Author Interview – Andrew Ferguson

For this Thursday’s Author Interview, I invited author Andrews Ferguson to a talk about his newest children’s book, Detective Mo and the Mystery of the Stolen Cake.

Andrew is known for his Detective Mo children books written for children age 4-7, but he is currently working on no less than two YA Fantasy novels, and have a few more planned.

You can read more about Andrew on his website and follow his work on social media.


Detective Mo has been invited to a birthday party but someone has stolen the cake. Can you help her to find out who?

Detective Mo and the Mystery of the Stolen Cake

Questions About Writing

What inspired you to start writing?

Reading. Ever since I was little, I always loved books, especially Roald Dahl, and would try and make my own books which were near rip-offs of whatever I happened to be reading at the time. Then when I was a teenager I went through a phase of writing fan fiction. It was quite a natural progression from there into writing books and short stories for publication. 

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Characters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short story, a picture book or a 10 volume epic fantasy, a story will stand or fall on the strength of its characters. They should be distinctive (dialogue is a good place to establish this), seasoned with a good mixture of personality traits and above all, they should have specific goals rooted in a clear motive. You can have the most detailed settings or artful prose you like, but there’s no story without clearly defined characters  

Plotter or pantser or somewhere in between?

A bit of both, for sure! I usually start by sketching out a few ‘zero drafts’ just to get to know my characters and settings, then I plan out a more detailed plot which I use to write my first draft. The first draft is inevitably altered as I continue to write and learn new things about my characters and the world they live in, so it’s usually full of plot holes but by the time it’s done I’ve got enough material to refine my original plan and then redraft it again. A convoluted approach, perhaps, but it works for me.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Finding time to do it. I’ve got two small kids and a full time job so I’m forced to do most of my writing on the bus.

What’s the hardest scene to write?

Fight scenes. Too many words spoils the pacing, making sustained fights hard to describe in any detail. Fortunately I don’t have that problem in books for younger children. 

Questions About Your Books

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

I really wanted to encourage critical thinking in the reader. I’m very conscious my kids are growing up in a world full of opinions (and even bald-faced lies) propounded as fact, so when I wrote Detective Mo and the Mystery of the Stolen Cake, I deliberately made half the witnesses give Mo objective facts while the other half gave her nothing but misleading opinions, and then encouraged the reader to help Mo distinguish between the two. Perchance future generations will be able to separate objective fact from subjective ideas. 

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Ah-ha, well if you look carefully inside Detective Mo and the Mystery of the Stolen Cake, you will see I’ve actually hidden a little hint to that effect in one of the pictures. 

I’ve got a few ideas for Mo. I’m keen to put her in new situations and to challenge the reader with different types of puzzles for her to solve so hopefully it won’t ever feel like I’m repeating myself. I think there is a real likelihood Santa Claus is going to hire her to solve a mystery soon. 

What were the key challenges you faced when writing your books?

Keeping it age-appropriate. I had originally wanted to introduce an arch-nemesis for Mo; a fellow detective (Detective Joe!) who was her intellectual equal, and who appeared to be helping Mo solve the mystery when, in fact, he himself was the cake thief and was deliberately corrupting the evidence. I quite liked it, but it made the story way too complicated and dark for the age group so I wrote him out of it altogether (though there’s a little easter egg relating to him in one or two of the illustrations if you look carefully) and made the basic plot much more straight-forward.

Are you working on anything new at present?

Quite a few things, in fact. My main project I’m pushing to get finished is a YA fantasy novel set in a world loosely inspired by Aristotelian cosmology and the Final Fantasy series of games. That’s on its fifth and hopefully final draft now. 

Also I’ve got another picture book due out this year entitled Rollo, The Bravest Chicken in the World. It’s written in rhyme, and tells the story of an adventure-loving chicken who defies his more timid and conservative family to go off on grand exploratory adventures.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

I’ve got hundreds! Remember I said I had to remove Detective Joe from Detective Mo and the Mystery of the Stolen Cake because the story was too complicated? Well, I fully intend to write something along similar lines for older children/young teenagers. I’ll use different characters obviously but the same basic idea of a detective who is hired to solve the crime he himself has committed. 

Questions About Reading

What are you reading now?

Words of Exile and Illusion by Ursula Le Guin. 

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

A bit of a mish-mash really: Roald Dahl, John Steinbeck and Brandson Sanderson are some of the first names that spring to mind. 

Do you prefer paper or digital books?

Paper. Digital is fine and all, but I’m one of those people who likes to sniff their books before they read them. 

Do you prefer stand-alone novels or series?

Stand-alone. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great series out there, but I like each individual book to be self-contained enough that you feel the satisfaction of finishing when you get to the end. That can be hard to do over and over with the same characters without feeling like you’re repeating yourself.

What genres do you prefer to read? 

A bit of everything really but mostly sci-fi/fantasy, historical fiction and murder/mysteries. I tend to steer clear of horror and romance. 

Personal Questions

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’ve been pretty into playing my ukulele lately, though I spend most of every hour God sends either at my day job or looking after my kids. I used to be in a band (I was the bassist and singer for that) but I’ve no time for that now. 

What is the best part of your day?

Home time, every day.

Favorite artist and favorite song?

Definitely Queen. I am a serious Queen anorak. Hard to pick a favourite song, probably one of their less well known ones like March of the Black Queen or something else from the ‘Queen II’ album… or ‘Sheer Heart Attack’… or ‘The Miracle’… or maybe ‘Innuendo’. I can’t choose!

March of the Black Queen was the first song that came to mind so we’ll go with that. 

Do you prefer tea or coffee or something else?

Tea. Nice and strong, with just a dribble of milk (added after the water, not before, thank you very much). Absolutely no sugar. 

Do you ever google yourself?

No, but if I did I would probably just get a load of results about a certain controversial figure with the same first name as myself who used to be married to a certain lady with the same surname as myself. Now that I think about it, maybe I should start working under a pseudonym.

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