and Velma?
MB: Yeah, broadly speaking, sure. I mean, you don’t want the books to sound or to feel starkly different at all. So, you know, the good thing was the tone of book one is very similar to how I write anyway, and the second good thing is that I’m a really experienced ghost writer, so one of my skillsets is being able to match someone else’s tone while creating new work. So I had to employ some of those skills for sure, but you know, it was also really great. Something really cool about working on a licensed property like this, that already has such a treasure trove of archived materials and references and other sources to look at, is that there’s so much to choose from. It’s such a broad world, like the world of Scooby-Doo, and so writing Daphne and Velma meant that I could always reach back into the archives if I needed to, to find inspiration, or to sort of get a gut check on something I was doing. You know, you mentioned the Lady Vampire of the Bay, one of the things that I was able to do was to literally check the Scooby-Doo Wikipedia for all the characters and all the villains, and find a villain that matched what I was going for in the book. And there’s not a lot of brands where you can do that, where you can reach back into decades of history, and sort of pick and choose what you need to help you tell your story. So as always I tried to stay true to the tone of both Daphne and Velma, and of book one itself, but also to put my own voice in there, and to put my own spin on it. And I really hope I’ve been able to do that.
AL: And with such an expansive catalogue, was it ever a lot of pressure to come up with a new original take on it?
MB: Yes. Yes in a way, but again, also, there’s always little tweaks you can make on older things to make them feel fresh and new again. But for sure, there were certain things, again, specifically when it came to villains or interactions between Daphne and Velma and then the broader gang of beloved characters that we all know. So there were certain things that I, like I said, I needed a gut-check on, or I needed a reminder of. I had a lot of fun when I first signed the book deal, because I spent a day or two just plopped in front of YouTube or Netflix or whatever, watching old Scooby episodes and reading old Scooby books and checking out the old Scooby-Doo bible, which is you know, the tome that includes everything you could possibly imagine about Scooby-Doo, so again, there was just so much to work from. But, I think with any writer, the goal is to stay true to the spirit of the brand, but also make sure that you’re staying true to your own self as a writer.
AL: And jumping into the third one for a bit here, so we now know it’s called Buried Secrets, can you speak a little bit about where the idea came from for that one, and what it’s about?
MB: Sure! So, I’m really excited about book three. I am a big fan of, I’ve already mentioned a couple of times I think, my love of vintage 80s and 90s paperbacks. And I say vintage, to me, they don’t feel that old. But I know to today’s readers they seem ancient. But I love, I have an extensive collection that I’m often adding to of just old book brands from the 80s in particular, that I remember from being a kid, but also a whole bunch that I didn’t have access to as a child, and trying to build that up. And one of the brands that I really love is The Nancy Drew Files, which were big in the 80s, they were Nancy Drew, YA, very 80s in tone and in spirit, which I love. But they’re very deeply dramatic, and in every one of them, someone is close to death or are risking their life in some way, and it’s filled with action and excitement and they’re very fast paced. And they almost feel like mini soap operas for teenagers. And I was really into them, and I wanted to bring some of those elements into book three, because I had a little bit more time to write book three, so I felt like I could expand it a little bit more. And then also, Beth, my editor, said that “Why don’t we raise the stakes a little bit more?” And we got permission from Warner Bros. to make this a little bit darker than books one and two, and to actually put someone’s life at risk in a very real way. So I’m not going to give any spoilers, but someone does die in book three. Which I think just really, like I said, it shifted the tone of the book a bit, so that I could make it a little bit darker, a little bit more serious. But, in particular, the standalone mystery is one of my favourites, which is that in Buried Secrets, there is a, essentially, Hollywood comes to Crystal Cove. There is a TV show being filmed in the town, in the Haunted Village, which is right in Velma’s backyard essentially. And with that TV show, comes a host of mysteries and a host of drama, and a whole lot of risk, as I mentioned. So I’m really looking forward to people reading that. We don’t have the cover yet, and I actually just this week turned in the final page proofs. So it’s not coming out until July, but I think it carries on the overarching mystery of the trilogy in a really exciting way, that also has a very fast-paced and thrilling standalone mystery.
