Three years ago, during a movie marathon with his son, bestselling self-published author Michael Okon asked himself why there wasn’t a theme park with zombies. His brother, in turn, asked why the theme park couldn't have werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Okon started writing Monsterland that very night. He initially released the thriller about two young boys lost in just such a park on his own, but the idea generated enough buzz to help Okon sign with indie press WordFire and with a Hollywood agent hoping to turn Monsterland into one of the classic popcorn movies that inspired it. He might still be waiting on Hollywood’s final answer, but Okon has kept busy turning Monsterland into a long-running book series.
What do you think sets Monsterland apart from other typical horror stories?
Monsterland has many layers. I tried to avoid the typical clichéd horror story and dive deep into very raw issues such as bullying, broken family relationships, being comfortable in your own skin, political upheaval, corruption. Monsterland covers a wide gamut of topics. And yes, there are monsters, but it’s so much more than a typical slasher gorefest. The deeper meaning of Monsterland is simple: How do you capture the world? You build a theme park.
Have you always wanted to write something in the supernatural/horror genre for YA readers?
I’ve learned there literally are a million ways of telling a “monster in the house” story. The genre never gets old, and as long as you come up with a fresh take on the horror/paranormal theme, you will always have a great story to tell. I would never box myself into just being a horror writer or paranormal writer, for that matter. My stories can appeal to the young (my 9-year-old son is one of my beta readers) to teens, to new adult and beyond after that. Nine to 90 is my target audience.
How has it been to go from self-publishing Monsterland to having a film agent?
Everything that is happening in my life now, I planned out. I know that may sound far-fetched, but I believe in asking the universe for the life you want. I actually wrote the book on creating a life blueprint, Just Ask the Universe, which is still a bestseller on Amazon. Going from self-publishing to being a commercially published author has been incredible. It truly is the dream. But…getting a literary agent, a powerful entertainment attorney, and a film agent at a major agency has been the best part.
On that note, any news on a film adaptation?
Yes. My film agent got Monsterland into the hands of a mega-producer, who I’ve spoken to on a few occasions. He is convinced this is his next movie. And now…like right now…they are pitching the movie to every studio in Hollywood. Is this a dream? Heck, yeah! Is it a slow process? Absolutely. Believe me, when it happens I will be the first to shout it to the world.
How have you found the experience of working with a small press?
Wonderful. The team at WordFire have been mentors to me. They have guided me to create this incredibly tight story called Monsterland. Kevin J. Anderson has been a Jedi Master to me.
Any exciting new monsters readers can look forward to in the upcoming sequel?
Monsterland Reanimated was released to the world on Friday, April 13. In Book 2, the readers will meet The Glob (think a modern-day version of The Blob), Mummies (this was fun to write), and a reanimated monster (think Frankenstein’s monster), and every reader will figure out who it is in the first chapter. I’m almost done with Monsterland Beneath. Books 4, 5, and 6 have all been named and the stories have been beaten out. I already know the finale.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.