Meddling Kids is an homage to Scooby-Doo, the Famous Five, H.P. Lovecraft, and all your childhood dreams of solving crimes with your best friends. Jason Flatt sits down to talk to this unique writer.
There was a wonderful time in the lives of so many children where they believed the adventures of their favorite books and cartoons could be lived out with their own friends. Chief among those fantasies were the wacky capers plucky young friends or cunning young individuals got to solve. Scooby-Doo, The Famous Five, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and many more paved the way over several generations. Now, imagine if those lighthearted stories were mashed up with the dark and twisted world of H.P. Lovecraft.
You’re reading Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids.
I had the opportunity to interview the intrepid author of this new release, getting a bit of an insight into his influences and process crafting Meddling Kids.
Getting to Know Edgar
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do, and the like.
I was born in Barcelona in 1981. I write and draw comics, and recently moved to the US a week ago, in fact.
In your own words, why this book? What is it about and what is its meaning?
I rarely have any deeper motive to write a book other than “this could be fun.” In the case of Meddling Kids, it was an idea that had been up on my whiteboard for a while, a simple high concept: “Famous Five meet Cthulhu.” I liked the sound of a gang of former teen detectives reuniting as broken adults because one of their childhood cases was not as innocent as it looked.
What is your favorite Scooby Doo caper?
I am sure I haven’t really seen half of all the franchise’s works, and I hate it when people defend the first iteration of a series as the best only because it’s “the original” (by no means I think Dr. No is the best Bond film), but I admit seasons 1 and 2 of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? had a huge influence on me as a child. I remember learning how to draw the villains in every episode: Captain Cutler, the Wax Ghost, the Creeper, that skull-faced astronaut—he was amazing!
I think the show, naive as it was, defined my taste and expectations for the horror genre. As an adult, I was disappointed to read haunted house novels and find out they weren’t about paintings whose eyes move and suits of armor who drop their axes with perfect timing. Shirley Jackson or Richard Matheson never wrote a scene with the characters being chased down the hallway by a green-skinned monster. Everything in ‘adult’ horror is either psychological or torture porn, and I missed the purity that is Scooby Doo. I guess my novels try to make up for that.
The Unique Style of Meddling Kids
Cantero was the author of several books, novellas, and short-stories before penning Meddling Kids. Only his two most recent, however, Meddling Kids and 2014’s The Supernatural Enhancements, were written in the English language. All of his previous writings were in Catalan. What is remarkable is that not only would you never know the author was not a native English speaker if you did not know, but he has an entirely unique voice and writing style. Cantero has a mastery over the art of personification. His text ricochets seamlessly between perspectives in an entirely creative way while even occasionally gliding in and out of a script-style dialogue.
A Different Voice
English is not your first language. How did you come to write novels in English? What is it like to write in a language that is not your first?
There is not one single reason why I switched languages. I guess when I started writing The Supernatural Enhancements in 2012 (my third book, as the first two were in Catalan) it seemed like the right thing to do. I wasn’t sure I could get away with it at the time, but the results have more than proved I’m better off doing this than sticking to my native tongues. By “results,” I mean more readers, more acceptance, more money, more fun while writing, and more personal satisfaction about what I produce. I like how my writing sounds in English, because I like how everything sounds in English. To me, it’s the language of TV and movies; when Andy speaks in Meddling Kids, I hear Michelle Rodriguez speaking.
You have a really unique writing style and voice. When did you first find your voice in writing?
Well, at this point (I’m 36) I guess it’s safe to say I’ve found a voice I can call mine, but it didn’t happen overnight, and I hope it will continue to evolve. A lot of the most peculiar style features you see in MK were already present in Vallvi (2011), my last novel in Catalan. I can say a big point of inflection was realizing I didn’t have to settle with imitating other books—I could try and steal what movies and video games give me and put it in writing somehow.
A Beautiful Homage
Meddling Kids is very clearly an adult-themed continuation of the kinds of stories read as kids. The characters directly reflect those of the book’s greatest influence, The Famous Five, even down to the main character who shortens her name as well as her hair in order to feel and seem more boyish. In fact, it is a character choice that creates a reminiscence on a beloved series while remaining fresh and progressive for a modern reader.
These very same characters can be read as whichever mystery solving teenagers you please. There is plenty of reference to the gang of Scooby-Doo’s Mystery, Inc, the Hardey Boys, Sherlock Holmes, and Nancy Drew. My personal favorite reference that I caught was to the 1996 video game classic Resident Evil. There are countless lighthearted references strewn throughout the novel for readers of all different generations and interests to pick up on.
This is all without even mentioning the other major homage in Meddling Kids, the Cthulhu mythology of H.P. Lovecraft. The wedding of juvenile capers with genuine Lovecraftian horror seems like a match made in heaven that oddly had not been done yet in this medium. The paranormal, creature-based horror of Lovecraft and the paranormal, creature-based silliness of the rest of the novel’s homages create this unique blend of such disparate yet complimentary tropes.
There’s a lot of references ranging from Lovecraft to Scooby Doo to Sherlock Holmes throughout Meddling Kids. What is the reference you’re most proud of or that excites you the most?
I think in every one of my novels there’s at least one reference to a LucasArts adventure game. They just had that big an influence on me. The one in The Supernatural Enhancements was a one-page joke. The one in Meddling Kids is much subtler; no one has brought it up so far.
How do you feel about Scrappy Doo?
I think the live-action film with Matthew Lillard gave him the treatment he deserved.
What are some of your strongest influences as an author other than those you referenced directly in Meddling Kids?
I could easily list hundreds. I’ll just say three Bs: Borges. Bradbury. Bierce.
Do you have anything exciting you’re working on now you’d be willing to give a peek at?
I’m fine-tuning something I recently translated from Spanish, because I actually wrote it before Meddling Kids…and in fact, the main character appears in Meddling Kids.
All Grown Up
Meddling Kids is this remarkable mix of childhood juvenility with the real ways experiences shape the rest of our lives. It manages to be youthful and mature, fun and pensive, classic and new, all at the same time. The language is unique, the structure is creative, and the nostalgia is just as wonderful as the story is fresh. It is your Saturday morning in the summer, all grown up, and ready to entertain your imagination just the same.
Jason is a graduate student at Binghamton University studying public administration. His mission is to find the universal values in the fictional worlds we love so we can make our real world better and more full. When not writing, Jason works on food justice and sharing music with communities throughout the region. Or he’s unlocking Xbox achievements.