Cressida grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. The island had no roads, houses or electricity. For the first four years, the family would be dropped off like castaways on the island by a local boatman and picked up again two weeks later. Imagine being like Robinson Crusoe and having a whole island to yourself to explore…
By the time Cressida was eight, the family had built a small stone house on the island, so they no longer had to camp out in tents, which made life much drier. Her father got a boat, so they could fish for enough food to feed the family for the whole summer.
Every year, Cressida spent the long summer holiday, and some of the spring, on the island. The house was lit by candle-light, and there was no electricity, telephone or television, so Cressida and the family lived like people in the olden days. In the evening, Cressida’s father told the children old Scottish tales about the people who lived on the islands round about, who were always fighting and tricking each other, and about dragons living in caves in the cliffs.
Cressida spent her time writing stories, fishing for things to eat, and exploring the island looking for these dragons. These childhood experiences (quite apart from her fluency in Old Norse, of course), made her delighted to be approached to translate the Hiccup memoirs…
After leaving school Cressida studied English at university, and then got degrees in graphic design and illustration at art college. For her final project at art school she created a childrens’ book called Little Bo Peep’s Library Book and was lucky enough to have that book published in 1998. She has gone on to write ten more picture books, including the popular Emily Brown stories, which won the Nestle Childrens’ Book Prize in 2006.
In 2002 she began to write a book for older children. Remembering the stories she had written on the island as a child, these ideas became the book How to Train Your Dragon. There are now nine books in the Hiccup series, and a DreamWorks Animation film of How to Train Y0ur Dragon came out in 2010!
Cressida lives in London with her husband, three children and a hamster.
Cressida Cowell won the Askews Torchlight Prize for How to Train Your Dragon in 2004, and the Nestles Smarties Prize for This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown.
Interview with Cressida Cowell
Who was your favourite author/illustrator as a child?
I particularly enjoyed the books of Diana Wynne Jones as a child. The Ogre Downstairs, in which five children find two magical chemistry sets, was my favourite.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
My earliest childhood memory is of a game I played with my father in which he launched me to the ‘moon’ – my fingerprints were on the ceiling for years afterwards.
If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I would love to have met Shakespeare. I am a bit addicted to reading books about him and I would love to find out if any of them are at all accurate, but unfortunately whatever else may or may not be true about him he is most definitely DEAD.
What is your favourite city and why?
London is absolutely my most favourite city in the world, which is lucky because I live there, but Edinburgh, Paris, New York and Rome are all very exciting to visit.
What is your daily routine?
I am woken up at about seven every day by my daughter Clemmie, who is a human alarm clock, it’s amazing, I don’t know how she does it. I am surprisingly organised
about working when the children are at school, because if I wasn’t I would NEVER get it all done.
Interview reproduced with thanks to Hachette Children’s Books.