CHAPTER & VERSE: 'How To Train Your Dragon' author Cressida Cowell answers Total MK's questions

Cressida Cowell is the super-talented author (and illustrator) responsible for the superb How To Train Your Dragon books, and she is just  about to issue one of the year's most anticipated books, The Wizards of Once.

Cressida will be signing copies of the page-turner at Waterstone's, Midsummer Place next Friday, (September 22), from 4pm.

Cressida talked books and words with Total MK...


The first book that really took your attention
It’s difficult to identify just one book because I was lucky enough to have a lot of books as a child. As a very young child, my father used to read a lot of myths and legends to me and my brother and sister – local stories from the area of Scotland where we spent our summer holidays. Books read to you in your parents’ voices live with your all your life. I was a big reader, as you’d probably expect: favourite books included Dr Seuss, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.

The moment you knew you wanted to be an author
I began writing and drawing as a very young child. There’s a photo of me, at about age 9, writing about Vikings and dragons. I show this picture to children, to demonstrate that something began in my imagination at that early age eventually became 12 books, 2 (soon to be 3) DreamWorks films and a TV series. My new series, The Wizards of Once, was partly inspired by the chalky, magical landscape I used to explore when I was little. I have always wanted to create.

A book by someone else you wish you had written
There so many, but I’m going to pick Wonder, by RJ Palacio. I think this is one of the best children’s books of recent years. A wonderfully moving story that encourages children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

How do you take your books - in paper form or digitally
Paper. A book is still the best form of technology you can own. I sometimes think when I’m going on holiday that an e-reader would be easier, but I’m still wedded to the paper version, really.

How quickly did you find success
It definitely wasn’t immediate! I had 4 or 5 books out before anyone took much notice. I’m so lucky that my books have found such a wide audience, and of course I want my books to be read by as many people as possible, but the nice thing about the beginning is that you have a freedom that comes from not many people watching. Now, I have my first new series out in eighteen years, and I have to confess it’s a little nerve-wracking…

Explain the power of a good book
A good book can take you anywhere from your own living room. A good book can be a friend for a lifetime. A good book helps develop empathy, helps you walk around in someone else’s skin, to paraphrase To Kill a Mockingbird.

And tell us your favourite word... and why!
Imagination. One of my favourite quotes is from Albert Einstein: ‘Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’

What would you say to someone to encourage them to pick up your current page-turner?

I was lucky enough to judge the Costa Book Award this year, and that the winning book, Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, is absolutely beautifully written – a worthy winner in an exceptionally strong shortlist. For Young Adults, Patrice Lawrence’s Orangeboy is brilliant, and for picture books, Lauren Child has a new Charlie and Lola, A Dog With Nice Ears, which is wonderfully funny.



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