Friday 18 March 2011

Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton chat about Emily Brown over high tea!

There is quite simply no way that any Sniffer worth their salt wouldn't have stumbled upon the Emily Brown books (of which there are currently 3 but soon to be 4!)

They have have won a generous smattering of awards as well as being read on the television by none other than the real Dr Who!
Neal has created a stunning distinctive style and The Emily Brown books certainly have an air of the "Monty Pythons" about them.
Emily Brown is a smashing little character with a big personality as is her side kick Stanley the stuffed rabbit - a rabbit of few words but immense charisma! (not unlike myself)
Each story has an important message but perhaps most charmingly highlights the invaluble power of the imagination...
To wet your appitite for Cheer Up Your Teddy Bear Emily Brown (publishing in September)
I thought you might like to meet Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton so here they are in conversation over a nice cup of tea and a plate of biscuits!
Sunshine in book form...
NL: Is Emily Brown based on anyone?

CC: The character of Emily Brown was inspired by my sister Emily when she was a little girl, and her daughter Delfina, who was about 4 at the time. Both Emily and Delfina were very stubborn, redoubtable little girls.

Was YOUR visual for Emily Brown based on anyone you know? Because by complete spooky coincidence, and without me telling you she looks very like both my sister Emily when she was a little girl AND her daughter Delfina. She even has my sister's pudding bowl haircut.
EB and Stanley

NL: Wow, that is spooky! She was sort of based on my big sister Viv. Because she was older she always seemed quite adventurous to me and she used to set up cool games to play with me like 'Escape from the Jampa-danz'. 

Emily Brown's bowl haircut was based on the haircuts that our Mum used to give us at home in the kitchen sat under a towel, 70's style.

NL: Do you have a Stanley Rabbit? 

CC: I did have a Stanley Rabbit when I was little. He was a very floppy polar bear, whose chest had slipped a bit because the stuffing had gone, and migrated down to his belly. He was once white, and his name was Paddywack.

The Stanley Rabbit was inspired by my daughter Maisie's Little Dog, without whom she could not sleep. He once went missing just before bed, and Maisie was inconsolable. Eventually we found him in the freezer, sitting on top of the fish fingers. And Maisie said 'oh yes, I remember now, he was looking for the north pole...' That was the direct inspiration for Stanley.

Clemmie had something similar, another little dog called Bowy. When Maisie and Clemmie were little a large part of our time as parents seemed to be spent searching for the exact location of Little Dog and Bowy who went EVERYWHERE, of course.

Do YOU have a Stanley Rabbit?

NL: I had a yellow knitted bear called John Milk. He used to go everywhere with me. He has long since disappeared though I do still have pictures of him swinging in swings, climbing mountains in Scotland, that sort of thing!

And I do still have his best friend Rupert the Bear. He was given to me by Santa Claus though I think he was actually made by a friend of my parents, and so only has a passing resemblance to the real Rupert. He looks very worn now so I squished him under the scanner and scanned him in to create the collage for Emily's Stanley Rabbit!

NL: What's it like working with Neal Layton?

CC: It is lovely working with Neal Layton, because I have a great sense of confidence that he understands what I am trying to say. I know that he will give me a wonderful surprise. And that his illustrations will not only be beautiful, but also moving and touching, and that is very important to me. That particular combination is rare in an artist. 
What is it like working with Cressida Cowell?

NL: Likewise! Cressida's brain is constantly buzzing and coming up with rich imaginative ideas that I would not have thought of myself, which makes it great fun for me to illustrate, and exciting to work with. And because she illustrates too she understands the creative process, which is really important. Sometimes the books develop quite a lot whilst we work on them which I think is a good thing...

NL: What is your favourite type of dog?

My favourite type of dog is a Burmese cat. (Not as silly as it sounds. They are very dog-like, and ours will even go on a walk with you).

CC:My daughter Clemmie wants a Cockapoo.
(A Cockapoo is a mixture of a cocker spaniel and a poodle by the way. )What is your favourite type of CAT, Neal?

NL: Heh heh! My favourite type of cats are the friendly, cuddly lazy ones that sit on knees and are happy to be friends with dogs. Our cat at home was called Nutmeg. She started out life as a scaredy skinny rescue cat, and ended up being a lovely plump benign old thing. I like dogs too though, we had a border terrier called Scamp when I was growing up. He was fabulously bonkers.

NL: When is the new book out?

CC: Oh Gosh, I'm afraid I'm not sure when the book is out!!! I've lost track....When is it?

NL: Um I'm not sure either! I think it's September.

CC: A couple of bonus questions for you Neal. Does your daughter have a Stanley Rabbit?

NL: Yes! Her favourite at the moment is a crocodile called 'Croc'. This week he has eaten Captain Hook, been paddling in the sea, spent a day on a radiator, and got lost in a sock drawer. It does change though, last week it was a mouse called Mousey, and before that a rabbit called 'Hot' who liked propellors.

CC: And do you know anybody who sings a sad song like the Tearful Teddybear? 

NL: Not personally, though some Mahler came on the radio the other day and my two year old daughter asked if it could be turned off because it was 'sad music', so we listened to Dan Zanes instead...

Sometimes when I'm working I put on different types of music and I did try putting some Radiohead  on whilst I drew the sad Teds in the new book which worked quite well!

Hollywood Gal about town Cressida Cowell
Extreme sports fanatic Neal Layton

Thanks for popping by Neal and Cressida see you again soon!
Emily Brown has her own Facebook page Check it out!
(rather smashing don't you think!)

Images (c) Neal Layton

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