AL: At the end of book two, we kind of leave off with a cliff-hanger about Shaggy’s family… not to spoil anything but do we get to see more of that in book three?
MB: We do, for certain. One of the, I will say, the Scooby fandom has been super welcoming, and also super vocal, which I love. I want to know what people think about these stories and how they’re reacting to it, and what they want to see more of or less of. And one of the pieces of feedback that I kept seeing over and over was “Give us more Shaggy.” and I thought, yeah, that’s a great idea. So we delve a little bit deeper into Shaggy’s family, particularly his relationship with his dad. So you start to see a couple things there, and there’s one particular scene towards the end of the book that I think helps cast Shaggy and his family and his relationship in a new light, that then you can take that information and reflect back on books one and two, and maybe see some of what happened there in a new way.
AL: I love the focus on Daphne and Velma in these books, but can we ever expect to see Fred and Shaggy and Scooby join in on solving a mystery?
MB: I think you can expect to see that in book three, yeah. That was another thing we wanted to make sure we did, was bring in some of those elements of the whole gang getting together to solve a mystery, so we do that in book three, for sure. In a, what I think is a very fun, classic way. And you know, just speaking of Fred too, that’s another character that we bring to life a lot more in book three. And I really liked him. It’s funny, when it came to choosing the standalone mystery for book three, as always we had a few different ideas that we were batting around, and in one of them, Fred was sort of the star of the show. And while we didn’t end up choosing that particular storyline, we did take an element of it, and then I brought it into the storyline that we did choose. So you get to see an elevated look at Fred as well.
AL: What was it like to try and translate these iconic cartoon characters into a literary format?
MB: Oh, I thought it was a great exercise. I mean, I’m not a TV writer, I’m not a script writer, and that’s truly a whole different skill set. So for me it felt very natural to be able to dive into Daphne and Velma’s heads a little bit more, and to use that space on the page to flesh out their characters a bit more. I was actually really surprised because for those of you who haven’t read the books, they’re told in alternating points of view, between Daphne and Velma. So as the reader you get an interesting look inside each of them in different ways. And it’s funny, you know, I mentioned that I really connected with Velma as a kid and growing up, and dressing up as her for Halloween in college and all that, and to my surprise, I actually liked writing Daphne a little bit better than I liked writing Velma. And I think it’s because Daphne is so different from me, that it was just really interesting to be able to explore that kind of person on page. And Velma’s different from me too, but I think we have more similarities than we do differences. So that was one of the surprises that I faced in writing these books, was that I found myself really drawn to Daphne a little bit more. And I actually think you can see that in terms of page length, in chapter length, because I think all of the, there was definitely a moment in time where I realized all of the Daphne chapters were longer and more drawn out than the Velma chapters, and I had to go back and even it out a little bit, so it didn’t seem like I was favoring one character over the other.
AL: And obviously the Daphne and Velma books are quite different from what we see in the Scooby-Doo cartoons, what was it like to give the gang different backstories and really be able to flesh out their characters in a different way?
MB: It’s, yeah, oh, it was so cool. And I think that’s one of the neat things about working on a property that is already in existence. You know, a licensed property or as it’s sometimes called IP, which is intellectual property. As I mentioned, there’s already such a great history of those characters, right, so, in a way you’re writing within these boundaries that have already been set. Which might seem on the surface to be like easier, but I think it’s a little bit harder because when you’re inventing your own characters, and your own storyline, and your own setting and all that stuff, the sky is the limit, right. So you can do anything, you can make those characters do or say anything. When it comes to IP, you can’t. You have to stay true to the characters. So there’s this sort of, extra bit of leg work you have to do in making sure that you know the characters really well and that you know their history and that you can, you know, flesh out who they are, so you can then anticipate how they would behave in any given situation, you know what I mean? So it was really interesting and exciting to be able to have such iconic characters as Daphne and Velma in particular, but to build on them and layer on top of them and in doing so, to sort of in a way contribute to the broader Scooby universe at large. It’s very exciting and I feel very honored that I was able to do it.
