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

Mo O’Hara: Serious About Series Fiction ?


Series are the Marmite of the fiction world.

You love them or hate them.

That’s what most people say. I think, however, there is a third option.

When I was a kid we had two big series of books that dominated our bookshelves at home

The Hardy Boys and The Nancy Drew Mysteries. They were complete collections all neatly arranged in number order on the shelves. Bought, I think, by my mom in a moment of ‘perfect books for boys’ and ‘perfect books for girls’ purchasing from a mail order magazine in the days before the internet But I digress, that’s another story.

Anyway, those books loomed large on the bookshelf. Staring me down. NANCY AND HARDY

My brother had long devoured all the Encyclopaedia Brown Books in his room and had moved on to the wall of Hardy Boys. He read each one in order and went onto the next.

I approached the wall of Nancy Drew, then diverted and picked up a library book instead. Time after time I was put off by the wall.

I was at a stage where I wasn’t reading regularly. I hadn’t yet found ‘the thing that made me want to read more.’ That book that you encounter by chance that then opens up other books to you.

So I would stare up at the Nancy Drews for a while and then go watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica (original series of course) or Charlie’s Angels and forget about ‘getting through Nancy Drew.’

Battlestar GalacticaI feel my time with Battlestar was never wasted though. It was a huge influence on my creativity at this age. I would make up ‘mash up’ plays (before they were called ‘mash ups’ and were just called pinching characters from other stuff) where characters from Battlestar met Star Wars or Star Trek characters ( and occasionally GI Joe or Barbie if they were around.) But I digress, that’s another story.

Back in the room of the wall of Nancy Drew I approached the books again, ready to take them on. Then I got distracted by the line of Time Life Encyclopaedias on the shelf underneath and started to page through them. I learned about the Taj Mahal ,Timbuktu, Tazmania and lots of other T places that day. I still like to randomly flick through encyclopaedias now and then just to see what I’ll come across… but I digress, that’s another story.

It was around then in my life that I discovered ‘The thing that makes you want to read more books.’ It was a book we had to read at school called Plain Girl. It led me to know what it was like to get into a character’s head. For the first time I cared about a person in a book as much as I cared about a character in a TV show or a movie. Or more! I went on to read ‘A Wrinkle In Time,’ lots of Roald Dahl and more. plain girl

It was only then that I went back to the wall of Nancy Drew.

But I didn’t start at number one.   I perused the wall. Took off the books. Looked at the covers. Read the little blurb and found a book in there with the story I wanted to read.

And it was good.

I read a few more but not right away and not in order.

My brother didn’t understand. My Mom didn’t understand.

Didn’t it matter to me that I wasn’t finishing the series? That I dipped in out of order?

That I stopped reading one if it got too dull?

Spider saphireNope. I realised I didn’t NEED to ‘Get through Nancy Drew.’

I didn’t need to read the whole series. (I’ve only read about five I think.) I liked them but I didn’t need to read any more. There was so much more out there to try.

That was when I learned that I was a ‘third option’ person.

I didn’t hate series or love series. I just didn’t treat series books as different. I picked one up because it was a book I wanted to read and put it down if it was a book I didn’t want to read. From then on I was no longer scared of the wall.

I then went on to nick a few Encyclopaedia Browns from my brother’s room and read them in the same occasional way (probably just to aggravate my brother.)

I realise now that I am a ‘dipper’ in book terms. I switch genres, age groups, authors, swap mid series. I graze on books out of order. But that’s another story. And I digress. I digress a lot actually.

But somehow, in a bizarre cyclic twist of fate, all that grazing and taking in TV shows, movies, factual books and random stories that I just liked the sound of has lead me a to writing a children’s series of my own.

My challenge as an author has been to appeal to the kids like my brother who want to own all the books and read them in order and also appeal to the kid a bit like me who might pick up my book in the middle of reading a fact book on sharks and watching an episode of Dr Who.

I meet kids at book signings and events now and I love it when they ask me if they ‘have to read them all in order.’

‘Once there was a wall of Nancy Drew books..’ I start to say. ‘but I digress. That’s another story. You can read them however you want to read them. I promise.’

186Mo O’Hara
Originally from America, Mo now lives in London with her husband, kids and two mischievous cats. Mo now has five books out in ‘My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish’ series for 7+, published by Macmillan in the UK and Feiwel and Friends in the US. The latest in the series is ‘Live and Let Swim’ which came out in January 2015. Her first picture book comes out with Macmillan in July 2015! She also wrote six books in the Ladybird series “Puddle the Naughtiest Puppy.” Mo worked as an actress and as a storyteller, touring theatres and schools all across the UK and Ireland. As well as her stories for children Mo has also written for radio and theatre and has performed her own comedy material in London and Edinburgh.


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This entry was posted on May 15, 2015 by .
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