Author website/social media:
– Twitter: @WhyJerryWhy
– Instagram: @jerrymahoney
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/
Tell me a little about yourself:
I live in Los Angeles, where I’m a stay-home dad to my two kids. They’re boy-girl twins, and just like you, they’re 8 years old and in 3rd grade. I love musicals, baking ridiculously chocolatey cookies and playing Mario Kart — although my son usually beats me at it. 🙂
When you were my age, did you like to read?
I loved to read. My favorite was Judy Blume. I appreciated how she would tackle social issues without being preachy, and how she was so honest with her readers and never talked down to them. She understood that books are what kids help understand the world, and just as importantly, they teach them to respect and empathize with people who are different from them. Plus, I don’t think she gets nearly enough credit as one of the best ever comedy writers.
Now that I’m older and have kids of my own, I’ve loved sharing some of my favorite childhood books with them. Recently, I was reading them Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and I could barely get through some of the passages because I was laughing so hard. I want to be able to write books that are still funny in 20 or 30 years like that!
What was your favorite story?
This might sound strange, but my favorite book as a kid was the novelization of the movie The Goonies, which was written by James Kahn. I loved that it was about a bunch of misfits, because I think, like so many kids, I felt like a misfit myself. And I loved that it was told in the first person. It was so fun reading a book where it just felt like the main character was telling me a story about something cool that happened to him. I also read a ton of Choose Your Own Adventure books, because I loved feeling like I was in control of the story.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids should only be reading stuffy literary classics. No offense to the classics — I love some of them, too. But read what you enjoy — graphic novels, fan fiction, movie spin-offs. Who cares? If you’re enjoying it, it’s time well spent.
How do you get your ideas?
It’s impossible to name just one place, because ideas really do come from everywhere. A lot of times, they come from other stories I enjoy, like how classic fairy tales inspired the MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER series. Or I might read a book in a certain genre, like THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH by Max Brallier and think about how fun it was, then go, “If I were going to write a zombie story, how would I do it?”
Very few of the ideas I come up with make it as far as a finished book, but that’s the great thing about ideas. You can never have too many. You just have to be willing to accept that most of them won’t lead anywhere, but every once in a long, long while, you’ll find a gem.
Is it hard to write a book?
It’s hard, but it’s the good kind of hard, because every bit of progress you make feels awesome. And of course, there’s no better feeling than when your book is done, and if you’re fortunate enough to get it published, that’s a big bonus.
What author do you really like right now?
I’m a big fan of Tom Angleberger. He has such a gift for being hilariously funny one second and incredibly sweet the next. He writes about misfits, too, but in such a relatable way that anyone who reads his books will wish they could just hang out with his characters. I also love Chris Grabenstein, who wrote the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library books and dozens of others. His writing is so clear and so fun, I never get bored. I was really thrilled when he agreed to write a blurb for the cover of my new book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE. Kidlit authors are the best — so kind and supportive of each other. It’s a wonderful community.
Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
I really like David Walliams. He’s a British author who’s very popular in the UK. He kind of set out to follow in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, writing dark modern fairy tales with a wicked sense of humor. He even had Dahl’s illustrator work on many of his books. He has a similar style to Dahl but with an extra dose of humanity and heart. And he’s very, very funny.
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
My advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing. Basically, read a lot and write a lot. Think critically about books — what you like about the books you read, as well as what you don’t like. Sometimes, you can learn even more from books you dislike than ones you like. Ask yourself what you would’ve done differently if you’d written that story. How could you have made it more interesting, or made the ending more satisfying? What parts would you cut out? What characters would you spend more or less time with?
Writing is great practice because it helps you develop your voice, which is what will make you stand out from every other writer. Don’t worry if you’re writing a story and it doesn’t turn out as good as you wanted it to be. Even the best writers have many megabytes of stories they would be too embarrassed to show anyone else — comedic stories that didn’t turn out all that funny, adventure stories that didn’t turn out very exciting, scary stories that no one would lose any sleep over. I’m sure even J.K. Rowling has a few.
As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I love hearing from readers! Writing books can be such a lonely process. Most of it is just you and your computer, and you have no idea whether anyone’s going to like what you’re working on. So when somebody takes the time to tell me that they enjoyed one of my books, it makes my day! It makes me feel like all the time I spent working on it was worthwhile. That was definitely how I felt when I read your review of MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, so thanks again!