When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer? / What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
I wish I could remember the moment I realized I liked writing…but I honestly think I was too young to know! I do recall writing a non-fiction story about deer when I was in about second grade –with illustrations. By age 10 or so I was writing full-on fiction, and the first page of my fourth grade “book” entitled The Five Tiny People Who Lived in the Washbasket is on my website, tonigallagherink.com, as is the first page of a Nancy Drew-like mystery I wrote in sixth grade. Recently, in Atlanta, I went to the former apartment of Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone with the Wind), and I was thrilled to see that she was writing at that age also.
Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen?
Though I’ve had a long career (over twenty years) in reality television, I’ve definitely always wanted to write a book that would get published. Over the years, I’ve written all kinds of things: screenplays, TV scripts, even a book for grown-ups, but nothing much happened with those. However, when I got the idea for Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell, I had a feeling it had the potential to be published. I worked hard writing it, but I also learned a lot about the business of children’s books. I went to retreats and conferences, and joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Then I had to get an agent, and she had to sell it. It definitely didn’t just happen; there was a ton of work involved beforehand.
What was the inspiration for your book?
My dad was in the Air Force and traveled a lot, sometimes bringing me souvenirs. I’m not sure where it came from, but I ended up with a joke voodoo doll, that had funny ailments on it, like “body odor” and “toe fungus.” Then, a couple years ago, the eleven-year-old daughter or a friend was playing with this doll at my house. She wanted to use it on kids at school, which I said was not a good idea. However, I did realize it as a good idea for a story! So I went for it.
Describe your main character in six words.
Cleo is: upbeat, over-enthusiastic, awkward, imaginative, hopeful…and maybe a little bit stubborn.
Describe the world you’ve created in six words.
Real LA with potential for magic.
What scene was your favorite to write?
Once Cleo and Samantha decide to use the positive happy voodoo doll to make themselves popular, it means they need to try to make mean girl Madison Paddington unpopular. So when Madison does a presentation and feels the unavoidable urge to fart, she starts farting uncontrollably, and it’s fun for everybody - Cleo and Sam, the other kids in the class, and me, the writer. Everyone but Madison, I guess!
What scene was the hardest for you to write?
I’m a lighthearted person and love writing humor. So when Cleo’s millipede dies, there’s a funeral, followed by a heart to heart talk between Cleo and her father. It touches on the death of Cleo’s mother without Cleo even realizing it. That was a little hard to write…but very satisfying.
What are you working on now?
I’ve already finished the second book in the Twist My Charm series. It’s called Love Potion #11 and is coming out from Random House in summer of 2016, I think. In the hopes that there will be a third Cleo book, I’m working on an outline and the first couple chapters. If it comes to fruition, it may take place at a summer camp and include the potential of treasure and ghosts. I also have fun ideas for another middle grade book and a YA one as well, so we’ll see!
Are there any authors or books you recommend?
I just re-read To Kill a Mockingbird, followed by the recently-released Go Set A Watchman. There’s controversy over whether it should have been published or not but, as a writer, it was fascinating to read the original story Harper Lee chose to tell, and how much it had to change to become the classic we know today. Whether you end up loving or hating Go Set A Watchman, reading it is a great writing exercise.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Right now I’m one of the executive producers of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo, but when I have time off between seasons, I try to take a big trip. I’ve hiked to Machu Picchu in Peru and river rafted in Chile. Most recently I’ve been to Cambodia and Cuba. But I love traveling close to home too. Living in Los Angeles, it’s really easy to travel to fantastic cities within hours by car or plane. Exploring LA is great too. Right now I’m answering this question in a cool coffeehouse in a neighborhood I’ve never visited before. It says in the bio on my book jacket that I love finding the magic in LA - and that’s definitely true.