interview with A. W. Flaherty, author of picture book The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster

Interviewed by Cheryl Rainfield

Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating

written by A. W. Flaherty, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Pub date: September 2007
ISBN-10: 0618556443, ISBN-13: 978-0618556441

A picky eater on a long boat trip dumps her oatmeal over the side each morning, and each morning, a sea worm gobbles it up, becoming larger and larger until he’s known as the Lock Ness Monster.

A. W. Flaherty graciously agreed to do an interview with me. Her humor and frankness make the interview an enjoyable read!

A. W. Flaherty & her twins

Why did you write The Luck of the Lock Ness Monster?

The true story? I wrote it for my twins’ fourth birthday, but when I got to the drawings I realized that somewhere in medical school I had forgotten how to draw. Except brain slices and stuff; I can still draw those. Anyway, I told this sad story to the editor of my second book, The Midnight Disease. She said “You poor thing. But why not just get it published? Then they will hire someone to do the drawings.” She took it over to her friend in Children’s department, who eventually acquired the book and got me the wonderful Scott Magoon, who draws better than I could ever dream of, even in my long-ago prime.

That’s great that you had that connection.

In your book, Katerina-Elizabeth hates oatmeal, and your descriptions of oatmeal from her viewpoint make it sound completely unappealing. Why did you pick oatmeal as the food Katerina-Elizabeth doesn’t like?

Oatmeal is like slug slime, only lumpier. Those of you who eat that instant stuff out of packets, that is not nearly as bad as the real thing, Scottish steel-cut oatmeal. My parents would boil it for 45 minutes before we ate it. You have to, or you can’t digest it. While it was boiling it would belch big oatmeal bubbles of steam into the air.

(Laughing.) That sounds awful! I don’t like oatmeal, either.

What has being a picky eater, and having one child who is a picky eater, meant to you? Did you ever feel misunderstood?

My parents were pretty decent about it. They made sure I got enough vitamins and iron and “try one bite” and so on, but they didn’t force me to do anything really horrible. Even in my 20s, I’d go home for vacation and my parents and sister would be eating crab and Chinese food and so on, and I would make myself a Skippy peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Pepperidge Farm white bread. I didn’t actually like that much either, but it was way better than the things normal people ate.

I love the humor in your book. Did the humor come easily to you, or was it hard to write?

It is hard for me not to write humorously. You may think that is a joke, but it is not a joke when you are a scientist. My collaborators go through my papers and take all the jokes out, and I really try to sound dignified and objective, but then I accidentally stick some jokes in the final draft. There is a German name for brain damage that causes inappropriate jokiness: Wittelsucht.

Well, your humor is perfect in a picture book.

What was the hardest thing for you to write in this book (a character, the beginning or ending)? Why?

The hardest thing was responding to someone’s request that I make the girl and the monster have a more touching relationship. They said that readers expect that of a kid – animal story. To me, this book was not Lassie, or Old Yaller. Anyway, in kid-animal stories, something bad always happens to the dog. In my story, I just wanted the animal to get bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s a different genre.

If there’s an idea or message you hope your readers take away from your book, what is it?

Healthy eating is important – I certainly know that as a doctor — but parents are highly anxious and overdo it. If you bug your kids to eat lima beans, they will probably hate them even more. If that’s possible.

What are some of your favourite picture books or children’s books?

I could list 100 off the top of my head. Where the Wild Things Are. Jessie Wilcox Smith’s illustrations for A Child’s Garden of Verses. Anything illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, especially Noah’s Ark. The drawing of Babar’s dream in (I think) Babar the King. Little Nemo in Slumberland. N.C. Wyeth. Johnny Crow’s Garden – whoever wrote that. I like all the O’Neill illustrations in the Wizard of Oz books, even though they are so fluffy. Edward Gorey. The kids’ biography of Frida Kahlo, with illustrations by Ana Juan. Mary Nazarian. Ivan Bilibnin. Marjorie Flack….

It’s clear you love books!

Is there anything you would like to tell readers?

Oh, I like to give advice to anyone on any subject, at great length. It is a little problem I have.

Thank you, Alice. 🙂

The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster is a funny, entertaining story about picky eaters, sea monsters, and oatmeal. Check it out and find out for yourself!

You can read my complete review of The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster here:

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