Dave Eggers' Monster Project: Behind 'The Wild Things'

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 Why do the Wild Things put Max's crown under the fire in your book?
Well, if you're wearing a crown, it becomes a burden, right? It's pretty and shiny and there advantages to it, but it's hot to the touch and might burn your scalp when you put it on. Very early on, there were a lot of random details we came up with and one of them was that when Max wasn't wearing the crown, as a matter of course every night, the Wild Things put it under the fire. He didn't know why exactly, but he had to go along with it because it was the rule and a longstanding practice and he'd just have to wait for it to cool off a little bit. But every night they'd heat it to remind him of the burden. Maybe he'd get a scar around his forehead.

Are the Wild Things malicious? In your book Carol hears noises or voices underground. Is there really something there or is he trying to manipulate the crew?
I don't know. You have all of the themes there. The point that that's pointing to is that we don't know exactly. We have threat levels at the airports every day, orange or red or yellow and you don't know if they're based on any facts or if they're meant to scare us or if we're being manipulated. Of course, it goes both ways because Max scares Carol with the story about the sun dying. But a lot of these things aren't any fun to explain. It's meant to be up to the reader.

Is there anything that you put in that people have missed or that you would want to explain?
I think that four people have read it, so I don't know. But the thing about a movie is that the movies are beautiful and especially when Spike makes the movie, but you can explore more the political implications in a book. There were certain things on my mind in 2006 in the middle of the Bush years that were fun to look at, but there's none of that political subtext in the movie. From the beginning, Maurice wanted the movie to be different from the picture book and I didn't want the novel to be a replication of the movie. They're three wildly diverging stories although they all start with the same three building blocks of Home, Island, Boy.

You met Spike after you wrote him a fan letter?
Yes. That was when they were talking about making the movie out of my first book [A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]. I wrote him and asked if he wanted to do it. But it didn't happen.

I was going to ask, does doing this change your mind about adapting your own work?
[Laughs] Oh no.

More secure than ever?
Well, they're unrelated, but movies are hard to make, especially complicated ones. I decided years before my book wouldn't be a movie.

And how much time did you spend with Maurice?
It's been mostly over the phone, but he's the greatest, most pure and uncompromising artist I've ever known. When I was a kid I wanted to be him. I worked many years to be an illustrator and writer of children's books.

Did you show your illustrations to him?
Yeah, I've shown him a few of them. You know, they're all about boys and monsters.

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