New Author Interview: Monica Violet Joy
We are thrilled to welcome Monica Violet Joy as one of our newest authors here at CWLA! We chatted with Monica to learn more about her inspiration and passion for writing for children’s entertainment.
1. How long have you been working in children’s entertainment?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in children’s entertainment for 15 years now.
2. What inspired you to write for children’s media?
For me, writing for children’s media was simply a calling. My earliest memories are obsessively reading mountains of children’s books and watching cartoons like Spongebob, Hey Arnold and Powerpuff Girls until I could barely see straight. After my favourite shows ended, the credits rolled, and the rest of my family went to sleep, I would stay up all night with a paper and pen at my tiny toddler desk, scribbling stories and gibberish that somehow would find their way into my books and animated series decades later. I pursued and continued writing up until university and beyond throughout my career, having never forgotten or abandoned my earliest childhood passion.
3. Do you like writing books or scriptwriting for animations more?
This is quite a cruel question akin to having to choose your favourite child. As such, I refuse to pick just one… So shall we say a tie? Both mediums are wonderful forms of writing that I thoroughly enjoy. Each offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities. The wonderful part about a book is that the story itself is much broader, often by hundreds of pages. As such, the breadth allows the author the luxury of time to tremendously and deeply dive into character development, plot and meander around the world created. However, as a book is so vast, it’s very easy to get distracted and lose your reader if you’re not careful. Script writing for animation is more focused. Usually one only has 7 to 22 pages or minutes to achieve a tale. Overall it’s a much shorter story, with more, poignant dialogue. In animation, you might also only get a single series of your show, depending on how competitive the market is and as such, you must remain focused in order to get your characters and plot to the end of your story, whilst staying within the boundary lanes of the shorter episodic medium. That being said, although writing for animation is smaller and can be limiting, the potential of writing for a visual medium is exciting and provides a different form of satisfaction that comes with the potential of reaching broader, global audiences.
4. Are there any similarities or marked differences in writing books vs. writing for TV shows/animation?
As I mentioned in the previous question, both writing opportunities come with different challenges and opportunities. Both methods require an immense amount of structural planning and organisational focus to stay within the boundaries of each medium. Within a book, a chapter functions similar to an animated series’ singular episode, driving the reader towards the eventual climax and conclusion of the book. In a book you generally will have a tremendously higher amount of words to play, explore, and develop your characters within the world. In a script the reins are much tighter due to the brevity of that medium, which allows for less choice and exploration. Despite those limitations, you must still deliver the comedy and drama. In addition, a book allows us to really unpack a character and depending on how it is written, we can not only more easily switch between characters, but also hear their inner thoughts and desires. In a script for animation and series, generally we get much fewer moments of personal deliberation and growth, as we just don’t have the same time allowance to explore them.
5. What do you enjoy most about writing for children’s media?
As someone who has always been an imaginative person, I love that children’s media allows me to explore such an incredibly, creatively fulfilling and broad range of world, tone, style, and character. Children’s media, much like a child’s imagination, is truly limitless. You can devise stories about talking animals who embark on adventures and solve mysteries, compose universes dominated by transforming, superhero cars, or even write a project about singing, undersea mermaids. Anything you can dream, you can create, as long as you don’t break the established rules to your own, unique world, a young audience will follow you wherever you lead them. In addition, personally it’s very important to me as a writer that I create content that not only entertains kids, but works to provide them with comfort in times of great instability, emboldens them to be brave, courageous and empathetic in moments of doubt, and installs them with progressive, socially and environmentally responsible ethics and guidelines on how to treat our world, animals, and each other. Writing for children is not only just about entertaining them, but to teach, inspire, and help each and every viewer build a kinder and stronger world for all of us to live in.
6. How do you make sure your stories are relevant to children?
For me it’s critically important to stay educated, aware and up to date on a child’s different stages of development, growth, and how they process information. Although how a human being processes information varies greatly by the individual, generally there are major, common overlapping threads. Having this knowledge and paying attention to updates within the education and scientific community, allows a writer to craft stories and dialogue that are appropriate and receptive to a child’s mind at their particular age group. In addition, and much more lightheartedly, I often (with parent’s permission of course) bribe family and friend’s children with baked goods and toys to be my delightful test subjects, that I read chapters and scripts to, listening for moments of laughter, surprise, and for any areas which are potentially too complex or confusing. As important as research may be, being in the field usually gets results much faster and a child audience will always tell you exactly how they feel about your work – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly!
7. Are there any books/shows from your childhood that influenced you?
As a child, I was especially influenced by series such as: Spongebob, Hey Arnold, Courage The Cowardly Dog, Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls, and Dexter’s Lab to name a few. I loved series filled with wit, irreverent humour, strong emotion, well developed characters that demanded to be heard, and a very distinct, varied point of view. Book wise, I was a big fan of whimsical books like Winnie The Pooh, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and novels filled with adventure like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and stories about animals like Anna Sewell’s iconic Black Beauty. I loved tales that were offbeat, emotional, full of lore, and that were ultimately fuelled by kindness and heart. I was constantly being drawn to the unexpected and even as a child, was never particularly interested in convention.
8. Are there any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?
Absolutely! At Laughing Dragon Studios, I have created, written, and directed an upcoming animated series for the iconic children’s toy company, Magna-Tiles. In addition, Laughing Dragon Studio’s hit social media series, The Laughing Dragon, is a blast to write for, and Netflix’s latest season of Go Dog Go! is a delightful series to be a part of. I have quite a few other irons in the fire that should be made public soon, and once those are announced I’d be thrilled to share more!
Caroline Wakeman Literary Agency focuses on picture and early chapter books. Based in London and New York City, we have a team of literary agents specializing in children’s books and young fiction. Our goal is to create engaging stories for young readers.