Reader Views is happy to be talking with Valerie Frankel, author of the witty, silly, satirical book “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock: An Unauthorized Harry Potter Parody.” Valerie is being interviewed by Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor for Reader Views.
Juanita: Thanks for talking with us today Valerie. Would you please tell us the storyline of your witty, silly and satirical book “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock: An Unauthorized Harry Potter Parody”?
Valerie: Henry Potty is all set to be famous—he just can’t find any fans! He continues crafting Henry Potty toothbrushes and action figures until, at last, a pile of mysterious letters arrives. They invite Henry to enroll at Chickenfeet Academy, one of the grandest third-rate schools of America. He takes the Chickenfeet Trainer (a large sneaker) to school. There he meets Really Wimpy and Horrendous Gangrene, and must endure the stupefying lectures of Professor Bumbling Bore. Yet all is not peaceful at Chickenfeet. Lord Revolting, the evil man who flushed Henry’s goldfish down the toilet so many years before, is on the scene and nefariously plotting to take over the world and live forever. Or at least, so it appears. To accomplish this, he requires unicorn blood, magical hotdogs, pink toilet paper, and a runaway pet rock. Henry tangles with Lord Revolting numerous times as Revolting commits the worst villainy: spoiling the book.
Juanita: What inspired you to write this “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock”?
Valerie: I’ve always really enjoyed parodies: the work of Terry Pratchett and Robert Asprin, books like Bored of the Rings, and so on. When I first read Harry Potter, the first three had been published, and there were rumblings of how popular book four would be. I just couldn’t help thinking that the book was taking itself too seriously, and it would be really fun to have fun with it.
Juanita: How true to the Harry Potter story is your book “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock”?
Valerie: Well, it definitely follows similar lines. Henry leaves his cruel relatives to arrive at Chickenfeet Academy, where he attends classes and learns how to be a gizzard. Then he discovers that Lord Revolting (who’s been popping in and taunting him all book) has stolen Really Wimpy’s Pet Rock, so he descends into a Maze of Traps to rescue it.
At the same time, I have a lot of new characters: Miffie Muffet, the school bully; Hortense Hog, the mailpig; Miss Ann Thropist, the Wicked Witch of the Vest; the drag-on who turns people’s brains to mush (not that Henry has anything to worry about), and so forth. I also play with the plot: Though exceedingly dumb, Henry gets A’s in all his subjects through various lucky breaks, while Horrendous Gangrene fails everything. Henry’s mission is to stop Lord Revolting from taking over the world. Or at least, that’s what Henry assumes…
Juanita: Would you tell us more about who Henry Potty is, where did he come from before arriving at Chickenfeet Academy?
Valerie: He was a slave to his aunt and uncle at number 23232323.32 Privy drive, Somewhere in England. Henry grew up knowing he had a destiny, after someone pinned a note to his asparagus crate saying, “Never, under any circumstances allow Henry Potty to read this letter. Destiny has marked this boy for greatness…Signed, a Mysterious Elusive Benefactor who prefers to remain incognito for the time being."
As for his parents, Lames and Jelly had been killed years ago, either from slipping on a pair of banana peels and falling to their deaths or getting hit by a rampant llama, his aunt didn’t remember which. If this book sells well, I’d love to write a sequel dealing with what really happened to his parents as Henry fights Lord Revolting’s spirit trapped in a rutabaga cookbook, or something like that.
Juanita: What are some of the other quirky characters and wild adventures Henry encounters during his time at Chickenfeet Academy?
Valerie: Since this is a traditional parody, my favorites are the tweaked characters. Millie McGonk tried to turn herself into a cat and now has blue fur, googly eyes, and a desperate hunger for cookies. Professor Bumbling Bore makes everyone fall asleep instantly, while his pet parrot, Socks, has a loud mouth and a hidden agenda. (Doesn’t everyone?) One of my favorites is the teacher ghost who refused to leave his body behind and drags the festering, twenty-year-old corpse with him everywhere. He always has a large entourage of flies, and his students frequently carry nose plugs with them to class. The whole book’s like that.
Juanita: Now, just to be clear, is this a children’s book, or an adult book?
