In The Bawk-Ness Monster by Sara Goetter & Natalie Riess, the first book in the Cryptid Kids series, Penny and her best friends Luc and K are hunting down the half-chicken, half-serpent the Bawk-Ness Monster! Will the crew be able to locate the cryptid?
The Bawk-Ness Monster will be available at your local bookstore and/or public library beginning on June 27th, 2023. In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Goetter & Riess, and be sure and read the preview pages included at the bottom of the article.
What inspired The Bawk-ness Monster?
Natalie: Bawk-Ness kind of came together in pieces- we wanted to make a story about kids running around in the woods and looking at cool animals (a highlight of both of our childhoods), but wanted a little bit of a funny adventure angle to it.
Sara: Yeah, I didn’t go camping very often but I did run around in the woods behind my house, catching frogs and skipping stones and all that. The other big inspiration is actually the first season of Digimon, during the Myotismon Arc, when all the kids and their monster friends are back in the real world, and all the kids’ parents and families get involved. They get into real problems that kids have, such as Izzy finding out he’s adopted, and Matt and TK’s parents are divorced and don’t get to see each other as much, as well into the fantastical problems of Digimon running rampant around Tokyo. It left an effect on me as a kid, and now as an adult it was important for me to also have a parent involved with all the goofy monster adventures.
Natalie: You’re right, I think it gives the story a little more depth and grounds them more. Fantasy is way more interesting if the characters going on the adventure have relationships and problems (while chasing around a magic chicken creature, of course!).
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Sara: I want readers to have fun with this Saturday Morning Cartoon of a book that we made, but if there’s a message I’d like to depart it would be: change can be a good thing! I’ve moved around both as a kid and as an adult, and it can be scary but it’s also always led to something better. And lots of other kinds of change can be good too, such as with Ronnie changing her mind about Penny, and everything with Luc.
Talk a bit about the art process for this book. The covers are so vibrant and kid-friendly! What was the process going into that? How did you craft a bawk-ness monster?
Natalie: We had a lot of help from our art director, Kirk Benshoff, and our designer, Molly Johanson! We sent Kirk a handful of thumbnail sketches and worked together to figure out the cover. The actual drawing process was the same as our comic work; Sara inked the characters, I drew the background and colored it, then sent it off to Molly. We were originally going to go with a more uniform type treatment, but they suggested doing a “monster” thing with the lettering and it looks SO fun and cool. Molly suggested that Sara hand-letter the title, which I know she had a lot of fun with.
Sara: As for Bessie herself, she came out of a brainstorming session where I just made up a bunch of different fake cryptids, and a goofy chicken-headed sea serpent was one of the first things I came up with. (I’d be lying if I said Earthbound wasn’t also a big influence here, haha). Then I handed the general concept over to Natalie, who has a way better grasp on actual animal anatomy and creature design.
Natalie: I sat down and spent some time thinking, ok, how could we fit together two very different animals and make something that’s both a little silly AND a beautiful, magical animal that a kid would want to be friends with? We worked back and forth to balance these qualities with making her expressive, readable and fun. I think this is characteristic of a lot of the stories we write together- one of us makes a joke and we both laugh at it, and then we engage with it seriously for a little bit to see where it goes (usually more jokes).
What are you most looking forward to readers seeing in the book?
Natalie: We worked hard to give this book heart and jokes…a LOT of jokes. I hope readers have a good time! As for specifics…probably Bigtaur.
Sara: Yeah, I think I wrote a lot of funny jokes about Bigtaur. I also had a lot of fun with Alvida; she looks suave and evil with a “Cruella De-vil” vibe, but acts more like a goofy, incompetent villain than you might expect. Just a really fun character to write and draw.
What’s next in the series?
Natalie: Well, there’s a series name and a number 1 on the spine, so…you can draw what conclusions from that that you will!
Sara: We’re already hard at work on the sequel, which actually focuses on Penny’s friend, K, and her relationship with her dad. Also it’s a beach book! Lots of fun to be had with the change in perspective and setting.
Anything else you want to add?
Sara: Bigtaur is real…And he’s my friend.
Will you be picking up a copy of The Bawk-Ness Monster when it arrives later in June? The Beat is waiting to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, right here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.