Originally from America, Mo moved to London because she wanted to live abroad but spoke no foreign languages. After a brief and unsuccessful stint as a serving wench at the Tower of London Mo found work as an actress and comedy performer. It was when she toured the UK as a storyteller that she started writing for kids. Mo’s debut novel, ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ was published by Macmillan in the UK, the USA and Germany this year. It’s follow up ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish the Sea-quel’ came out in the UK in July 2013 and will be out in March in the US. ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- Fins of Fury’ will be out in Jan 2014 in the UK.
For what age audience do you write?
I mostly write funny books for kids that are between 6 and 11.
Henry: ‘Fins of Fury’ is clearly a play on the Bruce Lee movie, Fists of Fury. Are there any plans for a tie-in with AMC’s The Walking Dead? The Wading Dead, perhaps?
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish- The SeaQuel’. It’s been described as Finding Nemo meets Shawn of the Dead. It’s a classic story of a boy and his undead fish but Frankie (the zombie goldfish) is both funny and fierce.
Henry: Finding Nemo meets Shawn of the Dead!!! Can I just say, this is why I love writing and reading kid’s books. You’ve inspired me. My next project will be a dystopian board book: The Very Hunger Games Caterpillar.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I hope my readers get a good story, some good laughs and no paper cuts. These are all important for a positive experience of a book.
Henry: As my friend Ame Dyckman says, papercuts are “only a flesh wound.”
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
I find starting the story the most difficult. I think I have an inbuilt fear of a blank page or a blank screen. Once I have something down, no matter how rough it is, I can keep going and make it better. I will book dentist appointments though to avoid starting a new story (and that’s pretty bad).
Henry: I agree. Revising is much easier than getting that first draft out of my head.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
There are stories everywhere: open your ears and your eyes. Also, just believe you can do it.
Henry: Quite so. I was presenting to an elementary school class, and I noticed that one boy had one sneaker that was totally shredded. Not worn and in need of replacement, but as if it had exploded. When the plot gels, I will write The Boy with the Exploding Sneakers. Brandon Sanderson said his book ‘Steelheart’ came to him when he was frustrated by traffic gridlock.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I had a boy tell me that my book was the first ‘proper’ book that he read cover to cover ever in his life. To be someone’s ‘first book’ is an amazing thing. For me that is beyond ‘WOW.’
Henry: Plus, he called it a ‘proper’ book. I had a parent tell me that after reading Nimpentoad, their child was willing to eat mushrooms. One small step…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Join writers’ groups but join positive ones that will support you in your journey to publication. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators) and it has given me support, advice, laughs, great friends and invaluable experience over the years. Also, READ, READ, READ!
Henry: Excellent advice. I too have found SCBWI membership invaluable.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
I only came across this after his death but this quote from Nelson Mandela moved me. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, because love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Henry: Beautiful. I taught my sons when they were very young that people are like flowers. They come in all different colors, and the world is better for having diversity of colors.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I treat myself when I finish something. Sometimes a little motivation like a coffee or a cool notebook can spur me on. Sometimes, I admit, doughnuts are involved. 🙂
Henry: The therapeutic value of doughnuts is well-known. It’s a scientific fact. And scientific facts are the best kind of facts.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would love to Teleport. I get really motion sick so if I could travel sickness free that would be amazing. Although I wonder if you can get Teleportation sickness? Hmmmm? That would be really unlucky.
Henry: I would’ve guessed you opting for breathing underwater (to play with Zombie Goldfish). At least Teleportation Sickness would be over quickly. My big fear with teleportation is rematerializing partially inside something else. That will leave a mark!
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
I thought about this for ages but I don’t think I could resist the urge to do some literary matchmaking, but that could go horribly wrong. So, I might just see if Shakespeare is free and the two of us can just grab a pizza and chat.
Henry: Only one guest!? This is known as bogarting the Bard.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
It’s gotta be a dragon. Dragons are just the best. On all levels. Smart, fierce, breathe fire. They’re the best.
Henry: No argument. Best cinematic dragons: The Hobbit, Dragonslayer, and Shrek.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play with my kids and my kittens, I sing (until people tell me to stop), and I hang out with friends and talk. My daughter once said to me, ‘So talking and having wine or coffee for you is like playing in the playground for me isn’t it?’ I have very perceptive children.
Henry: Your daughter is brilliant.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
‘Here lies Mo. It was her time to go.’
Henry: Famous for granting my peculiar wish, she wrote a book combining zombies and fish.
Where can readers find your work? At all good bookshops, both real and virtual.
Henry: Mo’s website is at http://www.moohara.co.uk/
This interview also appears on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.