Loudoun music lovers know Cal Everett as a talented singer/songwriter with a passion for pop. But at 66, Everett has started a new chapter in his creative life: he’s now a children’s book author on a mission to share the fun—and the spooky—of his favorite holiday.
Everett’s illustrated book “Halloween Is Coming!” was released in August, just in time for fall fun. He’ll share it with Loudoun for the first time with a First Friday reading at the Very Virginia shop in downtown Leesburg on Oct. 1 and has a series of family-oriented readings scheduled at area libraries throughout the month.
“Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. It’s my time of year,” Everett said. “I grew up in the heyday of black-and-white monster movies on TV. … I still remember my first Frankenstein costume when I was 8. I was hooked for the rest of my life.”
Everett says he’s been a longtime proponent of keeping the holiday spooky, even during the late ’80s and early ’90s when well-meaning parents made attempts to “dumb down” Halloween. Everett and his wife recently moved to a condo in Leesburg, but for decades their home in Sterling was one of the scariest houses in the neighborhood on trick-or-treat night, drawing kids from preschool through high school.
The fun and festive rhymes of “Halloween Is Coming!” had their origins in a spoken-word poem Everett created more than a decade ago for his own family. The couplets started coming while on his daily runs—just like many of his songs.
“It’s very lyrical—a lot more primary because of the way I wanted it to rhyme out,” he said. “But I thought about it like writing a song.”
Everett says he didn’t even write the verses down for years but recited from memory for his wife and three adult children. The poem started out as a celebration of the fall season: shorter days, a chill in the air, the call of crows, ramping up to the excitement and spookiness of Halloween.
“It moves from things that mark the beginning of autumn all the way to Halloween, so it’s like a building process,” Everett said.
The verses remained a family tradition until Everett’s son, then living in New York City, connected with a literary agent who loved the idea of a rhyming Halloween book for kids.
“He said, ‘You should probably write that down and send it to me,’” Everett said.
Within a few months, Everett had a deal with Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, a leading children’s book publisher. “Halloween Is Coming!” was released this summer in the U.S. and internationally.
The publishing deal meant a few changes to the verses Everett had in his head for so long. His initial verses were a little scarier, with headless horsemen and more supernatural elements. But his publisher wanted to target a younger demographic. But Everett said he’s managed to keep the spirit of the work, even with a few tweaks.
“I want it to be a little scary. I don’t want Halloween to become a not scary thing,” he said. ”It’s not the book I initially wrote, but they were flexible enough to let me make the replacements for the things I was removing.”
The book is illustrated by Europe-based artist Lenny Wen, whose charming drawings, art directed by Everett, follow a brother and sister through the fall season of hay rides and school parades accompanied by favorite old-school monsters.
“The excitement builds for kids from the beginning of autumn through October until finally it’s trick-or-treat night,” Everett said.
Everett has test-read the book with his two young grandchildren and recently shared it with a class of Loudoun first graders. Everett has been a substitute teacher in Loudoun since retiring from his career running a family restaurant chain in the DC area a few years ago. He’s also continuing to sing and write music and said he’s performed like crazy in the past nine months since the Loudoun music scene bounced after COVID. Everett is a member of the popular classic rock band Calgary with local favorites Gary Smallwood and Todd Wright and also performs with the Mostly Fab Beatles tribute band.
“This year, I’ve played more than I have in five years,” he said. “I decided well as long as I can do it, I should probably do it”
He said the opportunity to write a children’s book is “pennies from heaven,” but he’s rolling with it and having a blast.
“I didn’t plan on it at all. It might be a one-off, it might be a flash in the pan, but for me this is a gift. … If it only gets read every year by my grandkids, it’s a win for me.”
Meanwhile, Everett is planning a series based on classic film monsters with preliminary titles like “No Place Left for Frankenstein,” “Where Wolves are Werewolves” and “Does Dracula Do The Dishes?”
“I was brought up with the universal monster thing, and it’s been one of my desires to not let that slip by. The things that started scary movies—I don’t want them to disappear from the next generation and the generation after.”
Cal Everett’s “Halloween Is Coming!” is recommended for young readers aged 4 to 8 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and WalMart. Everett will read the book Friday, Oct. 1 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Very Virginia, 16 S. King St. in Leesburg. Loudoun County Public Library readings are scheduled for Sunday Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. at Rust Library, Wednesday Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. at Lovettsville Library and Monday Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. at Ashburn Library. Books will be available for sale at all events.