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Molly Shannon: "SNL" Vet On New Children's Book, 'Crazy' Childhood

09/21/2011 03:19 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Molly Shannon, the funny lady who brought us the unforgettable Mary Katherine Gallagher character during her six-year stint on “Saturday Night Live,” has just published her first children’s book, Tilly the Trickster. The book tells the story of a mischievous little girl who loves playing tricks on her parents, brother and classmates.

The 47-year-old mother of two had a difficult childhood herself -- she was in a car accident when she was four years old that killed her mother, three-year-old sister and 25-year-old cousin. Yet Shannon is infectiously upbeat and incredibly grateful for all the good fortune in her life.

HuffPost: How did this book come about?
Molly Shannon: I did it really just to be creative. I wanted to just try something new that was my own. With TV, it’s a collaboration with writers and producers, and this was all mine that I could just do on my own. I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to write a children’s book but I wanted to wait until I had kids. It came from telling them stories at night. I would tell them about this big Irish family with 10 kids who would play tricks on one another, so I centered it on that area and focused it on this little girl who is very mischievous.

HuffPost: Don’t you think every mother thinks she can write a children’s book?
Shannon: I think it’s harder than it looks. When you read them you think, “Oh this is easy,” but when you start doing it, you realize it’s kind of hard because you have to tell the story pretty quickly in "X" amount words and have it make sense to kids. It was not that easy.

HuffPost: Do you miss “Saturday Night Live?”
Shannon: No, I don’t. I loved it but I did it for six years and I really feel like you have to let the next generation come in. It’s hard to pass the baton, but at the time I felt like I had such a good run. I really wanted to have a good ending. I didn’t want to stay too long and be like, “I’m just staying for the paycheck.” If you stay too long you’re going to have a bad taste in your mouth. Also, my dad was sick at that time so I was glad I had time with him. Secondly, I really wanted to have kids and focus on that part of my life. I’d been so work-oriented for so long.

HuffPost: Like that fridge magnet, “I forgot to have kids.”
Shannon: Yeah, exactly. I was at a Supercuts one day, I think I was 34 or 35, I was getting a super straight blow dry before I went to work on “SNL,” and the hairdresser was like, “When are you going to have a baby?” I was like, “I gotta have a baby!” I went to work and all the guy writers were cracking up at me because I was like, “I need a baby now!” That show was so competitive … you have to really hustle. It was very hard to mix dating in with my job.

HuffPost: Is it hard watching “SNL” now?
Shannon: No, I feel like Kristen Wiig is such an inspiration, what she did with “Bridesmaids.” I get so excited seeing the girls on the show. They’re all really nice but I don’t miss it … My life is different now. I got married and had kids. I feel so happy that it all fell into place for me.

HuffPost: So the best thing for you is a sitcom.
Shannon: Not necessarily because those hours are really long. Single-camera shows are tough. It’s so hard to have something stay on the air, so of course you’re going to take it if you get it, but I find that hard. I love being with my kids. I’m still figuring out how to still make money and still spend time with the kids and be able to pick them up from school. That’s what I struggle with.

HuffPost: It’s hard.
Shannon: It is hard but it’s not that hard. You just have to be clear what your values are around that and I feel very clear about that. My children are my priority. My mom died when I was little so I know what it’s like to not have a mom around … Time is so fleeting. You have to grab it. You’re never going to get that back.

HuffPost: Losing your mother so young, how did it shape your personality?
Shannon: Oh my God, in so many ways. I feel grateful, like maybe stuff people take for granted, I’m like, “Oh my God I’m so lucky.” I had a crazy childhood. My dad was great but he could also be kind of erratic ... I feel like it gives me an appreciation for what other people might take for granted ... My mom died when she was 33 years old. I can’t believe I have children and I get to be a mother -- that alone is deeply fulfilling for me. Showbiz is like a nice secondary thing for me. But I do have to make money and make a living.

HuffPost: Why do you think Mary Katherine Gallagher hit such a nerve?
Shannon: Because I think it was true … I kind of felt that way myself, kind of anxious and bursting. It was an exaggerated version of myself and how I felt when I was little.

HuffPost: Did you go to Catholic school?
Shannon: I did.

HuffPost: Do your kids go?
Shannon: NO! Put an exclamation mark, put that in capital letters.

HuffPost: Could your name be more Irish?
Shannon: I know.

HuffPost: Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Shannon: No, my sister and I didn’t like it. People were like, (in an Irish brogue) “Oh look at her, she’s got the map of Ireland on her face,” and we were like, “Ew,” that meant we had a big, fat, freckled face. It was also a day of too much drinking. My dad got sober later in life, but growing up, [St. Patrick’s Day] was one day we worried about too much booze. It was a dark day for both us. My dad never minded me talking about this. We would do a St. Patrick’s Day show, and he would wave from the back and I could tell from his waves how much he’d had to drink. But, fortunately, he found sobriety and it was great for us.

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