Friday 26 November 2021

Frindleswylde - Q&A with Natalia & Lauren O'Hara

Can you feel a tremble in the wind? The sun grows pale. The wild things hide. Frindleswylde is coming!

When the mysterious boy Frindleswylde enters Cora and Grandma's house in the woods, he steals the light from their lantern. Without it, Grandma will not be able to return home after work in the dark. Cora is determined to get the light back, but first, she must follow Frindleswylde down a hole in the pond that leads to his magical frozen kingdom, where he sets her three Impossible Tasks. Reminiscent of The Snow Queen, beautifully written and sumptuously illustrated, Frindleswylde is a classic in the making.

Q&A with Natalia & Lauren O'Hara

Can you tell us about your writing and illustrating process?

Lauren: Natalia comes up with the idea and begins her research. At the same time, we start a Pinterest board and pin reference together – it's kind of a visual conversation that lets us find the atmosphere and world.

While she's drafting, I work on characters and decide what materials to use. As she's redrafting, I'm usually doing final art. We've been told that we work more like a single author-illustrator than a duo, with our work evolving in tandem.

What was the inspiration for Frindleswylde?
Natalia: The story was inspired by a frosty, regal little boy Lauren painted in 2019 for fun. She posted him on Instagram, and I called right away to say I wanted to write a book about him. She said, "That's the Snow Queen".

Do you have a favourite spread in the story?

Lauren: The Queen of Winter spread. There's the little blue-and-white image of Cora tossing away a nut on the left and the Queen in her full regalia on the right. It's beautiful and eerie and turns the plot in an unexpected way.

Can you tell us about your journey into the world of children's books? 

Natalia: It started when I was six and Lauren was three. If anyone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say I wanted to write books, and Lauren would add that she'd draw the pictures. It took us a while to get started ­– Lauren was 27, and I was 30 – due to self-doubt. But that actually gave us the subject for our first book, Hortense and the Shadow. We found it hard getting signed, but once we had an agent (Angharad Kowal-Stannus), our first book was immediately picked up by Penguin. Lauren came to Walker Books a few years ago to do Sophie Dahl's Madame Badobedah and liked the creativity and freedom here so much that I followed her.

What are your favourite picture books, both older and more recent? 

Lauren: As children, we loved Andersen's Tales illustrated by Jiří Trnka and a 1970s Naomi Lewis and Errol le Cain version of The Snow Queen. Both those books were big influences on Frindleswylde – they have a dreamy, enchanted quality and embrace the innocence and darkness in Andersen.
Some more recent favourites are Shaun Tan's The Arrival, Carson Ellis's Du Iz Tak, and Jessica Love's Julian is a Mermaid


A special thanks to our guests this week, Natalia & Lauren O'Hara!
Frindleswylde is now available from all good booksellers.