AL: When you first started writing, were there any aspects or characters or anything that you were really excited to be able to play around with?
MB: Yeah, you know, I think with, I mean I would say all of them overall, but I also think in particular, Daphne’s mom plays a unique role in these books, and Velma’s mom does too, as does her Dad. I think it’s cool that there’s an extension of their families here that I was able to explore a little bit. I also had some fun with Scooby himself, particularly in book 3, in a couple of ways that you’ll see. So yeah, I wouldn’t say there was a standout character for me that rose above all other characters, I loved working with them all, but I would say, I’m a mom of young kids, so being able to put some life to both Daphne and Velma’s parents definitely felt really cool, and something that I didn’t expect to do.
AL: And was there anything that you absolutely wanted to stay true to the heart of the show?
MB: I would say overall the vibe. You know, Scooby is very sort of gothic in imagery, spooky, scary, but also has this real sense of humour as an undercurrent. And you know, this recognition that the mystery, whatever mystery they’re trying to solve, is able to be solved if they just work together and get through it themselves and you know, support each other and lean on each other to figure out the solution to whatever problem they’re facing. And so those kinds of elements, of making sure that the overall vibe of the books reflected both that spookiness and that gothic horror but also the humour, and above all else, the friendship. These are really stories about friendship, right. And so we really wanted to make sure Daphne and Velma’s relationship felt supportive and even though, as you know, having read book one, the book starts off with Daphne and Velma being enemies, because they had been best friends as kids, and then they had a massive falling out, and so now they’re high school students who don’t speak (to each other). That’s rectified by the sort of middle of book one, but I think that’s such an important storyline. A lot of, everyone I would say, has had experiences where you’ve had a friendship breakup, and those are really interesting to explore in writing. Again, especially when it comes to characters like Daphne and Velma and the rest of the Scooby gang, for whom their friendships are so central to their lives. So that was really fascinating.
AL: Are there any recurring characters from the show or even villains that you wanted to bring in to one of the books?
MB: Well, as I mentioned, I did definitely take a look at classic villains, and make sure that I was sort of name dropping one or two of them, at least one or two per book. So I’ve continued that thread into book three. Other than that, I think that’s it, it’s the core gang, and a couple… I’d have to check and see if there was anyone else, but I think it’s just the core gang, a couple of people from school, and then some of the classic villains.
AL: I wanted to talk a little bit about the little interludes that we get from the perspective of various other characters in the books. Where did the idea come from to carry on adding those in?
MB: Yeah! So for the readers who haven’t seen them yet, the chapters alternate between Daphne and Velma, as I mentioned, but there are probably between five and ten standalone interludes throughout each book. And that was obviously started in book one, The Vanishing Girl, and I thought it was a really nice way of stepping away from the heads of Daphne and Velma, and getting a broader look at what was happening in Crystal Cove. So naturally, I wanted to incorporate those in books two and three as well, because I thought they worked really well. So it was part of continuing the thread of book one, but it was also, it gave me space to open up the story a little bit more I think. When you’re writing so closely to one or two characters the way that I was with Daphne and Velma, it can be really helpful to step outside of them sometimes just to give the reader a little bit broader look at what’s happening around them.
AL: At which part of the process do you decide maybe which other characters that you want to include in those?
MB: That’s a good question. Some of them happened like as I was writing, so in the order I was writing I would think “Oh, this is a really great spot for an interstitial, and I know exactly who it should be and what it should be about.” I will say though, that probably about half of the interstitials did not get written or inserted until after the rest of the book was done. Where I was sort of looking back in the editing process and seeing “Oh okay, you know, there’s a gap here where we could really stand to hear more about XYZ.” So it was a combination of both for sure. I did know, again following the format of book one, that both books two and three needed to start with an interstitial. A sort of third person, anonymous interstitial, and then like I said, it was really a matter of filling in the gaps after draft one had been written. It’s also interesting, I think in book three, when I first turned in my draft of book three to my editor, when she first came back she said “I think we need at least two more interstitials. So she wanted to build up even more after looking at that draft. So some of them even came much later in the process, like towards the end stages. So, definitely interesting, and totally dependent on each individual story.
