Evan Purcell is the create of the Karma Tandin, Monster Hunter series, the first book of which Karma Fights a Monster will be published in May 2019.
He is interviewed by Lavanya Karthik author and illustrator and creator of the Ninja Nani series, among other things.
LK: First off, congratulations on the new book! And the one thing the world really needs to know … How do I tell if my pressure cooker has been demonically possessed? Are there any other household appliances I need to be wary of?
EP: Very good question, Lavanya. I’m excited about this new book. It’s full of crazy surprises. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with demonically possessed appliances, but my character Karma has! He told me that the easiest way to spot a possessed machine is if it develops glowing red eyes. (If it has glowing green eyes, it’s much less dangerous.) Also, if it starts singing songs from Disney movies, you really have to watch out. In addition to pressure cookers, refrigerators and microwaves can also be dangerous. If there’s one in your house and it starts singing to you, call the fire department right away.
LK: Why Bhutan? Why monsters? Why a twelve-year-old monster hunter? And why an Indian publisher to get this book out into the world?
EP: First of all, I love Bhutan. I’ve lived here two years, and I think it’s the coolest place in the world. There aren’t many real monsters up in the Himalayas, but we have a lot of cool monster stories. Bhutanese people love to make up crazy stories (yetis, ghosts, demons, you name it), so I wanted to capture that in my newest children’s book.
As a teacher in Bhutan, I know my students love to read about monsters, but most of their middle-grade and YA books are about other cultures. You don’t see a lot of books about real Bhutanese kids and their experiences. That was why I started writing this series. I decided to publish with Duckbill because this company is awesome. Where else can you find zombie-fighting grannies? I knew that Karma’s wild adventures would be a good fit for such a creative, fun publisher.
LK: Karma Fight a Monster isn’t your first book; tell us something about your earlier work.
EP: My first few novels were romances for grow-ups. You can find them all on my website. I’ve written a lot of shorter stories for kids, too. More recently, I helped my students in Bhutan publish their first two books. Both of those are collections of stories and poems about life in Bhutan. I’m really proud of those projects, and I think my students did a great job. We went to local festivals and sold them to the public. They’re awesome, and the teenage writers did a great job.
LK: Karma is an intriguing character but you haven’t really told us much about his dad or the secret of his powers. Is there an origin story you could share? Or should we wait for sequels?
EP: I love Karma. He’s such a cool kid. He makes a lot of mistakes, but his heart is always in the right place. In the next few books, you’ll find out much more about his history. Be prepared to learn some surprising things about his past. Not every preteen is destined to be a monster hunter, and it’s a very weird and dangerous job.
LK: The book is set in Bhutan but, other than a few geographic and culinary details, you haven’t woven much culturally specific detail into your story. Karma himself sounds very American–is this a conscious decision on your part, to make the book more accessible to readers?
EP: I wanted Karma’s story to talk about universal issues, and we’ll get a lot more of that in the next few books as well. Preteens go through many of the same problems and experiences, no matter what county they’re from. That said, many people are surprised by the culture in Bhutan. Kids here all go to English-language schools, they watch international movies, and they grow up in an interesting balance between East and West. Karma talks and acts like a lot of kids here, except for the monster-hunting, of course.
LK: The author blurb at the end of the book tells us you’re well- travelled. Are you, perhaps, a globe-trotting monster hunter yourself? Any monster spotting tips you could pass on to the travel junkies among our readers?
EP: I’ve been a teacher in seven countries now, and I’m still waiting to meet my first monster. Wherever I go, I’m always disappointed that I never see any yetis walking down the street. However, if I did meet a real monster, I probably would get eaten. I’m not nearly as brave as Karma.
LK: What’s next for Karma and Chimmi? Will murderous coffee makers and violent cheese graters be involved?
EP: No killer kitchenware in the immediate future, sadly, but we may see some zombies, witches, and (prepare yourself) vampire potatoes. Karma’s life is very, very weird. If he gets into some serious trouble, perhaps he can call Ninja Nani for backup.