Siblings and co-authors of Camp Creepy Time: The Adventures of Einstein P. Fleet, Gina Gershon and Dann Gershon were kind enough to answer a few questions about monsters, camp experiences, and their writing process.
I was a camp kid myself, so I want to say, firstly, how much fun it was to relive those summers through this book. Sadly, though, I didn’t go to a camp where we got to dress up as monsters. Were there any specific experiences from camp that you drew on for this novel?
DANN: Everyone has fond memories of spending a summer at sleep over camp. This wasn’t one of them. Stanley Ranch Camp, the model for Camp Creepy Time, wasn’t far off from the description in the book. It was located in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It was one hundred degrees in the shade during the day and freezing at night. The swimming pool was filled with algae, the facilities were rotting, and the infirmary was the only place with air conditioning. They did have horseback riding for a week or two and then the horses suddenly disappeared. I’m not sure what happened to them, but we seemed to have a surplus of hamburger after that. At night we sat around a roaring campfire, singing songs and roasting marshmallows. The desert was filled with rattlesnakes, so the sticks came in handy. We drew on several of these experiences in writing the book, although I made up the part about the monster theme camp. The rest of it is all true, I’m afraid.
GINA: Dann is older than I am, so we didn’t go to camp at the same time. He told me stories about Stanley Ranch, some of which we used in the book. “Capture the Flag” was played during the middle of the day as described in the book, with the campers falling like flies. Salt tablets were prescribed for dehydration, which we decided to use as the catalyst for the aliens turning the campers into monsters.
If you were to attend Camp Creepy Time, what cabins would you have been put in? (And, consequently, what kind of monster would you turn into?)
DANN: The real camp didn’t have cabins, so we slept outdoors surrounded by several large trees that were filled with wasp’s nests. We slept on old wire cots that were probably salvaged from a WWII prison camp. If we had cabins, I would have been requested the mummy section. A little extra padding would have come in handy.
GINA: I’d want to bunk with the vampires. Sleep all day, party all night. That’s the life. Maybe I am a vampire!
The two of you are siblings – did you find that made it easier to write this book, or harder due to the fact that most siblings are constantly squabbling with each other?
GINA: We didn’t have a lot of fights while we worked on the book, but the ones we did have were easy to work out. The fact is that, because of our work schedules, we were rarely in the same room.
DANN: It’s hard to strangle someone who’s living on the opposite coast.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process you went about writing this book together?
DANN: I worked on plot and story line, along with character development. Gina drew on her years of acting experience to punch up the dialogue and make sure that the characters stayed in character. Since we were rarely together, we worked mainly by e-mail, phone, and the occasional text message. It was very modern and extremely inconvenient.
GINA: My brother loves sci-fi and serial killer stories. Sometimes, the story line would cross those boundaries and I’d have to reel it in a bit. The concept for the story is really an adaptation of the old monster movies. After the studios ran out of Wolfman, Dracula, and Mummy scripts, they did these wild combinations with everyone and the kitchen sink. Most of the publishers we spoke with didn’t think that the idea for the book was workable. They didn’t think that you combine ghosts, werewolves, mummies, vampires, and aliens into a cohesive piece where all of the elements worked. The funny thing was that, not only was the idea workable, it was already a proven formula from the same period that we based the “Earth Stories” in the book.
DANN: The idea was that the aliens would be viewing movies fifty years after the fact, which is a scientific theory that I learned during an episode of Star Trek.
Camp has a habit of throwing a person in situations that would never happen under normal circumstances, and using those experiences to change a person. I imagine that it would happen to an even greater degree in this book. (I have to admit that I would totally have loved to be turned into a monster at camp for a little while!) How much of an impression do you think turning into a monster had on these kids? Is it something that could have a lasting effect on them?
GINA: That’s a fantastic question! And, it’s one that plays a big part in the sequel, so it’s going to have to remain a secret for a bit.
DANN: Actually, we liked the idea so much that we decided to open a camp just like the one in Camp Creepy Time. The first one will be built smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It’s part theme camp, part survival training. If it goes well, we’ll franchise.
One of the requirements for the kids getting accepted into Camp Creepy Time was that they watched a lot of monster movies. What are your favourite monster movies?
GINA: I love all the Frankenstein movies. Bride of Frankenstein was one of my favorites. So was Young Frankenstein. It was a great tribute to all of the Frankenstein flicks from the fifties, with a twisted sense of humor. I guess I’m abby-normal.
DANN: All of the old black and white horror flicks from the 50s are great, especially the ensemble pieces that Gina was talking about. They even added Abbott and Costello to the mix. My favorite movie is Army of Darkness from the Evil Dead series. It’s not out of that period, but it’s a riot. I think I’ve seen it at least a couple hundred times.
GINA: You’ve seen all of these movies a couple hundred times. You need to get out more.
Continuing on the topic of movies, word on the street is that DreamWorks has acquired the rights to this novel – does that mean we can 100% expect to see Camp Creepy Time being made into a movie?
GINA: DreamWorks acquired the film rights before the book was published and partnered with Nickelodeon. Richard LaGravenese was hired to adapt the book into a screenplay and the producers are both top notch. It’s a real dream team. In Hollywood, you never know what will happen, but the studios seem very serious about making the movie, so I hope that it happens.
DANN: I’ll believe it when I’m sitting in the theater, drinking a coke and eating a large tub of popcorn — or when the check clears. Seriously, the people working on the film are all amazing. When Gina told me that Steven Spielberg called, I thought she was playing a joke on me. It’s still hard to believe.
You’ve left the end of this book open for a sequel. Any hints as to what we can expect to see from Einstein P. Fleet in the future?
DANN: The book was written in two parts. Camp Creepy Time was part one of the story, which takes place on Earth. Mucho’s Monsters, the sequel, is the conclusion to the story in which Einstein ventures into space to help Roxie find her brother. We hope to have it finished sometime next year, barring fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, or anything else that disrupts phone and e-mail.
GINA: The sequel is a lot of fun, maybe even more so than the first book. Dann created several new characters that blog on The Smoking Peashooter, which is Einstein’s blog site in the first book. We thought it would be fun to take the story to an interactive level, so we built www.campcreepytime.com. Check it out. It’s lots of fun.
What are some of your favourite novels, and what would you recommend to someone who enjoyed Camp Creepy Time?
DANN: Confederacy of Dunces is one of my favorites. There is a lot of Ignatius in Einstein. Depending on the readers age and reading level, that’s a book that I would highly recommend.
GINA: Camp Creepy Time is kind of like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. A lot of the humor is targeted at an adult audience. My favorite book that I would recommend to someone who liked Camp Creepy Time is The Hobbit. Bilbo reminds me of Einstein sometimes. The grouchy hero.
Lastly – what kind of advice would you have for someone who was in danger of being abducted by a gang of aliens that were looking for humans to exibit in a space zoo?
GINA: Make sure to pack the right clothes for the trip.
DANN: Don’t let them go when no man has gone before and, if they do, it’s okay to scream.