Zibby is joined by three very special guest hosts to interview Meredith Badger and Hilary Rogers, the duo behind Maddy Mara. Zibby and her kids ask about how the pair began their partnership, what it’s like writing together while in different parts of the world, and how many Dragon Girls books they plan to write.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, ladies. The team behind Maddy Mara are here to discuss Dragon Girls. Welcome, welcome. We have some special guests from my family with us.

Child: I think they already came out May 4th.

Meredith Badger: That’s right. Wow, you’re amazing.

Zibby: Let these ladies introduce themselves. Then we’re going to jump in and talk about the book.

Child: What came out?

Zibby: The book.

Child: There’s going to be six, right?

Meredith: Exactly. You should do our publicity. You’re amazing. You know it all.

Zibby: Quickly introduce yourselves before we .

Meredith: Sorry. Hi, my name’s Meredith Badger. I’m the Maddy part of Maddy Mara.

Hillary: I’m Hillary. I am the Mara part of Maddy Mara. Hi, wonderful to see you all.

Zibby: Thanks for being here. As I mentioned, we read these a lot. Everybody has very strong relationships with all of your characters. My daughter’s holding up your book now to the screen. Why don’t you go first and ask — you said something about there being six. What were you asking?

Child: There are going to be the Dragon Girls, Treasure Dragons, right?

Meredith: Mm-hmm, the next three are the Treasure Dragons.

Child: There’s a thing at the back that shows the next book. It’s a Treasure Dragon. I think her name’s Mei or something.

Meredith: Exactly, Mei’s the first of the Treasure Dragons. That’s right.

Child: What do the Treasure Dragons do? They just sound like dragons that protect treasure.

Zibby: Can we just ask them to describe what the series is like for people who are listening now for the first time and they don’t know anything about — do you want to just describe what it is for them?

Child: It’s basically a book about three Dragon Girls. The villains in this book are the Shadow Sprites. In the third, there’s the Shadow Queen.

Meredith: Do you find her scary?

Child: I skipped through it. I only read the interesting pages.

Meredith: Which is all of them, right?

Hillary: There are no boring pages.

Child: It’s also about, every time they get a magic apple that they need potions — when my nanny and me were reading, when we saw the photo of the squid thing —

Meredith: — The giant squid?

Child: Yeah. My nanny said, “That’s big.” Then when she heard that it was just the baby, was like, “It couldn’t get any bigger.”

Meredith: I know, but it’s still quite a cute little baby.

Child: This is already huge. Then it becomes huger when you see this.

Meredith: Were they your favorite animals in the book? The squid, was that your favorite?

Child: Is this the Shadow Queen?

Child: No, that’s the Shadow Queen.

Zibby: Do you have any questions for them?

Child: My favorite drawing is probably Azmina.

Meredith: Yeah, she’s pretty cool.

Child: After her, Willa was my favorite Dragon Girl.

Child: This one’s my favorite.

Meredith: Naomi’s pretty special.

Child: That’s your favorite because you’ve only seen the cover.

Zibby: Hold on, my older daughter has a question too.

Child: How did you come up with the books?

Meredith: Hil, would you like to…

Hillary: Yeah. When we’re writing for kids, there are two things that we’re always trying to do. That’s make sure we create something that kids are going to lose themselves in, so an idea that they can dive into. They can escape real life. There’s no pandemic. There’s no worries. There’s no friendship issues. You can just dive in. You can lose yourself. We also want to do something that kids can find themselves in as well. That’s one of the reasons why each book has a different character, so that there are different personalities that you can follow on the journey into the Magic Forest. There’s different cultural backgrounds. We’re always really hoping that the kids will both lose themselves and find themselves. We were thinking about doing a series. We didn’t want to do a series on fairies. We thought that fairies, they’re a bit dainty. They’re beautiful.

Meredith: There’s a lot of books.

Hillary: There’s a lot of fairies out there. We think that maybe fairies are a bit done. The thing that we really loved about dragons, which was actually Meredith’s daughter’s idea, Madeline — she’s the Maddy of Maddy Mara. She said, “Make them all dragons.” We thought, that’s actually very cool, to find your inner dragon. They’re such magnificent and fierce creatures. They’re really brave. We felt like that would be a really exciting idea for girls.

Zibby: What does it say? Read it.

Child: Madeline in…

Meredith: The dedication. That’s our daughters. My daughter is Madeline. Hillary’s daughter is Mara. We decided to put their names together. That’s how we got our pen name as well. Maddy Mara is our daughters’ names. We dedicated it to them as well, of course. That’s the good thing. That’s really the only reason why authors have children, is that you can then pick their brains and steal their ideas.

