Molly Shannon has created quite a few memorable characters over the course of her career. Who could ever forget Mary Katherine Gallagher, the pit-sniffing protagonist of Superstar, for example? But Shannon is showing her sweeter (and less sweaty) side with the release of her first children’s book, Tilly the Trickster. We spoke with Shannon about being a mom, making people laugh, and her new turn as a children’s book author — with a few tricks up her sleeve.
You just penned your first children’s book, Tilly the Trickster. What was the impetus for writing it?
I would often tell my kids Stella and Nolan bedtime stories. The made-up stories were about this family called the Mahoney’s and all of their crazy hijinks. My kids loved the stories so much that I started taking notes of what story elements they liked, and then put the ideas together for this book. The main character, Tilly, is a fun-loving, mischievous girl who often gets in trouble. I love that she’s a spunky, strong-willed character.
Were you a trickster growing up?
Not always, but I did have my moments. My mother died when I was four-years-old, and for awhile, I went to live with my aunt. I was in a dark place, and I remember one day I was waiting for the school bus with some other kids. I don’t know why, but I told them that the bus had already come, and they started to walk to school. The bus came, I got on, and as it drove past them, I waved! I couldn’t believe that they actually believed me!
What were Stella and Nolan’s reactions to the book?
They loved it. They actually helped me in creating it. I showed them book illustrations as they came in, and they helped me choose the best ones. I read the book to them a lot, too. After reading it to them so often, they would say, “Mom, enough!” But they were by far my best test market group!
What’s the best thing about being a working mom?
I love being an actress because I get to express that creative part of myself. I had dreamt of being in the movies and on Saturday Night Live, and I did both! That in itself was so fulfilling, but then I got married and had kids, and my whole life really came together. I am so happy that I built my career before I had children, though, because when they came along, I was really ready.
What’s your ideal date with your husband, Fritz?
We go out often, but our days of late night dates are over. Now, we get out of the house by five, squeeze in dinner and a movie, and if we’re lucky, we’re in bed by 10 p.m. This way, we’re ready for those 6:00 a.m. calls for Mommy and Daddy!
How do you balance work with family time?
Like any mom, it’s a real struggle. I think it’s a personal thing that you figure out once you’re in the thick of it. I find that I’ve become really thrifty with time. Now that both kids are in school, I can get so much done! I’ve also become super organized, so I make the most of every moment. And when the kids come home, it’s all about them.
How do you find your “you” time?
I run every day and do yoga. It makes me a better mom because it’s calming. I still love to write, and this time I’m writing for the grown-ups; I’m currently developing a show for HBO. The premise is about a cloistered nun who decides to leave the convent and go into the world of dating. I liken it to a woman getting out of a long-term relationship, but in this case, it’s with Jesus Christ. It’s a fun idea, and yes, it’s a comedy.
Molly’s Tips for Having Fun Kid Time
We adopted a rescue dog named Cinnamon, a lab/corgi mix. Playing with her brings the family closer together. Plus, she’s so small, stumpy and adorable!
We love to put on costumes and pretend to be different characters. My kids get a real taste of what I do as an actress. We have so many wigs in our home!
My son, Nolan, adores playing with LEGO’s, so we’ll get down on the floor and build together. Sometimes we follow the manual or if we’re naughty, we don’t!
Because of Tilly the Trickster, my daughter Stella has become inspired to write her own book. It makes me proud as a mom that I can be a role model for her.