September 15, 2017 by Daniel John Johnsson

Megan Everett Skarsgård

Megan is a film producer and sceenwriter who now also made her debut as a children's book author with "Banned From The Zoo" - in which little Emma and her auntie Meg don't care about norms.

What can readers expect from picking up “Banned From The Zoo” for their children ... or even for themselves, for that matter?
– I would say that first off the illustrations by Maria are magical. The amount of beautiful details that she has added into the drawings is really so much fun. In terms of the story itself, I think everyone will hopefully have a good time.

It would be great if kids got a laugh as well as the adults in their lives.

The book was first announced in the spring. How long have you been working on it for?
– The funny part is, I wrote the story about two years ago. This has been a long process. I still can’t quite believe that the book is done and out in the public. I think part of why it took so long, is that I wanted to work with Maria and she has her own projects going. When she agreed to do the book, I was more than happy to wait for some time to open up in her calendar.

I really enjoyed watching the characters and the story come to life in each new sketch.

How do you feel now that it’s out?
– We just had a book release party for it, so I can best be described as tired. In all seriousness, I’m delighted, who wouldn’t be? I get to work with the quality of Rabén & Sjögren and Maria.

You are of course referring to Maria Nilsson Thore, who illustrated the book. How did that collaboration come about?
– My editor at Rabén & Sjögren asked me which illustrators I would be interested in approaching for the book. I have two young sons and I’ve been reading books done by Maria for a few years now. I love the warmth and the small details she brings to each project. I also appreciate how wonderful she in drawing animals. Once Maria had agreed, I let her do her work.

I think if you choose the right illustrator you have to put your faith in them and let them just get on with it. We had some conferring over how Auntie Meg was going to look and what she might carry around in her bag.

I just happened to stumble over some 4-5 year old cooking videos starring non other than yourself ... and after seeing them it was no surprise to me that the book would have a real sense of humour to it as well. It’s a really fun and charming story. What attracted you to make a book for children in the first place?
– Oh, you found those? I started those mainly to prove a point about something. That’s another story for another time. I have previously worked in Advertising in Ireland. I think most copy writers are just waiting to write something that doesn’t involve a sleazy tagline. For me I started dreaming of doing a children’s book. It’s been gestating in my head, waiting for the right time to spill out of my brain.

I’m happy with the result and no cheesy sales slogans in sight.

I can’t shake this feeling that “Meg” might actually be “Megan” ...
– I haven’t been very inventive with the names. My poor niece is such a good sport about all of this. I have a big family back in the states and my niece Emma came to stay with us here in Sweden a few years back. She was in her twenties and I thought she should get out and experience everything that Europe had to offer.

I even dressed her up in one of my leopard print shirts and sent her to parties with friends of my step-children. She was very patient but it all wasn’t her thing. After she returned to the States I had to reflect a little that perhaps not everyone has the same idea of how to grab life that I do. I wrote the book as a tribute to Emma and to acknowledge the absurdity of my antics.

There often are a message presented in these kind of books, a life lesson if you will?
– I struggled a bit with the theme. Because this is a book with two female characters, I was hesitant about saying as girls or women we must compromise. That’s something I that can take on a negative context. Having said that, I think this book is more about listening to each other. It’s something perhaps we need more of in the world today...

Listening to each other and actually hearing what another person is saying.

It’s really the 6-year old niece Emma that comes off as the adult one, while Meg still has this childish sense of adventure?
– Oh that is straight from my niece being more of an adult than I am. I think children can at times be more grown up than the adults in their lives. There are times where I am spinning in circles looking for my phone, I have toothpaste down the front of my shirt and my children pat me on the arm, find my phone and steer me to my coffee cup. I don’t think we should just assume things about the roles we allocate to the different ages groups. Often my children are far wiser than I am.

How would you describe Auntie Meg yourself?
– Auntie is someone who loves the taste of life. She long ago accepted that she would travel the world and peak into every nook and cranny there was to find. She is also very independent. It’s a big of a struggle for her to connect with her niece that she adores. She has to figure out how to let another person into her world.

I like her but I can imagine she would be exhausting to have stay over for the weekend.

Also being a film producer and screenwriter, was there any part of you that imagined how this could be adapted into a film?
– Naturally, my mind automatically goes to how it could look as a script in some way, shape or form. It’s been really pleasant to have the two separate aspects of writing. Doing work in the film industry is exhilarating but it’s also at times, soul crushing. Working on the Auntie Meg book has been a beautiful nook of light that I have been able keep separate from my "day job".

Will the two worlds meet in the future? I can’t say but for the moment I’m happy as things are.

How is the process different from writing a screenplay in comparison to a children’s book?
– For me, they share the most important thing, you are telling a story. That’s really the gist of it. They are two different mediums of communication but it boils down to the same thing. Each has it’s challenges. In a screenplay you need to keep thinking of how this can play out visually whereas with a children’s book you need to keep in mind a parent reading it to their child at bedtime.

With both you wonder, does my audience appreciate what I am trying to convey?

It would be interesting to hear some about where you have found inspiration for the book. Is there any elements in the book that came about in any particular way? Perhaps something you saw in real life and wanted to add in the book for example?
– It really goes back to my niece and wanting to convey a particular feeling I had when she returned back to the States. I have always wished that I could swim with otters though...

For the time being it’s only out in Swedish, but I’m guessing there is a English-language version around?
– My Swedish is abysmal, though I keep trying at it. I wrote the story in English and my gorgeous agent in the UK is working on getting it out in my mother tongue. It’s been a brilliant translation by Lotta Olsson. A good translation is crucial and she did a bang up job.

I’m also guessing that a lot of children will really enjoy these characters and would like to see their return sometime in the future. Are there any plans on making anymore books following Auntie Meg’s endeavours?
– Have you been reading my emails? Are you a wizard? Yes, we do have another adventure in the works. I’m doing some editing work on it now and then hopefully we will see it in the not too distant future.

I mean there are so many places for Auntie and Emma to get kicked out of, right?

Are there any other projects that you are working on at the moment? I heard something about a sci-fi show..
– Things come and go in my other line of work. I have dabbled in sci-fi but at the moment I am working on a Håkan Nesser feature adaptation and a project with the Chinese director Ran Huang. I’m excited about both.

Getting back to the cooking show ... what would Auntie Meg cook for dinner if given the chance?
– That cooking show will haunt me wont it? Auntie Meg, I’m not sure she can cook anything that isn’t over a campfire.

I think she loves being invited to dinner more than cooking it!


Megan Everett Skarsgård is an screen-writer, filmproducer and now children's book author from Ohio, USA. Banned From The Zoo is her first book as well as the first chapter in which we get to follow aunt Meg's shenanigans. Get it at Bokus, Adlibris or Akademibokhandeln.


You can follow Megan's updates on auntie Meg and Emma's various adventures together at Facebook.

For more details about past and future film-projects IMDB is always the place to go. Check it!