AL: In the books we see topics that aren’t necessarily ever represented in the Scooby cartoons, not only just in the perspectives of Daphne and Velma, but also bigger familial issues with Daphne dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, and Velma’s dad with mental health. Why do you think that it’s important to be able to bring in and discuss those topics in young adult fiction?
MB: Yeah, super important, and such a great question, and definitely an intentional choice for sure. So, the idea is these books, even though they harken back to a classic brand, they are modern, and they are for today’s readers. No matter how old they are. And in order to really feel modern, you have to bring those modern elements into it, and to represent them on the page, in the same way that they’re represented in peoples’ lives. Velma’s father is suffering from depression in very real ways that affect her family, and I found that fascinating to write. I don’t know a single family that hasn’t had to deal with someone having depression or anxiety or something like that. So that felt very organic and also very natural for Velma to have that family relationship as a way to then further explore her own mental health and well being. And yeah, with Daphne, her parents had a pretty acrimonious divorce that led her to be estranged from her mom in these books, and she’s sort of slowly rebuilding her relationship with her mom. And that’s also something that I think is really important to assess and explore on the page. Again, for any kind of reader. So yeah, so again, a really intentional choice to make sure that these books feel like they were written today, because they were.
AL: Just broadly, were there any challenges in writing the books at all?
MB: Well, I would argue, writing any book is a challenge. You know, it’s funny, I think I’ve written several books now, start to finish, and every time I sit down to start a new one, I think “Wait a minute, I don’t know how to write a book. How does anyone do this? This is impossible.” And then you sort of work your way through. I will say, I had a very logistical challenge, with book three, which was, it was due, the first draft of book three was due I want to say it was early April of 2020. So that was right after the pandemic hit, and the stay at home orders were issued, and you know, I have young kids, I have one in school and one in daycare, and both of those closed. And so suddenly I had a book due in a few weeks while also having no childcare and no help whatsoever, it was just me and my husband hanging out with our kids here. So I had to shift a lot of my writing time to the nighttime. And then on top of that, my laptop completely died. I want to say it was four days before the book was due. So I ended up finishing the book on my husband’s computer which is, as I’m sure you feel, most writers feel like you know, “This is my machine and this is where I get my work done, and I’m used to how it operates” and all that. And so to shift to a completely different machine four days before it was due was very difficult for me. So I felt like, I don’t know, and the Apple store was closed so I couldn’t even go get a new laptop or get it fixed or anything like that. So it was these very sort of immediate logistical challenges when it came to actually finishing the book and sending it in. But other than that, nothing in particular in terms of the content or anything like that. Other than just the general “How do I write a book?!”
AL: What was it like to release The Dark Deception smack in the middle of the pandemic?
MB: Honestly, very strange. In a couple of ways. One being, I still have not been inside of a bookstore, so I haven’t even seen it. And I think any author will tell you, one of the most exciting things to do on your book release day is to go to your local bookstore and go see your book on a shelf. So I haven’t been able to do that, and obviously everything’s been cancelled, so I had a whole year set up of various conferences and book festivals and things like that, and all of them were cancelled. Which was really a shame, but I will say, you know, I feel really bad for authors who had their debut books come out this year. My debut came out in 2019 so it wasn’t affected by the pandemic. So I just, you know, I really feel for any author that had a debut come out this year because, like I said, you couldn’t have a bookstore event, you couldn’t have a book launch party, and you know, just sort of, books in general are so reliant on bookstore browsing and discovery that way, and in person ways, and when that can’t happen, that’s a real shame, and people see that reflected in their sales numbers. So I will say I’m grateful it wasn’t my debut, because I think it would have been even more of a bummer. And I’m also very grateful that lots of places and people continue to host events, and they’ve just shifted them to virtual. So I have had a couple of virtual events which has been great. And then podcasts. I will say the Scooby fandom as I mentioned has been super welcoming so I’ve done three or four podcasts over the past few months, which, you know, you can do from anywhere of course, so that’s been really great. But I absolutely look forward to going inside a bookstore and seeing this book on the shelves. But it’s looking like I’ll probably have to wait until book three comes out in July at the earliest, so we’ll see.