Hillary: It’s so true, steal their experiences.

Child: I made this for Mom at school.

Hillary: That’s so cool. That’s really nice, wow. That’s really cool.

Zibby: I posted this on Instagram if you want to get a closer look.

Hillary: I’ll check it out.

Child: I read her video thing.

Zibby: You did?

Meredith: Really? Wow.

Child: Not the video. I colored something.

Zibby: Now my son’s going to ask a question.

Child: Oh, a question.

Zibby: Ask a question. Use normal voice.

Child: I need to find a certain page.

Zibby: He’s looking for a certain page. Why did you choose a pen name to begin with? While you find the page. Unless you’re ready. Are you ready?

Child: I found the page.

Zibby: He found the page. Hold on.

Hillary: Okay, let’s go for that.

Child: What object does a Treasure Dragon find that turns him into a dragon?

Hillary: Actually, when they come into the Magic Forest, it just happens automatically. They’re just normal kids in the real world. Then when they get called into the Magic Forest — they get called in when the forest needs them to help it out. They get called in. They just automatically change into a dragon, which is kind of amazing. At first, they’re not quite sure what’s going on. Azmina is like, what’s happening here? Why is this giant snake following me? Then she realizes it’s actually her tail. Then she has to learn how to fly. You wouldn’t remember how you learned to walk, but you have to learn to fly just like you learned to . They learn on the go, basically. They get in there and they have to save the forest as they’re learning how to be dragons at the same time. It’s quite a big ask.

Meredith: It’s also a good question about the treasure. In the first three books, they have to make a potion, and so they have to collect the magical ingredients to make a potion. In the second three, it’s more like a treasure hunt. I’ll be very excited for you to read those because they do have to find objects and return them to a magic vault that lives underneath the forest.

Child: Did the other three already come out?

Hillary: No, they’re coming out — is it October in the US, Mer?

Meredith: It could be October. I think so. They’re all written. They’re ready to go. The illustrator’s finishing up the illustrations. They’re ready. I think it is October that they’re coming out.

Hillary: That’s the funny thing. It’s so exciting to see you guys holding the books and being excited about them. I live in Australia. Meredith lives in Germany. The books are not on the shelves here. We can’t come to America because it’s a long way away and there’s a pandemic. We can’t pop into a shop. We can’t visit our little babies sitting on the shelves. We’re very pleased that you three are looking after them.

Meredith: And seem to be enjoying them too. That’s great.

Child: How’s the weather there? I know that’s odd. Here, it’s like eighty hundred degrees.

Hillary: I’ll tell you. If you look out my window, look at that, see, it’s dark. It’s because I’m speaking to you from the future. It’s Friday morning here. The sun’s not even up. I can tell you the future is actually just fine.

Child: It’s probably just a big — not daylight savings time. In Los Angeles, there’s a three-hour difference.

Child: It’s a big time difference.

Child: When the books are ready, can you give them to my mom early? I really want to read them.

Hillary: Sure. We’d like you to be the first girl in America to read them.

Child: My favorite little helper to the Dragon Girls is .

Meredith: Really? , she’s pretty cool.

Hillary: , she’s a bit of a punk.

Meredith: The is pretty cute too. They’re all pretty cool.

Child: Right on the back there.

Hillary: We wanted each of them to have their own companion to sort of guide them through the forest.

Meredith: Just a little helper.

Child: our dad has a dog and our mom has a dog. There’s technically a dog for two of us, kind of.

Meredith: A dog between two, that sounds fair. That’s a good way to do it.

Child: My and my brother are twins. We have two little siblings. At all times, we’re always paired with someone.

Zibby: Everybody’s got a buddy.

Hillary: Perfect.

Zibby: How did you two end up teaming up to write these books?

Meredith: We’ve got a long history, actually. We’ve known each other for a long time. I met Hil through my sister who is actually also called Hillary, which is kind of weird. I met this Hillary through my sister Hillary. I actually employed Hil. I worked at a jazz club. I gave Hil a job as my doorgirl. She would take the money.

Zibby: No way.

Meredith: Yeah. She would say no to people or let them in, take their money, stamp them. Then she got a job in publishing, and we started working together in that capacity. We’ve worked together for quite a few years now and created quite a few books together. It’s been a really fantastic partnership over the years.

Hillary: It’s quite an unusual way of working. Oh, you’ve got a microphone.

Child: Can I ?

Zibby: Yeah, you want to ask?

Child: Yes, I want to ask something. How many children’s book have you wrote and how many will you write?

Zibby: Great question.

Meredith: I don’t know. Lots. I’m not quite sure. How many of the Go Girl! books did we do?

