Welcome to Justin’s Debut-Dance Ball, a virtual party to celebrate SCBWI-BI members’ debut publications. This month, Justin welcomes Middle Grade author, Sophie Anderson to the ball, and invites her to take a turn on the dance floor, whilst he asks the questions only a newly-published writer can answer!

Sophie, welcome to your party. Would you like to choose some music to dance to? Perhaps something you listen to whilst writing, or a tune that gets you into writing mode?

My books are inspired by Russian folklore, so I often listen to Russian folk music to put me in the mood for writing! Join Sophie & Justin as they dance the Kalinka by clicking here!

Published by Usborne 2018 Cover by Melissa Castrillon

Many congratulations on your debut novel The House With Chicken Legs. What does it feel like to see your book in print?

Thank you! It is a wonderful feeling and quite unique; a mixture of excitement and surrealness.

How did you celebrate landing your publishing deal?

With a great deal of jumping up and down, squealing and smiling.

Can you tell us about your book launch? Will it be vodka and blinis, or tea from the samovar with spiced honey bread?

There will be live music from a five-piece folk band who specialise in Russian music, Russian inspired nibbles, and lots of friendly book lovers (hopefully!) having a fab time. I can’t wait!

Ten seconds to describe The House With Chicken Legs. Go!

The House with Chicken Legs is a Baba Yaga reimagining following the journey of twelve-year-old Marinka as she tries to escape a lonely destiny as Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next.
The House with Chicken legs by Sophie Anderson. Illustrations by Elisa Paganelli

On your website you describe yourself as ‘author and fairy tale enthusiast’. What is it about fairy tales that inspires you, and why this particular one?

I love fairy tales for their ability to be read on so many levels. They are short, wonder tales bursting with information about the world. My particular love for Slavic fairy tales comes from my Prussian grandmother, and the Baba Yaga stories were always my favourites. Baba Yaga is such a rich, ambiguous character; with the ability to be both cruel and compassionate, she terrified and fascinated me in equal measure. And I always wanted to live in a house with chicken legs like hers!

Do you have any advice for writers who feel inspired to write a book based on a fairy tale or folklore?

Go for it! I think it is essential that fairy and folk tales keep being told, retold, and reimagined, and that completely new fairy stories are invented. It is what the genre was designed for! Fairy tales provide a rich source of inspiration and are a wonderful playground for writers. Pick up your pen and have some fun!

Your website features some inventive resources - factsheets, Russian foods word search, and yummy Russian recipes, for example. What else do you have planned for your author visits to schools?

I am planning activities that experiment with different ways of reimagining fairy tales and hope to encourage pupils to create some wonderful new stories of their own.

Your UK and US covers are very different in style; do you have a favourite? What level of input did you have in their design?

US cover of The House with Chicken legs by Sophie Anderson. Cover by Red Nose Studio

They are glorious, and I love them both equally. I was shown drafts of both the UK and US covers at different stages, so had the opportunity to give feedback, but in all honesty all I could say was, “brilliant!” The artists and designers working on the covers were hugely talented and knew exactly what they were doing. They had incredible ideas and knew far more than me about creating the perfect cover. It was a fascinating process to observe, and I am thrilled with the results!

German cover of The House with Chicken legs by Sophie Anderson. Cover by Eva Schöffmann-Davidov

And now, as the music fades, there’s just time to for you to tell us what’s up next for Sophie Anderson, children’s author. Can we expect more from Baba Yaga, or are you taking us somewhere new in the world for your next story?

My next book is another fairy tale reimagining, this time of a lesser known Russian fairy tale called The Lime Tree or Why Bears’ Paws are Like Hands. A minor character from The House with Chicken Legs features in a larger role, but it is definitely another stand-alone story.

Thank you, Sophie, for joining me at the Debut-Dance Ball. Apologies for my over-enthusiastic dancing in the Kalinka – shall we blame the vodka?

Over-enthusiastic dancing requires no apologies and should only ever be encouraged.

The House With Chicken Legs is out now, published by Usborne.

Sophie Anderson by seenicksphotography

Sophie Anderson grew up in Swansea, studied at Liverpool University, and has worked as a geologist and science teacher in several parts of the UK. She wrote textbooks until characters from Slavic fairy tales began appearing in her work. Now living in the Lake District with her teacher and photographer husband, Sophie enjoys the freedom of home schooling her three children, walking, canoeing, and daydreaming.

Follow Sophie:
Twitter: @sophieinspace
Instagram: @sophieandersonauthor
Facebook: SophieAndersonAuthor
Website: sophieandersonauthor.com

Justin Nevil Davies

Justin Nevil Davies leads two distinct lives. In one, he flies around the world as cabin crew. In the other, he writes middle-grade novels with the aim to make kids laugh. Sometimes, his lives converge. Justin is co-coordinator of SCBWI South East Scotland.

Follow Justin:
Twitter: @flyingscribbler
Instagram: flyingscribbler
Blog: The Flying Scribbler

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

Feature Illustration by Louisa Glancy

1 comment:

  1. I love "fairy tale enthusiast"! Maybe I'll embrace my fantasy enthusiasm like you have. And I love the chicken leg illustration, I need to get this book. Thanks for sharing!


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