The coolest BFFs?! Cressida Cowell & Lauren Child…

Over the years, Moontrug has come across some seriously cool friendship pairings in books: Lyra and Will in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Wild Boy and Clarissa in Rob Lloyd Jones’ Wild Boy and Auggie and Summer in R. J. Palacio’s Wonder. And then, a few weeks ago, Moontrug stumbled across a SUPER COOL pairing: two ridiculously bestselling authors who are BEST FRIENDS! How cool is that? And this coolness came in the form of Cressida Cowell (author of the brilliant How To Train Your Dragon series) and Lauren Child (author of the wonderful Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort series) speaking at Imagine Children’s Festival, in an event chaired by Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust.

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The first thing Moontrug noticed about Lauren Child was her uber trendy boots (kind of like Doc Martins with bright red laces) and the first thing Moontrug spied about Cressida Cowell was her funky tweed waistcoat – best friends with style, it seemed… The two authors met when they were 16 years old, when they signed up to the sixth form of the same boarding school. They shared English and Art classes together, a love of a posh pink dip called taramasalata and a passion for writing stories. At the time of their meeting, Cressida was writing a story called Angora of the Shetland Isles, which was partly inspired by her summer holidays spent running wild across the Inner Hebrides – the original Vikings/dragons territory off the coast of Scotland. Cressida admits that the rugged landscape inspired her writing and was probably the reason she choose to explore Vikings and dragons in her bestselling How To Train Your Dragon series, which includes titles like How to be a Pirate, How to speak Dragonese, How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, How to break a Dragon’s heart. The books are brimming with fabulous illustrations (drawn by Cressida herself), hilariously named characters (Fishlegs, Tuffnut Junior, Gobber the Belch…) and action-packed plots…

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Although Cressida and Lauren are best friends (Cressida’s daughters did the voice of Lola in the TV adaptation of Lauren’s Clarice Bean books), they have very different writing patterns. Like Moontrug, Cressida likes to plan an overarching plot for her books before writing whereas Lauren often just dives in. Lauren admitted she’s very indecisive when it comes to her plots. And apparently a child came up to her recently and said: ‘I know who the villain is in the Ruby Retfort books.’ And Lauren was a bit confused – because she didn’t even know who the villian was at that stage! Lauren spoke about the importance of having ‘thinking time’ before writing ideas down though – time to explore ideas in her head before starting the writing process. And both authors spoke about how ‘good’ writing should ‘move’ the author as the author writes it – so, for example, Cressida likes to really scare herself when writing about her witch who moves on all fours… That way it’s more frightening – more real – for the reader, too.

cowellMoontrug with best-selling author, Cressida Cowell

Unlike Cressida’s dragon books, Lauren’s books involve every day events and people and Lauren said she can still vividly remember her day-to-day feelings as a child which help to inspire her plots: ‘When I walk past restaurants that have no-one in I feel really sad for the owners; it’s like sitting at the back of the bus as a child, with just your sandwiches as company.  Or when I break something, like knocking a vase over, I feel the guilt and shame exactly as if I was eight years old again. Both Cressida and Lauren spoke about the differences in their characters, too. Cressida’s hero, Hiccup, has to learn courage and self-esteem over the course of the books whereas Lauren’s latest heroine, Ruby Redfort (named after her childhood screen crush, Robert Redford) is seemingly brilliant at everything and must learn how to fail, how to be humble – equally important lessons.

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One thing both authors have in common though (and in abundance) is humour.  Lauren talked of the rhythm of sentences – how writers often draw out their writing to explain their jokes, but really they should trust their reader to interpret them. And there’s nothing Moontrug likes quite so much as FUNNINESS. So she’s excited about diving into some Ruby Redfort adventures and getting lost in Hiccup Horrendous Haddock The Third’s sword-fighting dragon-whispering tales! Oooooh, it’s going to be a fun ride…

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