Hillary: The first series that Meredith and I ever worked on was when I was — as Meredith was saying, I worked as a publisher. I worked in-house for the publishing house. Meredith was one of my favorite authors. We did this series called the Go Girl! We also did a series called Zac Power. They were the first two series that we did. There were lots of writers working on them. Both of those series had fifty books in them. Meredith, I reckon you must have written at least fifteen.

Meredith: Maybe fifteen. Between ten and fifteen of those. The Zacs, I probably wrote about four. I actually lose track. I think I’ve probably written about thirty books, maybe.

Hillary: I think so.

Meredith: Around about thirty.

Hillary: I’m much fewer because I was publishing lots of books. I only moved into writing probably about four or five years ago. I’ve written maybe ten or something. This is the first series that Meredith and I have sort of half written, cowritten. One of the things that’s so amazing about it is even though we’re both Australian, as you can hear from our funny accents, Meredith lives in Germany and I live in Australia. Even before there was a pandemic and everyone did everything on Zoom, we used to work in a similar sort of way. We would see each other maybe once or twice a year. The rest of the time, when one of us is sleeping, the other one’s working and vice versa. We joke that it’s like you wake up in the morning and the elves have come and they’ve made you little red velvet boots. You wake up in the morning and you think, oh, what’s happened overnight? Someone’s working on them twenty-four hours a day.

Meredith: It’s a really nice way to work. The other thing that works really well is that Hil and I are both obsessively fast at getting things done. It’s crazy. We’ll just give ourselves these crazy deadlines to get them done before the crazy deadline just because .

Hillary: We always have to beat a deadline.

Child: Is there going to be a Dragon Girls movie?

Meredith: That would be cool. That would be totally cool.

Hillary: Would you organize that for us?

Meredith: We would love that. Would it be a live action, or would it be animated, do you think?

Child: Animated.

Meredith: Yeah, I think it would be.

Child: I like both too. I feel like the dragons in the live action would be a little scarier.

Meredith: Yeah, they could be a little bit scary. I think they’re impressive. They’re big and strong and powerful, but they’re not scary.

Hillary: They’re more brave than scary.

Meredith: Exactly. I think so too.

Child: Weird scales and weird eyes.

Meredith: But they’re magnificent. It’s like they’ve got armor on. They’re glowing.

Hillary: They’re colorful.

Child: I’m going to try to talk, okay?

Zibby: Okay, go ahead.

Child: Is there ever going to be a Dragon Boys?

Meredith: That’s a good question.

Hillary: Do you think there should be?

Meredith: Dragon Boys, we did actually talk about that at one stage, didn’t we Hil, about having another forest that had the Dragon Boys in it? There might be a bit of rivalry, maybe.

Hillary: It could be part of the same forest.

Child: The Dragon Boys and the Dragon Girls can meet.

Hillary: If you could talk to our publishers, again, I think you’ve got a good role as our publicist.

Meredith: Absolutely.

Zibby: Do you guys have other questions?

Child: Yes.

Zibby: Okay, go ahead.

Child: I think.

Zibby: How many are going to be in the series all together? Just the next three?

Hillary: So far. I think it’s probably just a matter of seeing how they go. If everybody responds like you three, then I’ll think we’ll be doing some more. Oh, you’ve got a question. Go for it.

Child: How many Dragon Girls books is there going to be?

Zibby: That’s what I just said.

Child: One thousand? One hundred?

Meredith: That would be nice. We’ll be busy, but that would be cool.

Hillary: How many do you think?

Child: What?

Hillary: How many do you think there should be?

Child: Fifty.

Meredith: Fifty sounds good.

Hillary: Fifty would be a good number. Let’s aim for fifty.

Child: finish this book so I can read the other book, and then the other, and then the other, and then the other.

Child: That’s like me with any book in my room because I can’t finish a book .

Zibby: What advice would you have for —

Child: — Mom, I have another question. What are Treasure Dragon Girls’ little companions going to be?

Meredith: Do you remember, Hil, what they are?

Hillary: Let me see. What have we got? Mei’s is — goodness.

Meredith: I’ve drawn a blank, too, on what they are.

Hillary: We’ll pretend it’s a mysterious surprise.

Meredith: Exactly, mysterious surprise.

Child: Isn’t there one named Quinn or something?

Hillary: Yes, but they’re the girls. The girls are Aisha, Quinn, and Mei. She’s got Husky Pup. Do you remember, Mer?

Meredith: That’s right, Husky Pup.

Hillary: Quinn’s got Husky Pup, who’s amazing. She’s a bit like a beautiful husky with the really bright eyes, but she can fly.

