Triumph Over Monsters: A Liz Braswell Book Review


No Stuffy has ever gone into the Darkness and returned...

In the second installment of the Stuffed series, Clark arrives at camp ready to learn more about the Monster world and how Stuffies protect kids from them. Once him and his friends, Catherine-Lucille and D.A., set foot on the campgrounds, they discover that something strange is happening.

The bunk beds are covered in something gooey. The adults are exhibiting bizarre behavior. Stuffies and dolls are disappearing right when they are needed most. Soon enough, Clark’s Stuffy, Foon, discovers that the Monsters are after Clark and him.

In the long tradition of Stuffies vs. Monsters, this one’s a battle for the ages - one that will certainly go down in Stuffy history.

Author Liz Braswell originally developed the idea of Stuffed more than 20 years ago as a video game. It evolved through many stages as a video game and even a graphic novel before becoming what it is today.

“This is where it belongs and I have a zillion rewrites to prove it,” she said.

Stuffed: Into Darkness had been forming in the back of Braswell’s mind for a while, but took only a year or so to write. The editing process was a bit different than usual, thanks to the global pandemic. The days felt endless but also incredibly short. Her children were around 24/7, which certainly wasn’t a bad thing, but made that balance of work life and personal life a bit difficult.

There were rewarding moments in creating the book that stick out in her mind, especially when writing about Clark’s evolving relationships with his friends or the travel scenes with Foon and his captive Monster, the Phlebbish. There were also challenging moments that in the long run became wonderful additions to the storyline.

“Creating Kris, who is a bully, but human - but ultimately a bully - was hard,” she said. “I didn’t want a made-for-TV-movie style redemption for him in the end or have him be irredeemable.”

The moral of the story is that Monsters are absolutely real and can haunt you, even if you can’t see them. As an adult, Braswell hopes that they realize that. “(You can call them Chowguns, you can call them vicious, cyclical thoughts that are self-destructive; in the end, it doesn’t matter to them what you call them).” As a child, she hopes that they know they are not alone and can triumph over Monsters with the help of good friends. Most importantly, it is absolutely ok to still have Stuffies.


How do you start writing a series?

Honestly it depends on the genre and what you want to do. Game of Thrones and Shannara-style books are very different from The Hunger Games or My Brilliant Friend. For Stuffed, there is a world (ok, worlds) that exists in my head fairly well worked out and capable of generating all kinds of different stories. There’s an arc for Foon and Clark, but there are also other tales to tell.

I’m also working on a much more traditionally set up series. In that case I find that it’s good to come up with an overarching plot, how I want my characters to change by the end - the usual stuff - and within those parameters imagine solid stories for each book, advancing the plot and the characters along the way.

Would it be too pedantic if my advice was to get the app Scrivener and keep track of all your series’ details? I have a whole Guide to Monsters complete with (really bad) illustrations (by yours truly) that I refer to constantly.