We recently had the opportunity to interview Megan Padalecki, sister of Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki and author of Big Mo. We talked to her about her inspiration for Mo the Iguana and her experience at her first Supernatural convention.
WinchesterBros: What made you decide to become a children’s book author?
Megan Padalecki: If I take an honest look at my life, I have had a desire to do this since a much younger age. However, it never seemed like a practical career option, so I completed a formal education and training in architecture. After six years in the field, my perspective really changed and I realized that life is too short to ignore your passions! As a bonus, writing stories for kids carries a lot of meaning and responsibility, and it is a challenge that I am eager to take on! Books (especially picture books) were such a huge part of my upbringing, so to participate in the ritual of reading for modern kids is truly rewarding.
WB: As a child, what were your favorite books?
MP: I was somewhat obsessive with Dr. Seuss stories! The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book stand out for me, the first for introducing me to the dark side of capitalism and our impact on the environment, and the second for illustrating the connection between diversity and conflict. Heavy stuff, right? Seuss really was a master of allegory. I even hold onto my mom’s grade school copy of Yertle the Turtle (which she scrawled her name inside). Beyond Seuss, I collected my fair share of nonfiction books about animals and like most 80’s kids, I loved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the Berenstain Bears series.
WB: You’ve said on your website that you’ve traveled to 6 of 7 continents. Will Big Mo follow in your footsteps and visit there too? What was your favorite continent to visit and why?
MP: It’s funny, when the idea of leaving architecture was still a twinkle in my eye, a friend actually asked me to define my ideal job description. I only half-jokingly answered that I would write a series of children’s books that followed a character around the world. This would combine my love of travel and sketching, and would also be a great excuse to see the remotest corners of the world! I don’t know if Mo is the character for that journey, but Big Mo the book has already shipped to 5 of 7 continents, so he’s getting out there, in a way..
It’s difficult to pick a favorite continent, but as an animal fanatic, I essentially mythologized Africa as a kid. I took the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Malawi when I was 26, and the trip surpassed my expectations! It was eye-opening to immerse myself in a community that thrives on human connection, rather than material wealth. The animal life was stunning, too!
WB: Your paintings and sketches on your site are terrific–are you planning to ever publish a collection of those? I see that David Macaulay is one of your inspirations–would you consider doing an architectural or watercolor sketchbook version of San Francisco? (–Susan)
MP: Thank you! I hadn’t considered a published collection, and actually, most of the paintings were gifts and are no longer in my possession to be properly photographed. Sketching is something I do for relaxation, practice and much-needed outdoor time. If these land somewhere beyond my website, I think it would be as prints, rather than as a collated book. But I guess you never know!
I relate to David Macaulay in part because of his architectural background, and also for his fascination with highly-technical drawings. He did an excellent TedTalk about his process for creating the book, Rome Antics, which was such a creative way to represent the city that he loves, Rome. I happen to love San Francisco, too, so I wouldn’t rule out a compilation of the City by the Bay!
WB: Out of all of the animals, why did you decide to make Big Mo an iguana? How did you come up with the name Big Mo?
Mo’s name is short for his ‘momentum’, which gets the better of him. There is this notion in global thinking right now about the exponential growth of the human population, and the dramatic effect it has on our finite planet. Mo is a symbol for this, and his momentum takes him so quickly from unassuming pet to… well, I guess you have to read it! For younger readers, the name “Mo” easily translates to the basic concept of “MORE!”
WB: Are you working on a sequel to Big Mo and if so, any little hint on what he will be up to in this book or what theme/direction it will take?
MP: I’m pretty swamped with promotion for Big Mo, but I do have an inkling of an idea for a series, perhaps introducing some new characters to the mix! I’d like to write a story focusing on some aspect of ocean conservation, but I’m not sure yet if that will be Book #2.
WB: You recently attended the Vegas Supernatural convention. Was that your first? How did you like it?
MP: The Vegas Con was my first full weekend experience. I had stopped by an event in downtown San Francisco a few years back, which did not prepare me for the scale of the Vegas event! There is a remarkable community vibe to the convention, and everyone was so kind and enthusiastic. I really enjoyed meeting each person, and signing a unique copy of Big Mo to be shared with their kids, cousins, godchildren, friends, etc. Most people had an interesting story to tell of their own, too!
WB: As you know, my grandson Anakin is a huge fan of “MoMo.” Any chance you will be coming out with any Big Mo toys or other items to go along with the books? (–Becky)
MP: Anakin is such a sweetheart! I can appreciate that children form bonds with characters from books and film, but in my case, I will need to align with a larger publishing company to fund such a venture as manufacturing toys (or perhaps run a Kickstarter??). In the meantime, I will be creating activities and “teaching guides” to supplement the story, which I intend to link to my website when they are complete. I am also working on a special art project – a plush Mo that I will take along to school and bookstore readings!
WB: Are you working on any other projects? Perhaps other books, children’s or other genres?
MP: The release of Big Mo is only two months young, so I am really preoccupied with spreading the word in any manner possible! There has been a fantastic response to the story, and I am so encouraged to write more children’s picture books in the near future. My wildest dream would be to apply for the Caldecott Award some day, so I’m guaranteed to exercise my picture book muscles for a long time to come!
Big Mo is available almost exclusively at Amazon.com. Click here for more information.
You can follow Megan Padalecki for updates via Twitter at https://twitter.com/BigMoBook