Friday, January 22, 2010

Author Spotlight: Cressida Cowell

Perhaps best known for her novel series chronicling the adventures of young Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, author and illustrator Cressida Cowell credits her obsession with Vikings and the Dark Ages to girlhood history lessons at St. Paul's School with her American teacher, Miss Macdonald.

An avid book collector, Ms Cowell grew up mostly in Central London, England. After earning a B.A. in English Literature from Oxford, she worked briefly in Macmillan Publishing's fiction department, then extended her education further with a B.A. in Graphic Design from St. Martin's art school, and an M.A. in Narrative Illustration from Brighton.

She began her career as an illustrator, and was shortlisted for the Macmillan Prize for Illustration. Her first picture book, Little Bo Peep's Library Book, was published by Hodder Children's Books in 1998. She followed that work with other picture books.

Her first novel for 8-12 year-olds, How to Train Your Dragon, was first published in the United Kingdom in 2003, with the first 100,000 copies sold entirely by word-of-mouth. (Quite a lot of firsts...) In fact, the novel's popularity has grown to the point that it is now available in 27 languages, and has been adapted into a Dreamworks feature film set to release in March 2010.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III's adventures, originally chronicled in How to Train Your Dragon, have since morphed into an 8 book series, currently. To see and hear Ms Cowell discuss the fourth title in the series, How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse, visit this Meet the Author page.

The Hiccup books were inspired by Ms Cowell's childhood memories of holidays spent camping with her parents, brother and sister "on a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides, bought by her father...cut off from the outside world but surrounded by an archipelago of other tiny, uninhabited islands," (see Amanda Craig link below) as well as by adventures with her parents that were very like the ones Hiccup and his fellow Viking boys face in the series. She says of the island,
"It was wonderful but intense, the kind of place where you might expect to see dragons sailing overhead."