Meet the ‘Little Spooky Troop’ — seven supernatural friends “born good in a wicked world” who come together to do good deeds for the ghoulish citizens of the netherworld where they live. This is writer Stewart St John’s first picture book for kids, based on his older-skewing tween Spooky Troop characters who can be heard in two holiday-themed podcast series — Spooky Troop: The Last Halloween and Spooky Troop: A Very Scary Christmas. Filled with colorful illustrations by artist Ryan Mabe, and an uplifting story about friendship and doing the right thing, Little Spooky Troop And The Buried Treasure is the first time the characters appear in print and is available at wonkybot.com, Barnes & Noble, Walmart.com, Amazon and more! Behind The Scenes At Wonkybot caught up with Stewart for an inside look at the magical making of the book!
Can you tell us what your inspiration was for creating the Spooky Troop characters, and about why you decided to make a younger version of them for the picture book?
The Spooky Troop characters have been running around my head for many years, ever since I was growing up actually, often in stories I would tell family members, my brother and sisters and their friends. I still have some of my original illustrations I did when I was drawing my own little comic books. I was always creating something! Back then I didn’t refer to them collectively as the “Spooky Troop”, but more by their individual names. I had always imagined them as these genuinely nice characters from different monster backgrounds, who were misunderstood by their families and/or friends because they were born good in a wicked world. So they are misfits in the monster world.
Cut to a few years ago when I launched Wonkybot Studios with my partners Todd Fisher and Michael Plahuta, and we tossed around the idea of producing original podcast series productions here at Wonkybot. I thought the platform would be a great way to introduce the characters — so I started digging through all my old notes, drawings and memories and began building out the world. Then we brainstormed around the office and came up with the name Spooky Troop as a way to refer to them collectively.
The Podcast series features older versions of the characters, right?
Yes. Though the original characters I created as a kid were youngsters, I aged them up to their tweens for the podcast. But I couldn’t let go of those little guys, so I decided to do a children’s picture book featuring the younger characters and ‘Little Spooky Troop’ was born.
Can you tell us who everyone is in Little Spooky Troop And The Buried Treasure?
Sure. There’s Stewart The Sorcerer, Valerie the Vampire, Willie The Werewolf, Zianna The Zombie, Michael The Monster, Delilah the Demon, and Todd The Oddbot. They all hang out at Asterlin Manor, a haunted house that’s like their headquarters on the outskirts of town. And they fly around the netherworld in their cool dragonbuggy!
And this story is primarily focused on Willie The Werewolf?
Well, the idea is that each picture book highlights one of the main characters who’s dealing with a challenge, or an issue, and he or she brings it to the Spooky Troop where they all solve the situation together. It was important to me that kids see the characters working together as a team, as a family, to resolve the mystery or whatever situation they’re facing.
So in Little Spooky Troop And The Buried Treasure, Willie finds a treasure map and brings it to his friends to help him find it and they all go out together. But what they discover is that the treasure actually belongs to an Ogre — and they want to return it to its rightful owner. The book not only demonstrates the power of friendship, but also emphasizes core values that are important for kids to learn. We see them respect other people’s property, they tell the truth, work as a team and they make a difference.
Is it true the characters are named after people you know?
My brother Willie was the inspiration for the Willie the Werewolf character, and it’s probably easy to see that Stewart the Sorcerer, Todd the Oddbot and Michael the Monster are named after the three Wonkybot founders! Incidentally — we did a musical workshop featuring the tween versions of the characters and it was really sweet because we snapped a photo of Todd, Michael and me standing with our Spooky Troop counterparts in the theater!
Are there plans for more Little Spooky Troop picture books?
Little Spooky Troop was conceived as a series of picture books, so yes, we definitely have plans for more. I’m also working on a middle grade series featuring the tween-aged characters which I’m super excited about, too. There’s a lot more Spooky Troop coming in the years ahead!
Little Spooky Troop And The Buried Treasure is available now at http://www.wonkybot.com.