Brittany Long Olsen is the author of The Happy Shop. The comic book follows 11-year-old Darcy who is feeling sad and alone when she moves to a new country. She feels lost and misses her old friends. She accidentally stumbles into a magical store that sells happy feelings. But when Darcy accidentally breaks a mason jar of happy feelings, she must make it up to the shopkeepers, Flora and Frida. She begins to wonder, “Is happiness the only emotion people need?”
Young Entertainment: When did you first decide you wanted to be an author?
Brittany Long Olsen: I’ve always been an avid reader. I was a total bookworm growing up, so I started writing stories from a pretty young age and just never stopped. I studied Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree. Around that time, I became interested in improving as an artist and drawing cartoons, so it made sense to combine my passions for storytelling and comics together.
YE: What inspired you to write Happy Shop?
Brittany: The idea for this graphic novel was about being able to bottle up very specific, small moments of joy, like finding money in an old coat pocket or being able to finish a whole popsicle without any of it sliding off the stick. (I was thinking about all those Internet memes captioned “That feeling when…”) If those feelings could be captured and held onto, what would you do with them? Sell them to other people? What kind of place would sell them? What kind of people would run a store like that, and why? I then thought of someone accidentally stumbling upon the store and discovering this magical part of the world that teaches them to appreciate little joys.
Darcy’s story is based on my family’s experience moving to a new country and having a hard time adjusting at first. On days when I was feeling down, I would have loved opening up a mason jar and instantly feeling better! I learned a lot about connecting with the people around me and being open to exploring new things.
YE: How many happy feelings does the shop sell?
Brittany: There are about 200-225 jars out on display in the shop on any given day, but there are plenty more in storage. (I had to draw a LOT of jars for this book!)
YE: Why is the Happy Shop so fascinating to Darcy?
Brittany: Darcy feels incredibly lucky to have stumbled on a source of magic surrounded by an otherwise mundane town. She finds it just when she needs it. Everyone who comes to the shop treats it as routine and nothing very special! Since she’s new in town, she notices what’s out of the ordinary and is incredibly curious about how the magic works and how it affects people. If you encountered a magical shop, wouldn’t you be fascinated too?
YE: How would you describe Darcy in three words?
Brittany: Darcy is shy, curious, and caring.
YE: What is your favorite scene or quote from Happy Shop?
Brittany: My favorite scene is when Darcy first discovers The Happy Shop. It’s a gray day, and she’s in kind of a bad mood, when she suddenly sees a charming alley that she follows to the shop. Everything inside has a warm glow, and she feels a sense of wonder as she starts to explore. Her whole mood changes by stepping into a new space. I love that feeling of making new discoveries, even if it’s just window shopping!
YE: What do you hope readers take away from Happy Shop?
Brittany: While working on this book in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the thought that I kept coming back to was “We need each other.” We can help lift each other up.
YE: How would you describe Flora and Frida, the shopkeepers of The Happy Shop?
Brittany: Flora and Frida seem like total opposites as sisters, both in personality (jovial vs. grumpy) and in their character designs (round curves vs. sharp angles), but they’re really two sides of the same coin. They both care deeply about their business and want it to be successful, and they’re both rooted in the past and the traditional way of doing things — at least until Darcy prompts them to start thinking differently.
“Rejection is tough, no doubt about that, but I find that having someone to talk to about my ideas keeps me excited and motivated to keep working on them.”
YE: What advice do you have for those who want to be an author one day?
Brittany: I would recommend keeping a notebook or folder of all your story ideas. I have a folder on my phone for this, and it works great to jot down ideas no matter where I happen to be. Maybe it’s a dream you had, or a snippet of conversation you overheard, or just a random idea that’s only a sentence long. It may not turn into anything yet, but holding onto it and letting it percolate in your mind can help you build onto it later. Most of my notes are short and complete the phrase “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…?”
I also recommend talking about your story ideas with your loved ones and being open to their feedback. I do this with my partner all the time, and he points out things I might never have thought of that help make my stories better. Rejection is tough, no doubt about that, but I find that having someone to talk to about my ideas keeps me excited and motivated to keep working on them.
YE: What is your favorite thing about writing for a young adult audience?
Brittany: I love reading and creating comics for younger readers because so often the themes center on friendship, bravery, creativity, adventure, and learning how to love being yourself. Not that you can’t find those themes in books for readers of any age, but overall I find that stories for younger readers are full of optimism and heart and magic. Being a preteen/teen is often about discovering that the world is bigger than you thought, learning how to find your place in it, and building relationships that matter.
YE: What is your writing process like?
Brittany: I work from big to small. I have a few general ideas, and then I need to fill in the smaller details that help them connect. Every book I write starts with a summary, maybe just a paragraph. Then, I add more details to create an outline breaking down each scene, and from there I start writing the script. When I sit down to write, first thing in the morning, it helps that I can look back on the big-picture version and know where I’m headed.
YE: What do you hope to write in the future?
Brittany: My current work in progress is another comic for younger readers, but this time a nonfiction book! It’s about the history of the most popular dog breeds and why they look/act the way they do. (Hint: it’s because humans bred them that way!) I have always loved dogs, and getting to make a comic book about them is a dream come true. Why Are Dogs? is coming from Andrews McMeel in 2025, with a planned sequel about horses.
Learn more about Brittany’s writing process on our Young Entertainment Instagram.