You must be very proud having your book turned into such a successful film?
Yes, I am so pleased with this film. The first time I saw it I got incredibly emotional. It's very true to the spirit of the book, exciting and yet meaningful and moving, and I loved seeing Hiccup and Stoik come to life on the big screen. I think the team who worked on it did the most fantastic job, and I'm very lucky because I know an awful lot of writers wouldn't be able to say that.
Vikings and dragons are strange bedfellows. How did you strike on that combination?
To answer that I would have to go back to when I was a little girl. My father owned a tiny, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland, which had no roads, houses or electricity. We would go there for the holidays, and for the entire time we were there, we were totally cut off from the outside world. Later we did have a house and a boat, but that sense of isolation remained. In the evening my father would tell us stories about the Vikings that had invaded the island and the dragons who supposedly lived in the caves, so that's where the germ of the idea must have come from.
Did you always want to become a writer/illustrator?
It's funny, because when I look back at photographs from my childhood, I'm always sitting there drawing, reading or writing - telling stories in one form or other. Because we had no television or telephone when we were on the island, there was nothing to distract us and we just had to make up our own entertainment, which is where my love of drawing and writing definitely began.
When did you realise that you might be able to make a living as an author/illustrator?
After university I originally went into publishing and I quickly realised that wasn't for me. I then went to art school, and for my graduation I produced my first book, Little Bo Peep's Library Book. On the strength of that I got my first publishing deal, which was fantastic, but probably not the best timing as I'd just fallen pregnant with my first child.
But you're now the proud mother of three and a highly successful author to boot, so having children clearly hasn't held you back?
Like every working mother, it's a juggling act. I'm very fortunate in that my husband Simon works, so I've never had the pressure of being the main breadwinner. That said, I've written 20 books in the last 12 years, and it can get very intense. But the job satisfaction is huge. I'm very lucky to have such a wonderful job.
How much of the Hiccup stories are based on your own experiences?
When I first started writing the books I quickly realised it was a world that really spoke to me. Obviously much of it is pure fantasy, but it's all based on a tiny nugget of truth. I knew what it felt like being out on the sea in the middle of a storm, I knew what it felt like to catch fish to eat. Also I think most people can relate to the story of a child growing up and feeling very different from a parent, but who now, as an older person, can look back at their childhood with great affection.
Will there be many more books in the series?
Sadly the Hiccup books are drawing to a close. I'm currently writing the penultimate book and it does feel like I'm coming to the end of an era. But the series needs a proper ending, and the one I'm giving it is what I'd always envisaged, so it's not all bad. That said, I will most definitely miss the characters. After so many years they've almost taken on a life of their own.
Yet I hear that another film is in the pipeline?
That's right, and all the original team are working on it, which is quite unusual in the world of animation. It's won't be out until 2013, but it's all very exciting.
And what of that remote Scottish island, that was the inspiration for all this?
It's still very much in the family, and now my children get to go there and experience this incredible sense of freedom and to just roam. Of course they absolutely adore it. It's such a very special place.
How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon is out to own on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment. Click the following link to buy: http://hmv.com
If your child would like to hatch their own baby dragon, click on the following link: http://www.howtotrainyourdragonintl.com
She can then choose a dragon egg of choice, which she will need to keep warm and care for until the safe arrival of her baby dragon.
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