Q: What inspired you to write the Secrets of Dripping Fang series?
A: I've always been fascinated by creepy places and by familiar things that change ever so slightly and become dreadful. I thought it would be interesting to put two plucky ten-year-old orphans, Wally and Cheyenne Shluffmuffin, in an ominous place like the Dripping Fang Forest, fill it with monsters—like a ten-foot-long slug that considers orphans' feet a delicacy, or a kindly professor who's married to an enormous spider who serves tea and gingersnaps, or a zombie who drags himself through the woods, humming "Itsy Bitsy Spider"—and watch them get out of one awful situation after another. I love making people chuckle and shiver at the same time.
Q: Why did you set Secrets of Dripping Fang in Cincinnati, Ohio?
A: Cincinnati is a city of mystery. It may not sound like a scary place, but there's a lot in the area that's ominous. Not far from Cincinnati is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. After the UFO crash of 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico, the little alien bodies found inside the UFOs were secretly flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and stored in Hangar 18. The air force has always denied that there were little alien bodies stored in Hangar 18, or even that there is a Hangar 18. In the woods near Cincinnati there are frequent sightings of a creature known as the Moth Man. The Moth Man has been described as a fellow about six feet tall with large glowing red eyes and the wings of a common clothes moth. He chases people through the woods, shrieking, flapping his enormous powdered wings, and trying to nibble their clothing.
Q: How does this series appeal to reluctant readers?
A: I used lots of dialogue. I created some really horrid monsters. I built a good deal of suspense and gave my chapters cliff-hanger endings. Reluctant readers seem to like dialogue, horrid monsters, suspense, and cliff-hanger endings. I also used lots of humor, some of it gross enough to intrigue even the most reluctant readers, who are usually boys.
Q: Secrets of Dripping Fang, Book Two: Treachery and Betrayal at Jolly Days will be available in January 2006. Can you give readers a hint of what they can expect next from the Shluffmuffin twins?
A: In book two, Cheyenne and Wally flee the murderous Dagmar and Hedy Mandible and their creepy home in Dripping Fang Forest and find sanctuary back at the Jolly Days Orphanage, but the murderous Mandible sisters pursue them. Our heroes try to lose their pursuers in the swamps while steering clear of alligators, quicksand, zombies, and other horrors. When their food gives out, Cheyenne and Wally have an awful choice: either begin eating worms and bugs or die. And that’s just the first third of the book.
Q: You've published almost seventy books—which are available in twenty-three countries—and you've written movies, television shows, Broadway musicals, and articles for Life, Time, The New Yorker, and other national publications. How do you keep in touch with what kids like?
A: I visit schools constantly. I talk to kids, I try out ideas on them, and I ask them what they like to read. Both boys and girls tell me they love scary stories and funny stories the best, and the boys tell me they love to be grossed out. I’ve tried to do all three things in these books.
Q: When you talk to young readers about your books, what is the most common question they ask? And what's your answer?
A: The one they always ask is "Where do you get your ideas?" And I always tell them my three favorite sources: 1) inspiration from adventures I've survived; 2) a funny title I think up first, like Dr. Jekyll, Orthodontist or I'm Out of My Body, Please Leave a Message; 3) asking myself "What if … ?" as in "What if my hero accidentally swallowed disappearing ink and became invisible?"
Q: In a recent speech, you mentioned that your parents taught you to be afraid of many things. What have you done to combat these fears?
A: My well-meaning parents always imagined the worst possible consequences of anything I was thinking of doing. To overcome my fears, I've spent most of my adult life nervously seeking out dangerous adventures and writing about them:
• I disciplined tigers and lions on a wild animal ranch in Texas and pretended not to be terrified.
• I took part in sickening voodoo ceremonies in Haiti and became lactose intolerant.
• I flew upside down over the Pacific with a stunt pilot in an open-cockpit plane and foolishly said "Sure" when asked if I'd like to see what a stall felt like.
• I searched for the Loch Ness Monster with a startlingly inept team of investigators.
• I was chased by a wild elephant in Africa and barely escaped becoming a waffle.
• I worked extensively with NYC firefighters in burning buildings and overcame a serious fear of fire.
• I accompanied NYC homicide cops on high-speed car chases and helped capture an armed drug dealer.
• I interviewed felons in maximum-security prison cells in Maine, where a murderer confided he considered killing me but decided it would be too much trouble.
• I attended autopsies at the NYC morgue and learned how to peel off a face.
• I accompanied an exorcist to a West Hartford house that was under poltergeist attack.
• I acted with Faye Dunaway in a cowboy film in the Spanish desert and blew my lines enough times to halt production.
• I was screamed at by Orson Welles in front of everyone on the set of Catch-22 in Mexico for ruining the entire movie.
Q: What scares you?
A: Waking up at the hour of the wolf, that hour just before the sky starts turning pink, when the comforting sounds of crickets and cicadas and the bugs that sound like ratchet tools have stopped for the night and nature is holding its breath before dawn, the hour when the most truly horrifying things happen to people. Wait, did you hear that? A kind of eerie scratching and snuffling at the back door? No? Uh-oh. You know, I think I forgot to double-lock the back door, and the one thing they warned me never to do in these woods is to forget to double-lock the back door. I'd better go check it out.
(Opens in Pop-up)
Book 1: The Onts
Book 2: Treachery and Betrayal at Jolly Days
Book 3: The Vampire's Curse
Book 3: Fall of the House of Mandible
Secrets of Dripping Fang Classroom Kit
Introduce your students to the hot new series Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg with this classroom kit! These funny, creepy books are a hit with even the most reluctant readers. Appropriate for grades 3-5, included is audio of author Dan Greenburg reading the first chapter of Book One: The Onts and curriculum ideas!