Interview with Molly Muldoon about "The Animal Queen"
Because The Cardboard Kingdom was created with such an amazing group of collaborators, I wanted to take some time and interview each one about their experience working on our book! Here's my discussion with Molly Muldoon about her story "The Animal Queen."
CHAD: Among the wide cast of characters in The Cardboard Kingdom, the Animal Queen is notable because, at the start of her story, she is rather entitled and imperious, and she certainly doesn’t want anyone else playing in her own private kingdom. Why did you want to tell her story?
MOLLY: Animal Queen, like for most of us in this book, is a reflection of my own childhood. I was an only child that was fairly sheltered and unsure how to (or if I even wanted to) share with new friends from preschool and kindergarten. The Animal Queen is a bit more aggressive about it than I ever was but I think it’s a fairly universal only child experience that I wanted to capture. Her bark is worse than her bite, of course.
CHAD: I believe that you had your own childhood menagerie of stuffed animals, is that right? Did you play with them like the Animal Queen does?
MOLLY: I very much did have my own menagerie. I never really had battles with them like Animal Queen does but it WAS a rule that whenever I got a new stuffed animal, we had a party to introduce them to the rest. This party included my taking the new stuffed animal up to every other stuffed animal and personally introducing them one by one. My poor parents. The stuff they put up with.
CHAD: Who was your “Sir Rawley” as a kid?
MOLLY: I had a little dalmatian from 101 Dalmatians named Rolly that I took everywhere. There are plenty of pictures of me wandering around, that sweet beat-up dog beside me. He’s still somewhere at my parent’s house.
CHAD: One of the cool things about The Cardboard Kingdom is that each kid continues to grow and play with the others even after their specific story ends. The Animal Queen goes through a lot even after the story you initially wrote for her! What did you think about her joining the other kids and searching for her “Captain of the Guard”?
MOLLY: I thought it was very interesting as venturing outside of her yard would be incredibly worrying for her. I think it speaks to how much she likes Seth and values their friendship. I’m also a huge fan of the interstitial artwork you put in with her having a tea party with Seth and seeing the Mad Scientist’s redesigns for Sir Rawley. She’s still not quite sure of her place with everyone else yet but those moments are very nice.
CHAD: At many points of working on this book, you offered a ton of insight into the publishing world and how it works. What can you tell me about your past experience in the world of books?
MOLLY: The one constant in my life has always been books. Even when I was working as a teacher, I kept a pretty prolific book blog. Yeah, I’ve been an independent bookseller, did some short stints in publishing, and now I’m surrounded by books every day at work. I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve done; there’s a reason I’ve never really strayed from the book industry. And now I’m creating them! It’s all very exciting.
CHAD: Over the course of creating The Cardboard Kingdom you went off to library school and you’ve already finished the entire program, right? Are you now working as a librarian? What can you tell me about that? Has your new job changed your own approach to telling children’s stories?
MOLLY: I have finished! I’m officially a librarian! Which is pretty fun. I’ve been working as a children’s librarian for the past few months, although it’s maternity cover so it’s not a permanent position. I’ve loved it. I get to connect kids with books in a new way, as well as create super fun events that let them have a good time for free. I’d say it’s affected my storytelling in that I’m around kids way more often now, chatting with them and seeing what they’re interested in. It’s really easy to think ‘kids will respond to this’ without ever really talking to an actual kid. They keep me honest, in a way, and it’s incredibly helpful.
CHAD: Is it totally surreal to see your own books in your library?
MOLLY: It is! My other book is directly at eye level across the room from one of the desks I sit at most of the day and it’s bizarre to see it just casually sitting there. And sometimes it’s not there! Which means someone checked it out! It’s all very exciting. As well as seeing people picking up my friends’ books. I’m always chuffed when I see a kid walking about with a friends’ book under their arm.
CHAD: The Cardboard Kingdom is actually your second published comic, right? You wrote the wonderful Dead Weight with our mutual friend Terry Blas, which came out this spring! What can you tell me about working on Dead Weight? And what other comics projects do you have in the works??
MOLLY: Dead Weight was super fun because I got to co-write it with a friend, which meant a lot of hanging out, eating sandwiches and typing. It also means I got to share the whole experience with someone, which has been absolutely lovely. Along with our wonderful artist, Matthew Seely, we’ve really enjoyed seeing the response to the book. Plus, we got to write about something super fun: a weight loss summer camp murder mystery. Getting to tell a body positive story and seeing it resonate with people has been really great. I’m currently working on a project for Oni’s Limerence Press and have a few pitches in the works. Hopefully you’ll see more from me soon!