Simply 7 with Mirka Hokkanen & Giveaway: MOSSY AND TWEED: DOUBLE TROUBLE

Mossy and Tweed have a sequel!  And it’s just as funny as the first (if not more so!).

Mirka squareMirka Hokkanen has visited my blog a few times.  She is the author/illustrator of Mossy and TweedKitty and Cat, and the illustrator of several books for children. Growing up in Finland, Mirka imagined that gnomes hid behind tree stumps and under roots—just out of eyesight. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Double Trouble CoverMOSSY AND TWEED: DOUBLE TROUBLE takes one of my favorite characters from the first book and gives him a story: the Wise Old Unicorn.  And if you read the first book, then this isn’t a spoiler, but … he isn’t really a unicorn.  He’s a goat with one horn.  SO when a real unicorn comes on the scene and impresses everyone with his heroic abilities (etc, etc.), Wise Old Unicorn feels like an old hat.  This story is full of laughs and will engage readers every bit as much as the first one did.  And I can’t believe we just saw the first one in January!  Here we are 11 months later with a sequel that Mirka has both written and illustrated (and done so very well–this isn’t a weak sequel by any stretch of the imagination).  That is astonishing!

Welcome back Mirka!

Me: The Wise Old Unicorn was one of my favorite discoveries in CRAZY FOR COCONUTS.  What gave you the idea to have him have his own story?

HOFFMirka: I really liked Wise Old Unicorn as a character, and wanted to give him some more space in the series. I also really like drawing horses, and had been looking for an idea to incorporate a horse character into one of my stories, so when I had the visual image of a muscular unicorn arriving on the scene in slow motion like David Hasselhoff in Baywatch, it gave me such a chuckle I had to flesh it into a whole story. 

Me: Ha!  That’s hilarious.  You originally thought of the first Mossy and Tweed story as a picture book.  When your agent suggested it become an early reader graphic novel, were you already thinking of a series with these characters?  When did the idea for a second story become necessary?  Was it part of the pitch?

Mirka: It was very early on that we started thinking of series potential with Mossy and Tweed. I think my mind in general goes into that mode, when I like the characters and want to spend more time with them. Laurel, my agent, wanted to pitch it as a series, so I had several story sequel ideas included in the pitch when it went out the gate. When pitching series, it’s always better to have several ideas for sequels, so if the editor likes the main book, they get a taste of what else your mind is thinking and they have the option to choose the strongest idea. So far we have pitched all my books as series, and all of them have been picked up as such.  

Me: Given that this is an early reader, do you have to worry about your word choice as you’re writing?  Are you given any guidance about that?

Mirka: Yes, it was a lot of work to reword the first book in the series, because I had already written the whole script when we pitched it. When we simplified the language, we did lose some flavor of the way the characters spoke, but at the same time it was also important to me to make the book accessible to younger readers.

For guidelines, my editor shared Holiday House’s approach to early readers, and the general guidelines were to look at sight word lists for K-1 and try to keep the words at about that level, keep dialogue short, and let the action tell a lot of the story. It wasn’t very strict beyond that and I felt it was easy to follow.

Me: I was surprised to see the characters heading to the “beach” at the beginning of the story.  Given that you have a map at the front of your books, I shouldn’t have been confused.  What made you decide to turn the pond into a beach scene to start off your story?  Were there any challenges to writing your story with a world already established by that map?

pond in finlandMirka: This is where my Finnish background comes to play. LOL We have lots of lakes and ponds in Finland and many have public “beaches”, which are often some sort of grassy or wooded areas with maybe a little bit of sand at the edge of the water. To us that’s a beach and a lot of folks will spend time there with kids in the summer, so to me it felt natural that Gnome Woods residents would also enjoy the pond in the summer.

Baywatch unicornWith the idea of the new unicorn arriving in slow motion through water, I thought having the forest animals enjoying a summer day at the pond would make for a funny and dramatic opening act.

When I drew the map, I had already envisioned the pond as a beach location and had drawn sand around the edges. I also set up several other locations/details, that could possibly play into future books (like mountain caves, or scraggly tree by pond), so in that sense the map was helpful to have.

Me:  The first book had a huge learning curve for you (new genre, new technical art tools, etc.).  Yet here we are almost a year later with a new early reader graphic novel in the same series.  Was it easier to work on this one after all the work you did to figure out the first one?  Did the book get done more quickly?

Mirka: I had about the same amount of time to work on both books. I turned in finals 6 months apart for book #1 and #2, but the way the releases worked out, they are released 11 months apart, so it took longer for book #2 to come out! But a holiday release makes a lot of sense, and I hope Mossy and Tweed find their ways under a lot of trees this Christmas. 

It was so much smoother to create the second book! I already knew what my editor wanted, and what the page count and format was, so we had minimal edits, and everything came together so much more efficiently. I was already familiar with how to draw the characters, so it made sketching/inking/filling in colors faster too. But I won’t lie and say it wasn’t a relief to turn finals in. Making a graphic novel is a ton of work, even if it is only 40 pages!  

Mossy and Tweed Opening Spread

Me:  I bet!  What is one thing that still managed to surprise you in the creation process for this story?

Mirka: How tedious the day of a graphic novel illustrator could be. I thought I had been really smart with my choices on what to include in my illustrations this time around, but I was caught off guard again at how tedious some spreads (the blackberry bushes!) were to ink and color.

Mossy and Tweed Unicorn vs WOUMe: Have these early reader graphic novels had a successful sales record?  Will there be a third in the series?

Mirka: I think in general the series has done well for Holiday House. Early reader graphic novels are still seeing a rise in sales, and one of the titles in the series has won several awards (Owl and Penguin by Vikram Madan). Fingers crossed for Mossy and Tweed for the next award season!

I don’t know how well the sales have gone yet because the first book in the series didn’t publish until earlier this year, and book sales numbers show up several months later, so we are still waiting to see. I’ve expressed interest in continuing the series and will wait and see how the series starts and if the publisher sees potential to continue it.

If anyone reading wants to pitch in and help support a Mossy and Tweed #3 come to life, some free ways to help are:

  • Request Mossy and Tweed at your local and your kids school libraries.
  • Borrow the books if they are available
  • Leave a review or even stars on Amazon or Goodreads if you have had the chance to read the books.
  • Or if you have another extra minute, post a quick photo and thoughts about the book on social media.

Those are great suggestions Mirka.  Thank you for stopping by my blog again today.

But wait, dear readers!  There’s more!  Mirka has agreed to giveaway one copy to one lucky winner (US contestants only).  You can enter the rafflecopter here.  Good luck!

Also, don’t miss Mirka’s free printables that she made to go with the book found here!

activity sheet examples

4 thoughts on “Simply 7 with Mirka Hokkanen & Giveaway: MOSSY AND TWEED: DOUBLE TROUBLE

  1. Gnome Woods is a great setting for a series! I can’t wait to see more goings on here. I see a bright future here for the characters and you. Big cheers, Mirka!

Leave a Reply