Meredith: He’s also got a little sister who’s called Plushy Pup. He’s even smaller and cuter and more feisty.

Hillary: We had a lot of fun naming them.

Child: Quinn has two companions?

Meredith: Well, no. They just run into the younger sister of the companion. She helps them out for a little while, but she’s not the main companion. She’s too small, too young.

Hillary: But gosh, she’s brave.

Child: I have a question. Actually, I forgot.

Hillary: Zibby, you were asking about advice for aspiring writers. It’s interesting. We’re quite unusual because we’re writing together, which obviously a lot of people don’t do. One of the things that we love about that is that it counters the solitary feeling that you can have. It can be quite therapeutic to do work on your own, of course, particularly when you’ve got kids at home, just to dive into something. It can also be quite isolating. You can really lose perspective on whether what you’ve done is genius or dross. One of the things that I certainly love about working with Meredith is that there’s always someone else that you can bounce ideas off and get feedback from. If you’re stuck, they might come at it from another angle. Rather than it being half, it’s sort of double for me. I feel like it’s twice as much fun and twice as creative. We really love it. Obviously, not everybody’s going to want to cowrite. Zibby, I know you’re working on your memoir now.

Zibby: Yes. I have so much time to do that, as you can see. It’s going great.

Hillary: You’re busy talking to others.

Zibby: It’s going really great.

Hillary: One of the things that you could do — obviously, you don’t want to cowrite because that turns it into a biography rather than a memoir. You might want to find a colleague or a friend who’s also working on something. You might share chapters. You really never want to disappoint someone else. You’re kind of comfortable disappointing yourself, but to disappoint someone else is really bad. I always thinking to myself, I’ve got to get this done because I’ve got to get it back to Meredith because she’s done all this work and I don’t want to let her down.

Meredith: Because I’m so savage.

Hillary: Yeah, because you’re such a mean person. To have someone to know that you need to send that thousand words to or send that chapter to, we find a really wonderful discipline. People might like to think about teaming up with someone so that it’s not quite so lonely. You’ve got someone else to be accountable to rather than just yourself.

Zibby: I love that. That’s good advice. Yes, go ahead.

Child: Can the husky — was it called Husky Pup or something?

Hillary: Husky Pup. Well done.

Child: Husky Pup, can he float, or can he fly?

Meredith: He can fly. Almost all of the companions can fly. There’s a couple, like Willa’s companion, who can swim. Actually, there’s another one who rides on the back.

Hillary: Rides on the shoulder, yeah.

Child: Does he have wings?

Hillary: Yep, he does.

Meredith: Yes, he’s got wings. Exactly. The tip for kids who want to write as well —

Child: — Husky Pup’s wings.

Meredith: We’re talking about if adults want to write. For kids who want to write, I often think about those books that you used to write when you were a kid where you’d staple them up the side and you’d put your name and all of that sort of stuff. I think that really does help. Even just doing that is a useful practice. It is self-publishing. I’ve still got all those books that I created as a little kid. It’s all worth it. All writing is good practice. I think just getting into the habit of doing it is the main thing.

Zibby: Awesome. Any last questions, guys? We’re going to say goodbye.

Child: Just one photo.

Zibby: You want to take a photo? You can take a photo.

Hillary: Sure.

Zibby: Now’s the time, though. This is the last question. Ask. Go ahead. Think about your question. Don’t forget it.

Child: I didn’t.

Zibby: Ready?

Child: I’m not clicking it.

Zibby: You’re only getting the bottom corner of it. Let me take it.

Child: No, I got it.

Zibby: Okay, ask your question.

Child: Do Dragon Girls ever get married?

Zibby: Oh, that’s a good question.

Meredith: What was the question?

Zibby: Wait, say the question again.

Child: Do Dragon Girls ever get married?

Meredith: I think they’ve got a lot of things to get through before they can possibly have the headspace to think about that, but I don’t think they’re against it. I think they’d be up for it, for sure. Why not?

Zibby: Why not?

Meredith: They’ve got a perfect location for a wedding as well. The Magic Forest would be very nice.

Hillary: They do. It would be quite scenic.

Zibby: On that note, thank you so much. Thanks for this untraditional podcast, but they were so excited I was talking to you.

Meredith: We’re really glad that they enjoyed it. That’s wonderful. They’re the first kids that I’ve seen who have read it.

Hillary: I know. It’s quite thrilling, quite thrilling.

Meredith: It’s very cool.

Zibby: Awesome. What do guys say? Can you say goodbye and thanks?

Child: Goodbye.

Child: Bye.

Meredith: Thank you.

Hillary: Bye, guys.

Zibby: Bye. Thank you.


DRAGON GIRLS by Maddy Mara

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