Hi Luke, welcome to Teen librarian and thank you for giving up your time for this interview!
I grew up reading Tintin and later got into Asterix and since them Hilda is the first graphic album I actively get excited about when I hear about a new volume being released – what inspired her creation?
The initial inspiration was Scandinavian folk tales. I really like the kind of strange, low-key stories, where the existence of creatures like elves and trolls is taken as matter-of-fact and the stories told very plainly. I wanted to create a world and cast of characters that would let me capture the feeling I got reading those stories.
I wanted the world to look like some of the places I visited on a holiday to Norway with my family, where I guess a lot of the early ideas I had took shape. I love Tove Jansson and the Moomin stories and that was very much on my mind at the start. I did read a lot of Asterix as a kid (I have to admit I always found Tintin kind of boring) and when the series moved to the ‘album’ format, I more consciously looked to that as an influence, though probably only visually.
Hilda and the Stone Forest is my new favourite book of her adventures (but I have thought that with each book I have read), the chase scene at the beginning is a masterclass in conveying speed in a static medium – how long did it take you to draw the first six pages?
I really can’t remember how long I spent on those particular pages. I stop and start a lot and there can be a long time between planning a page and drawing the final, which both feel like part of the same process. They were probably the most carefully planned out though and also probably my favourite pages in the book. They’re not vital to the story but I had a really strong idea about how I wanted the book to start, throwing you straight into the middle of one of one of her escapades, to set the pace and to give a sense of the life she’s living right now.
Sticking with movement for the next few questions I am really looking forward to the animated series in 2018! How long has this been developing?
It’s been on the cards since 2014, maybe a bit earlier. Work on the actual series only really began this year though.
Will the animated series be based on the Hilda books or will we discover a whole range of new adventures starring our favourite blue-haired girl?
Both! The series spans the events of the books so far, with new stories in between. With the exception of The Stone Forest all the books are covered. They’ve been adapted so things have shifted around and changed somewhat (for instance the events of Hilda and the Troll are merged into the Midnight Giant episodes) but it’s basically all there. Actually there are very few scenes or elements that haven’t made it into the series in some form. Some of the most incidental stuff has survived and even been fleshed out.
Are you involved in the creation of the animated series in any way?
Yes, quite a lot actually. I was there to help come up with the new stories and I’ve been overseeing just about everything coming in. Giving notes and feedback on all the scripts and designs. I’m writing the scripts for two episodes. I’m providing designs and sketches for new characters. I’ll be doing some storyboarding.
I love Hilda’s mum’s involvement in the latest adventure, as a relatively new parent I found the cliff-hanger to be really shocking – will we have to wait long for the second part of the story and can you share the title or is that still top secret?
Not as long as between this one and the last! With any luck it’ll be next year. I don’t want to leave people too concerned for too long and obviously I have the benefit of knowing exactly where the story is going this time. I can’t share the title I’m afraid because I haven’t decided on it yet.
I am looking forward to sharing Hilda’s adventures with my daughter when she is old enough – are there any comic series that you enjoy that you can recommend for Hildafans?
I’m really not sure what I’d suggest for younger readers, because I don’t really look at much in that age bracket. But for older kids looking onwards and upwards I’d recommend comics by Vera Brosgol, Isabel Greenberg, Noelle Stevenson and the Spera series. And for all ages I would always recommend the Moomin books and picture books (maybe save the comics for later.)
You are probably too busy writing and illustrating but do you ever visit schools or library groups to talk about your art?
I tend not to as I’m not very comfortable talking in front of people. Occasionally I’ll end up doing something like that and it’s always very pleasant and gratifying. But it wreaks too much havoc on my nerves.
Thank you again for answering the questions and thank you also for two* of the greatest female protagonists in a comic medium!
*Hilda’s mum is also amazing