Publishers' Preview: Middle-Grade Fiction: Five Questions for Derrick Chow

This interview originally appeared in the May/June 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Middle-Grade Fiction, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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The Ravenous Things of the title are rats — and much, much worse. As always, be careful what you wish for.

1. The Pied Piper scared the heck out of me as a child. You?

When I heard the Pied Piper legend in fifth grade, my classmates mostly seemed interested in whether it was history or fantasy. But I fixated on how terrifying it was: children following an abductor willingly, beguiled by a simple pipe song. I couldn’t help wondering if that could happen to me; if I possessed some vulnerability that might allow me to fall prey to a similar plot.

2. What person and scene could the Piper trick you with?

My book might be a fantastical horror story, but it’s a reflection of my own grieving process after my father’s death. My reaction was similar to my twelve-year-old protagonist’s. I obsessed over the impossible: to be reunited with my dad, if only for one day. So the Piper would trick me with the same thing used to lure Reggie in the book: a vision of my father surrounded by power tools and blueprints (he was an avid craftsman), in a grassy backyard, under a summer sky.

3. Given the subway setting, I can imagine a Disney park ride. Would you go on it?

Absolutely! I’ve been a theme-park obsessive since my first Disney vacation. The Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride was as thrilling and compelling as any horror movie. It would be a delight seeing my story’s cavernous subway tunnels and eerie changeling rats leap into three dimensions!

4. “What if fairy tales aren’t just tales? What if they’re history?”

I enjoyed having my characters raise this question because it’s something I’ve always secretly hoped was true. It was a great disappointment when I finally concluded there wouldn’t be fairy godmothers coming to my rescue.

5. Will we see Gareth and Chantal and Reggie again?

I tease at a possible secret society and darker magic than the things encountered in this first story. There are mysteries yet to be unraveled and many more frightening adventures in store for my trio. It’s my hope I’ll get the chance to share them.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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