An author Q&A with Maddy Mara

Anonymous  //  Mar 22, 2024

An author Q&A with Maddy Mara

Recently, we sat down with Maddy Mara, the pen name of Australian creative duo Hilary Rogers and Meredith Badger, to talk about their writing style, history writing together, and more! Hilary is a writer and former publisher; Meredith is a writer and teaches English as a second language. Together they have written or created many bestselling series for kids, including Dragon Girls, Dragon Games, and Forever Fairies.

Keep reading for a special Q&A with Maddy Mara!


How long have you been writing together? Describe your co-author partnership!

The very first time we worked together as Maddy Mara was for Dragon Girls in 2021. But actually, we’ve been collaborating for much longer than that. We became friends at university and at few years later, when Hilary was working as a children’s publisher, she asked Meredith to write for a few different series she was working on (including Go Girl! and Zac Power, both series going on to sell into the millions). We did all sorts of books (picture books, YA, and many books in between), and just loved working together. When Hilary decided to leave inhouse publishing to write, it made sense to keep working together – and now we never want to stop!

Not everyone would relish working in a partnership; it requires careful communication and ego-ditching. But we find it productive and supportive. We get to work on twice as many books, explore twice as many ideas, and have twice as much fun doing it. Writing can be lonely, and our partnership is a genuine salve for that. Our process is different for different series, but it always starts with detailed workshopping so we have the shape of the story clear in our minds. Meredith is more a writer than editor and Hilary is more an editor than writer, so while we both do both things, usually Meredith writes the first draft and Hilary works on the next. By the time we submit a ‘first draft’, it’s really our third or fourth draft.

What inspires you to write for this age category?

We’ve been creating stories together for this age group for many years now, and it’s one we love and are super comfortable with. There’s something very satisfying in creating books for children who are newly confident with reading and discovering the joys of losing themselves in a story. Our favorite thing is when we get letters from parents telling us that their child wasn’t interested in reading until they found one of our series. Knowing that we might have helped create a ‘reader’ is a pretty fantastic feeling.

How do you come up with so many ideas for your series?

One of the great benefits of writing collaboratively is that you have two brains to raid! And our favorite part of the whole process is thinking up new ideas. We’ll often go for a walk or meet for coffee to get started and have a very broad conversation about what we’d like to create. Ideas might come from talking about genre, or an appealing character, or an interesting scenario. Sometimes we’ll start by discussing what we think might be a gap in the market – often this is done in collaboration with Scholastic. Then we send each other approximately two million Whatsapp messages throughout the days and weeks as we hone and fine tune concepts. Coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part for us – it’s working out which ones are worth pursuing and developing. Again, it’s useful to have two minds to work with, as we can run any thoughts past the other person and gauge their reaction.

You’ve written popular series like Dragon Girls and Dragon Games before Forever Fairies. What was it like going from dragons to fairies?

It was actually a surprisingly comfortable transition. We love all creatures that fly! We originally conceived of Dragon Girls as being a ‘modern’ take on a fairies series, so later turning our minds to a more classic fairy world felt very natural. With Dragon Girls, it’s important to us that our characters are strong, brave, and supportive of each other. This was an ethos we wanted to feed into the creation of Forever Fairies too. In our minds, Forever Fairies is set in the same magical world as the Dragon Girls books, but it’s like we’ve zoomed in to see one tiny, very specific part of that world. Although this overlap is not a major part of the series, it felt like we were in a familiar universe.

Do you listen to any music while you write?

Meredith: My brain is the type that is always looking for a way to be distracted, so listening to music while I write would be a disaster. I’d be singing and dancing and googling song lyrics almost immediately. I am, however, a fan of ‘brown noise’ and I’ll sometimes listen to that through headphones to block out distractions (like, my daughter listening to music in another room.)

Hilary: I wish I could listen to music and work at the same time! But I just end up typing the lyrics instead of the story I’m supposed to be working on. Classical music doesn’t work either (this is a shame because it would make me feel like a Hollywood writer). But I’m a big fan of the making-dinner disco when I’ve finished work for the day.

Which fairy pod would you belong to?

Meredith: I am a Sparkleberry through and through. Creative, easily distracted and slightly forgetful.

Hilary: I’m Twinklestar crossed with Shimmerbud. Maybe we should create hybrid pods for funny little fairies like me, who are a pinch of this and a dash of that?

Are there any specific messages you hope kids take away from Forever Fairies?

There’s a rich history of stories about fairies, and for good reason – tiny magical worlds are so enchanting! But we wanted to update a lot of the messaging. Traditionally, fairies have been depicted as dainty, delicate, demure. We wanted to create a fairy world that was as inclusive, vibrant, and diverse as the real world. This is why we came up with the 4 different fairy pods – Flutterfly, Shimmerbud, Twinklestar, and Sparkleberry – to remind kids that there are countless ways to be a fabulous fairy. Having our characters doing a series of challenges (such as testing their flying speed, teamwork, creative thinking, healing work, cooking, arts and crafts) was so fun. We really hope readers to see bits of themselves in all the different fairies.

Dragon Girls has over 1.5 million copies in print and is available in multiple countries and languages. Hilary and Meredith live on the lands of the Wurundjeri and Bunurong people in Melbourne, Australia. Their website is