Writer in Residence

The War Series: Writers as Readers, with Evan Munday

By Grace O'Connell

Evan Munday is the Silver Birch Award-nominated author and illustrator of middle grade novel Dial M for Morna, The Dead Kid Detective Agency and the graphic novel Quarter Life Crisis: Only the Good Die Yung, as well as the illustrator of Jon Paul Fiorentino's graphic fictional memoir Stripmalling.

Today Evan, who joins Open Book: Toronto as our May 2014 Writer-in-Residence, tackles the WAR (Writers as Readers) series to tell us about some of his favourite and most influential reads, including the detective story that partially inspired the Dead Kids series, the book he'd like to give his seventeen-year-old self and the very scary read he's got coming up next.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
The Lion and the Carpenter, a picture book version of the classic (?) tale, edited by Peter Haddock. I don't remember if this was a religious allegory or a traditional fable or one of The 1001 Arabian Nights, but I do remember reading it in my room, then coming down to declare to my parents that I'd read a book by myself.

A book that made me cry:
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff made me cry like a little baby at the end.

The first adult book I read:
Skeleton Crew by Stephen King. It's a collection of his short stories, mostly horror and science fiction. I vividly remember being both intrigued and very confused by the description of sex in 'The Raft.'

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Anything by Sarah Vowell (Assassination Vacation, The Wordy Shipmates, Unfamiliar Fishes, etc), because she makes history hilarious. 'A guide proudly points out a staircase Robert Lincoln designed. It's impossible not to compare him with his father: Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, Robert Lincoln bought a nice ski lodge.'

The book I have re-read many times:
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, which is one of my favourite all-time books. So much so that I've completely avoided the film version.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Like, all of them. I've basically only read the other books mentioned in this questionnaire. But if I had to choose one, it would be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, because I've read the Tales from the Crypt parody of Wuthering Heights in R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics, and it was very entertaining.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
My own book, probably, to let my seventeen year-old self know that I will one day write a book. But that would probably open a rift in the time-space continuum or something. So instead, I'd give my seventeen year-old self Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley, to show him/me how excellent fantasy can blend with mundane reality (and in Toronto, to boot) in the right book.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. In reality, it probably didn't have that much influence on my writing style, but it did re-ignite my love of kids' books about teenaged detectives, which led me to revisit many of those books, and to writing a series about a teenaged detective. Meno's book is a fair bit more melancholy, following a former boy detective, now in his thirties, recently released from a psychiatric hospital, but I feel like its imprint is somewhere in The Dead Kid Detective Agency.

The best book I read in the past six months:
I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action by Jackie Chan (with Jeff Yang). I don't know if I can say it's a great work of literature, but I felt like I learned a lot.

The book I plan on reading next:
The Troop by Nick Cutter. I've heard I will both enjoy it immensely and possibly vomit.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Munday Night Football: My Life with the Cleveland Browns. (It wouldn't be 100% factual.)


Evan Munday is the illustrator of the novel Stripmalling, written by Jon Paul Fiorentino (ECW 2009), and is the cartoonist behind the self-published comic book, Quarter-Life Crisis, set in a post-apocalyptic Toronto. He works as a book publicist for Coach House Books. The Dead Kid Detective Agency was his first novel, and in 2013, he published Dial M for Morna, the second book in the Dead Kids series. He lives in Toronto, ON.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Grace O'Connell is the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto and the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada). She also writes a book column for This Magazine.

For more information about Magnified World please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.