The Making of Detective Mo

It’s funny to think that I’ve got two children’s books out. I never thought of myself as a children’s author. I certainly never thought I would ever write and illustrate a children’s picture book.

That all changed one fateful day, on a day like any other in the middle of 2021, when my 4 year old announced to me that one of her dolls was called Detective Molly and I became inspired.

The doll in question had a rather checkered past. Before she was a detective, Molly was a princess who lost her dress almost immediately after moving into our home (I believe it is still languishing in a toy box somewhere in my daughter’s room) and was once caught in a rather compromising position with one of Yorkshire’s favourite sons.

I loosely based Mo’s appearance on my daughter’s doll, making only a few minor changes (mainly to her attire, er-hem). Her ankle length teal skirt was loosely inspired by the teal gown the Molly doll wore before the Postman Pat scandal (let’s call it ‘Patgate’) but the rest of her outfit was, unsurprisingly, inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

Then came the really fun bit: writing the actual story.

I’m a big fan of classic detective fiction like Sherlock Holmes and Poirot and I decided to make Detective Mo a pre-school friendly take on the same genre: with a private detective, hired to solve a particular mystery; a limited number of suspects; one or two vital clues that give the reader the opportunity to solve the mystery themselves before revealing the truth in the story’s climax.

A good idea in theory, but a tough job when you’re aiming to write only sixteen pages worth of narrative. Every single page had to count, and so I began by writing a page outline in which I detailed what had to happen in each page. The outline for Detective Mo and the Missing Prince ended up something like this:

  1. Introduce Mo
  2. Call to action
  3. First vital clue
  4. Detail the problem
  5. Introduce suspect 1
  6. Introduce suspect 2
  7. Introduce suspect 3
  8. Second vital clue
  9. Interview suspect 1
  10. Interview suspect 2
  11. Interview suspect 3
  12. Third vital clue
  13. Mo figures out where the prince is
  14. Mo explains what happened — but who is responsible?
  15. Mo reveals who dunnit
  16. Joke/denouement

Writing the story was fairly straight forward after that.

The drawings were another matter. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I was inspired by the bold and simple artwork found in Roger Hargreaves’ much loved Mr Men and Little Miss books. I felt fairly confident I could do something vaguely worthy of them, and so decided to adopt a similar style: dense outlines, simple shapes and bold colours. I don’t think I’m going to win any awards for my drawing but I was pleased with how it turned out nonetheless.

Most importantly of all, my daughter was very enthusiastic about what I had created. Had her response been merely lukewarm, I doubt I would have had the confidence to let another human being see it but I decided to self-publish it on Amazon.

Imagine my surprise to hear other kids parents telling me they liked it too.

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