AL: What was the reception like, especially from die hard Scooby fans but especially with it coming out during a pandemic?
MB: Reception’s been great. Again, I think this community is super welcoming and their passion for the brand really just shines through. And I think also, one thing I’ve noticed is I think Scooby-Doo fans are just hungry for any kind of related content, which is really nice to see. So the reception’s been great, the reviews have been really nice. I’ve gotten a lot of really cute notes from people, and DMs and things like that. So it’s really been a pleasure.
AL: Backtracking a bit here, what’s your timeline from coming up with an idea to seeing it published on a shelf?
MB: It really all depends. Publishing is a notoriously slow business, except when you’re talking about, obviously there are books that are fast-tracked, but then, when you’re talking about IP like this, those tend to have a bit of a tighter schedule too. I can’t remember exactly, I think with each book I had probably three months to write it. But then, you know, it gets sent over to the editor and she spends some time with it, and then I get it back and have a few more weeks to work with it. But that initial draft is usually only about 12 weeks or so.
AL: Working with a property that’s already been established, does Warner Bros. have like a huge say or is it mostly just making sure that it sticks with the idea of the property?
MB: That’s a good question. I don’t communicate with them directly, that all happens through the book’s editor. So, I couldn’t tell you what specifically they say. I do know that they certainly review the outline, so they know what’s coming when they get the draft, they know what to expect, there are no surprises. In my experience, they’ve made pretty minor tweaks. I think one thing in particular was, and I think this was in The Dark Deception, when they reviewed the draft they came back and said “Can you add in a little bit more about the Lady Vampire of the Bay?” Like, heighten her role in the book a little bit more. So we did that, but it’s nothing, none of it required like a major rewrite or anything. Again, they’re really just trying to make sure that the brand is well represented and accurate above all else.
AL: Generally, why do you think that a cartoon about a mystery solving dog has held up for over 50 years now?
MB: Well, that is the biggest question of it all, isn’t it. Because you know, if I could capture that secret sauce I would. And then I would create my own brand and do the same thing. But it’s really one of those things where it’s just remarkable to look at because as you mentioned, it’s decades old, it’s been iterated so many times over and over again, and yet, it just continues to last. And so I think you have to take a look at, what are the core tenets of the Scooby-Doo brand. And I think above all else it’s friendship. And you know, you see that with brands like Harry Potter, the Babysitters’ Club (I promise I’ll stop talking about the Babysitters’ Club soon), but this idea that I think brands that really center around friendship can be really long lasting if they’re done correctly, and I just think Scooby-Doo is one of those brands that got it right.
AL: I think that covers all of the questions I had written down for you here, is there anything else you wanted to add at all, or any stories from writing that we didn’t go over?
MB: No, I don’t think so. Again, I just want to reiterate my thanks to the Scooby-Doo community, you guys have been awesome. And it’s so fun, you know, even just for me personally, to see all of these podcasts and the Instagram fan accounts and the fan art. Oh my goodness, the Daphne and Velma fan art is remarkable. And so to sort of immerse myself in this world in this way has been so amazing, and so much fun. So I’m really grateful to the community, to all of you.
AL: Just before we end, do you have anything else you want to promote, other than book three of course?
MB: I have a short story coming out in an anthology, but it hasn’t been announced yet. So that’ll be, I think it’s the end of 2021, but it might be early 2022. So I can’t announce a title or anything yet. But, I would love it if people would check out The Hive which is my first book that I co-wrote with my husband, Barry Lyga.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.