Valerie: Yes. Seriously, it’s intended for anyone who likes Harry Potter. This makes it a children’s book that adults will sneak out of their kids’ bookshelves and read for themselves. It parodies a lot of other children’s books (Narnia, Oz, Cinderella, The Princess Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc), so that adds to its appeal for kids.
Juanita: Reviews for “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock” are nothing less than spectacular. Reviewer after reviewer comments on the hilarious, quirky, witty, comical nature of your book, keeping everyone laughing at every turn of the page. What are your comments on these fantastic remarks?
Valerie: That bribery does wonders. No, I’m kidding. I’m definitely quite happy. The book hasn’t gotten a negative review yet. In the end, I think people will buy the book because it’s really incredibly fun to read. Everyone laughs.
Juanita: You must have a very creative personality to write such witty satire. What do you enjoy about writing in this genre?
Valerie: It’s fun, of course. The first rule of writing is to write something you would want to pull off a shelf and read. I was laughing through the entire writing process, so I knew I would have to finish it.
Juanita: I wonder if J.K. Rowling has had a chance to read your book….
Valerie: I sure hope not. But I’m sure she has better things to do with her time. Especially now, with fans screaming for book 7.
Juanita: Valerie, what did you ultimately want to convey to your readers through your book “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock”?
Valerie: That if a truly evil bad guy murders your goldfish and tries to conquer the world, you should stop him. The book also drops a few hints that maybe Harry Potter with its accompanying action figures, screaming fans, and autographed toilet tissue is a bit out of control. I love Harry Potter, I really do. But I also believe there are hundreds of fantastic children’s books out there that deserve equal acclaim. Mostly, the parody is just fun, though.
Juanita: Would you tell your readers more about your profession and writing career?
Valerie: I was born at an early age. Now I teach creative writing for children and teens, along with teaching Composition at San Jose State University. I do storytelling for kids, and have taught most grades, from kindergarten through high school. All that pays the bills and finances my collection of hundreds of books. As for my writing career, this is my first novel out. My many short stories have appeared in over seventy magazines and anthologies including Legends of the Pendragon, Rosebud Magazine, and The Oklahoma Review.
Juanita: How can readers find out more about you and your endeavors?
Valerie: Well, my website is always good. I actually have two:
www.HarryPotterParody.com is the Henry Potty site with reviews and a free sample ebook everyone can download. There’s even a Henry Potty game collection and contests. Plus my little cartoon movie and hordes of flying pigs.
www.Calithwain.com is the home of Calithwain, my more serious young adult fantasy world, with a great interactive map for kids. It also has reading lists and writing markets, especially created for my students. There’s also a lot of my fiction.
I created and designed both sites myself, so if readers press their ears against the computer screen, they may be able to hear the faint echo of my screams of frustration and death threats against the computer.
Juanita: Now I have a question about your website that anyone checking it will undoubtedly be asking too – What’s with all the flying pigs?
Valerie: I like flying pigs, don’t you? The cover art features (among other characters) Hortense Hog, the flying mailpig. And an original tagline for the book reads, “They said no one would ever write a Harry Potter parody. Not until pigs started flying.” The tagline still appears in the flash movie I made for the website. And then, on the next page, there they flap.
Juanita: Valerie, congratulations on your Phelan Award 2004 First Prize for Humor and Satire for “Henry Potty and the Pet Rock.” What are your plans for your next book?
Valerie: Well, I have some notes on Henry Potty and the Chamberpot of Secrets, or something like that, if there’s enough interest. I’d love to have a character running around saying, “It’s me, I did it. Stop suspecting the cute little girl, the sorting rat, or other least-likely characters. I’m the bad guy!” And then no one believes him.
I have other parody novels floating around my hard drive in bits and pieces, like the tale of Nestle, and his princess bride Peanut Buttercup or The Lizard of Odd. I’m working on combining all the bits into one giant parody called “The Knight of 1001 Satires.” And of course, I have the serious projects, including a nonfiction book about the Heroine’s Journey and about fifteen young adult fantasy novels that take place in my world of Calithwain. I think they’re all my next book!
Valerie: The Harry Potter Universe is such a fun one for us all to enjoy; it’s even more fun if we don’t take it too seriously. That said, I seriously need the sales, so please go out and grab a copy, even if it’s just the free one from www.HarryPotterParody.com! The mailpigs will thank you, and so will I.