A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Book Birthday Interview with Mo O’Hara

Today I am delighted to be talking to Mo O’Hara, author of My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, which was published earlier year, with the Sea-Quel (her pun, not mine) hitting the shelves in the UK this week.

Welcome Mo. Perhaps you could start by telling us all a bit about yourself and your books.
Hi Kate. Happy to be chatting goldfish with you today too. First can I say that I cannot claim the pun ‘The Sea-Quel.’ It was Emma Young, who was my editor at the time on MBFZG that came up with it. She is the pun queen. I am a mere pun peasant really.
So a little bit about me? I’m from Pennsylvania in the US but I’ve lived in London for over 20 years so I kind of think of myself as half American/ half Brit now really. I was an actor and a sketch comedian before I became a writer and that means, on the downside, that I write way too much dialogue for my characters but also, on the upside, that I really enjoy the school visits and events part of being an author now. I feel like going out to schools and cracking up kids in person is the payoff for all the really hard writing and rewriting work. There’s a kind of reassurance about hearing a child’s actual laugh at a joke in the book when you read aloud. It’s like, ‘Phew, it works.’ each time again. My own kids are a much tougher crowd.
When I’m not writing you might find me running around after my kids, doing the occasional bit of acting or comedy work and frantically preparing for my wedding at the end of this month!

A Zombie goldfish is such a fantastic idea! What was your inspiration for this?

The story is based on something that happened to me and my brother when we were kids. When our goldfish went belly up we defibbed him with a battery and brought him back from the brink of death.
This story idea swam around my head for ages (sorry fish metaphors just come out randomly now) and then there was a SCBWI-BI Slushpile Challenge back in June 2011. The brief was to do a story loosely based on Frankenstien. So I wrote a thousand word section of the book and called it ‘Frankenfish.’ When it won the Slushpile Challenge and I got some positive feedback on the story then I decided to expand it and it grew into My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.

And now zombie goldfish are invading America! Where else are they spreading to and how does that feel?

My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish comes out in America on the 9th of July and I am so excited! It’s so great to think that my family back home can just wander into their local Barnes and Noble and get a copy. It was really fun doing the ‘Americanizing’ of the book as well for the US. It’s weird because you hear your characters voices inside your head as you write them and then you’re trying out different accents on those characters. It was great though. I can’t wait to see what the reaction is to the book when it comes out. I’m so happy that Macmillan were totally behind the books both over here and in the US. Fingers crossed for the Zombie Invasion. It’s also coming out in Germany in September. You can see the German version on Amazon. It looks great and I’m very lucky that ‘Zombie’ is zombie in German.

Please tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

Well after the story won the Slushpile Challenge I worked on it for several months and then when I was at the SCBWI conference in November that year I found myself talking to Gemma Cooper in the bar over a glass of wine and she asked me if I was working on anything. I didn’t realise at the time that I had picked probably the most goldfish friendly agent in the world to tell about my manuscript. Gemma has a much beloved goldfish called Brady who I put in the acknowledgements of MBFZG because I think Gemma read my ms totally because of Brady. Then Gemma helped me do some work on the manuscript and took me on. She took it to Bolonga that year and Macmillan aquired the rights soon after. It was all so fast when it got going. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing editors including my current editor at Macmillan Rachel Kellehar. I also have the joy of seeing the book come to life with the illustrations of the funny and super talented Marek Jagucki.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate your book birthday?

Yes, I’m doing a kid’s event at Village Books in Dulwich in South London at 4pm! It should be really fun. Then I’m going to head to the pub down the road from there for a couple drinks to toast the new adventures of Frankie.

Any teasers about what’s coming next?

I can reveal that the third book in the MBFZG series is out in January 2014 and is called (drum roll please)… ‘Fins of Fury!’
Again I can’t claim the title, it’s down to my friend Robin Stevens (talented client of Gemma’s )
In the third book Frankie meets wild animals, foils kidnap plots and impersonates a piranha. Inevitable hilarity ensues.
Great talking with you Kate.
Bye All!!!!
x Mo

Mo O’Hara – Books – My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish 2: The Sea-quel (MacMillan Children’s Books 2013)

Kate Kelly YA novel Red Rock, Curious Fox September 2013.


3 comments on “Book Birthday Interview with Mo O’Hara

  1. kateormand
    July 3, 2013

    Double celebration for sea-quel release and US release this month! Congrats, Mo. Fab interview, you two!

  2. Kendra Leighton
    July 3, 2013

    Great interview, both of you. Congratulations, Mo! Love the story about defibrillating your pet goldfish—best ‘writing inspiration’ story ever!

  3. Rose Mannering
    July 7, 2013

    This looks like such a cool book 🙂 and great interview guys!

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