Meet the author of the middle grade series The Teddies Saga, Daniel Kraus! Daniel shares more about his inspiration for this series, his most memorable teachers and librarians, his favorite childhood books, and more in this Q&A!
Book 2 of the Teddies Saga, They Stole Our Hearts is now available! Plus Book 1, They Thew Us Away, is now available in paperback! Five teddy bears set out on an epic journey to figure out why they were left behind—and maybe learn the meaning of life, too—in this action-packed middle grade trilogy from New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Kraus. Perfect for Five Nights at Freddy’s fans!
When describing They Threw Us Away, what’s your elevator pitch?
Daniel Kraus: Five brand-new teddy bears wake up in a trash dump and go on an epic journey to discover why they were thrown away. Look, it didn’t even take one elevator floor.
What inspired you to write They Threw Us Away?
Daniel: I wanted to write a real “journey” tale, something akin to what the hobbits go through in Lord of the Rings. Except I wanted to use the most vulnerable characters possible, which is the approach Richard Adams took when writing Watership Down. One of my favorite elements of that book is how realistic the setting was; it only felt fantastical because you were seeing it through the eyes of rabbits. My idea here was to take an extremely realistic urban environment, the kind city dwellers see every day without giving it a second thought — an environment filled with highways, and trashed alleys, and dilapidated parks, and so forth — and see them through the new eyes of little teddies, who would find such things fearsome, beautiful, or awe-inspiring.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Daniel: In college I had a religion professor named Jay Holstein whose meticulous investigations into biblical references in popular art turned a switch on in my brain. Not in regards to religion specifically, but in regards to how to think about story at deeper levels — levels you might not ever share with your reader but nonetheless subtly inform and shape how they experience a text. Everything is a metaphor for something else.
What advice would you give to young writers?
Daniel: Be yourself. I understand the urge to share your work with others, but don’t feel you have to take all of their advice! You have to be you. The strange things that you choose to write about — even if some people don’t like or understand them — will be what makes you unique once you have honed your craft.
What is the first step in your creative process?
Daniel: The first step is patience. I rarely get an idea and immediately start writing. Usually it takes years, and sometimes decades, for an idea to fully come together in my mind. So I take lots of notes, over many years if that’s what is required, so when the bigger idea does suddenly snap together, I’m ready with all sorts of associated ideas.
What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
Daniel: I have no idea. Everything before I discovered Stephen King, around age 10 or 11, is a blur. I do know that I liked nonfiction about ghosts and the paranormal because the books honestly scared me. And for some reason, I had a bad habit of scaring myself. It must have excited me too, because I kept doing it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Daniel Kraus is the author of numerous novels, including Rotters, the Death and Life of Zebulon Finch duology, and Bent Heavens. With Guillermo del Toro, he wrote the New York Times bestselling The Shape of Water (the companion novel to the Academy Award-winning film) and Trollhunters (the inspiration for the Netflix series).
His novels have been Odyssey Award winners, Library Guild selections, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults picks, Parent’s Choice Gold Award winners, Bram Stoker finalists, and more. He lives with his wife in Chicago.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
They Threw Us Away (The Teddies Saga, Book 1) by Daniel Kraus
Welcome to The Teddies Saga, a gripping new middle grade trilogy from New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Kraus and illustrator Rovina Cai.
Buddy wakes up in the middle of a garbage dump, filled with a certain awareness: he’s a teddy bear; he spent time at a Store waiting for his future to begin; and he is meant for the loving arms of a child. Now he knows one more thing: Something has gone terribly wrong.
Soon he finds other discarded teddies—Horace, Sugar, Sunny, and Reginald. Though they aren’t sure how their luck soured, they all agree that they need to get back to the Store if they’re ever to fulfill their destinies. So, they embark on a perilous trek across the dump and into the outer world. With ravenous rats, screeching gulls, and a menacing world in front of them, the teddies will need to overcome insurmountable challenges to find their way home.
Praise for They Threw Us Away:
★”Reminiscent of Watership Down…reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“By turns swashbuckling and reflective, touching and disturbing, this existential work of fantasy and horror considers what one is willing to sacrifice when utterly lost.” —Publishers Weekly
“With a nod to Watership Down…[r]eaders with a taste for disturbing adventures and disquieting revelations will be well served.” —Booklist
“Fans of Toy Story or The Velveteen Rabbit might be aghast, but readers who knew there was always something a little off about their playthings will appreciate this uniquely horrific take.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
They Stole Our Hearts (The Teddies Saga, Book 2) by Daniel Kraus
The heart-pounding sequel to They Threw Us Away, about a group of teddy bears looking for a place to call home…and answers to life’s biggest questions.
The teddies—clever Buddy, brave Sunny, sweet Sugar, and wise Reginald—have managed to find a child. Life with Darling is far better than any they’ve known. But something’s not right—the promised bliss of Forever Sleep hasn’t come. And they are kept a secret from Darling’s mother, hidden underneath the child’s bed in the dusty darkness.
Then the inevitable happens: Mama discovers the teddies. And like all adults they’ve met thus far, she responds with fear and anger. The teddies must watch as one of their friends is destroyed. The remaining trio barely escape, thrust back into a world that does not want them.
Disillusioned and lost, the teddies embark on a journey back to the factory where they were created. En route, they find a civilization of discarded teddy bears. The comfort of a town of teddies has its allure…but the need for answers weighs heavy. And there’s something definitely off about these new teddies. Will our heroes accept their strange rules? Or must they dig deep for one more grand adventure to finally learn why they were thrown away?
Praise for They Stole Our Hearts:
★ “This series continues to be disturbing and brilliant in equal measure.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review