It’s time for another of our ‘Spotlight On’ interviews and this week Helen Mackenzie Smith caught up with the super talented Hrefna Bragadottir, whose debut picture book Baxter’s Book is due for publication in February next year by Nosy Crow!
1. What inspired you to start drawing and writing for children?
One of my favourite things is drawing whimsical characters and imagining where they come from, so getting them down on paper (and hopefully into books) seems like the only sensible thing to do. I worked as an animator for eight years on various children’s tv series, so writing and illustrating children’s books felt like a natural progression from there, although I still like animating from time to time.
2. What comes first: The drawing, the character or the story?
It really depends on the project. Sometimes I’ll write a story and then design the world around it afterwards. Other times, I’ll draw characters with certain expressions and then wonder who they are, where they belong, what mood they’re in and why. This is usually where the story, the character and the drawings start evolving simultaneously together.
3. What artist’s tool could you not work without?
My beloved mechanical pencil, but perhaps more importantly the eraser at the end of it. It’s saved many of my drawings from ending up in the bin.
4. If you weren’t an illustrator/author what would you like to be?
I would be a professional namer of clouds or a student at The Icelandic Elf School.
5. If you could collaborate with any other picture book writer/illustrator, past or present who would it be and why?
Mac Barnett or Polly Dunbar – It would be great to collaborate with somebody that writes such witty and wonderfully absurd stories, like they did with ‘Sam & Dave Dig a Hole’ (M.B.) and ‘Penguin’ (P.D.)
6. Who is your favourite picture book hero?
The bear in ‘I Want My Hat Back’ by Jon Klassen. His deadpan expression throughout the book is absolutely hilarious and I love how the book ends.
Hats off to that bear – he’s definitely my hero!
7. What’s your favourite colour?
I’d rather not pick a favourite as I wouldn’t want to burn any bridges, especially in my line of work. If you’ve ever read ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I find some colours easier to work with than others, though, and I tend to stay away from using overly saturated tones of green and purple, unless I’m illustrating a book with slimy, purple monsters of course.
8. What was your favourite book when you were growing up?
I didn’t really have a particular favourite but I read a lot of the ‘Mr. Men’ books by Roger Hargreaves and ‘Barbapapa’, a French children’s book series by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor. I used to love how the characters could transform themselves into any shape depending on the problems they were faced with. What a useful skill to have!
9. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
When I was a child, I used to feel sorry for my duvet so I would sometimes sleep on top of it to keep it warm at night. I felt sorry for my pillow as well, but I still don’t understand why I never considered how my mattress was feeling…
10. What has been your career highlight so far?
Working on my debut picture book ‘Baxter’s Book’, which will be published by Nosy Crow in February 2016. Having the opportunity to write and illustrate my own book has definitely been a dream come true.
Bonus question: what classic book of any genre would you most like to illustrate?
Any of The Brothers Grimm fairy tales – I’d also love to work on a modern spin-off based on their stories. Something along the lines of ‘The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales’, written by Jon Scieszka. I think it’s such a clever piece of writing that is perfectly complemented by Lane’s Smith’s original and expressive illustrations.