Welcome to author David Neilsen! My kids and I had the great pleasure of reading David’s new middle grade novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. All three of my kids were riveted by the story and always begged for more. You can imagine how excited my kids were to get the chance to ask David a few interview questions.
Thanks for sharing your answers with us David!
Our Interview with David Neilsen
Miss A (6-year-old) asks: Why did you decide to write this book?
The idea for the book came from an illustration that had been hanging on the wall of my in-laws’ for years. Drawn by the late children’s illustrator Trina Schart Hyman, it shows a man in a suit and top hat leering down at a little girl, who looks back at him suspiciously. The man carries a large basket strapped to his back out of which are sticking various arms, legs, and heads of little children. It’s labelled “Dr. Fell” and Hyman drew it when asked to create an image from her favorite fable or fairy tale. I looked up Dr. Fell online and discovered the four-line poem written in 1680 from which he spawned, which I’ve included at the beginning of my book.
Right away all sorts of questions jumped into my head. Who is this guy? What is he doing? What happens when he comes to town? Answers to those questions started to form the story in my head.
Dena (Mother) asks: What was the best part about writing this story?
The best part for me was how naturally the story came out. This was the first novel that I wrote straight through, without running into any massive brick walls that stopped my writing process before. I saw the entire story from beginning to end, and as I wrote, more things just clicked into place as if they were meant to be.
I also loved writing for Dr. Fell himself. I knew he had to have a very specific way of speaking, and I enjoyed crafting his manner of speech, choosing his words, and imagining how he would express certain thoughts.
Miss A asks: What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Do I have to pick just one? I’m actually a huge fan of vanilla, but I also like chocolate, coconut, fudge swirl, and black raspberry. Pretty much any flavor that doesn’t have coffee or caramel or nuts.
Miss K (8-year-old) asks: What’s your favorite kind of book? (adventure, romance, etc)
I’m a big fan of the fantastic and supernatural. I read a lot of Middle Grade and YA books, but also adult sci-fi and fantasy. I love a story that takes place more or less in our world, but has something mysterious and inexplicable going on which takes the reader in an unexplored and unexpected direction.
Dena asks: Will there be more books featuring Dr. Fell?
There are definitely more stories about Dr. Fell in my head. I have a second book all set up and a third of the way written. The Bad Doctor is full of nefarious tricks and evil deeds.
Miss A asks: Do you make other books too?
I do! My second book, another slightly-creepy Middle Grade novel, is tentatively titled Doors and will be published in 2017. It is not connected to Dr. Fell, but is an entirely new story. I’m very excited for this book, and look forward to introducing readers to this new world.
Miss K asks: Where are you from?
I grew up in Santa Cruz, California, then went to college in Santa Barbara, before moving to Los Angeles. I met my wife in LA, and when we had kids we moved east, landing in Tarrytown, New York, which is where I live today.
About Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom
When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids’ hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor’s spell.
Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.
“Deliciously dark, funny, and foreboding, Neilsen’s first novel delivers with broad appeal.” —Booklist
“Recommended for school libraries that need to breathe life into their traditional mystery collections.” —School Library Journal
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My Thoughts on Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom
If your kid likes creepy, this should definitely be on their “To Read” list. I read it out loud with my kids and all three of them (the baby included) begged for more every time we set it down.
Dr. Fell literally strolls into town one day. He moves into the abandoned house at the end of the street and erects an amazing and hazardous playground in his front yard. The playground acts as a sirens call and soon kids and parents alike are sucked under Dr. Fell’s spell. Only three kids are immune to the good doctor’s charms. They know something is wrong with the situation, but they don’t know what — or how to stop it.
My kids love creepy books, so I’m not surprised they loved this one. Miss K (my 8-year-old) even took it upon herself to sing theme music each time we cracked the book open. Miss A (my 6-year-old) made me re-read the last chapter because she didn’t hear it the first time around and she HAD to know how it ended. As for me, I found the book spooky and wildly entertaining. Dr. Fell is the kind of bad guy you never want to meet. The kind that convinces everyone but you that he’s a fabulous person. I can’t wait to read the next book featuring Dr. Fell because I don’t believe the good doctor is done with his tricks just yet.
Content: Some scary scenes
Source: I received an ARC (advanced reading copy) of this book for the purpose of this review. This did not affect my review in any way.
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