Firstly, for those who haven’t yet read The House with Chicken Legs, can you briefly sum up what it’s about?
The House with Chicken Legs is about twelve-year-old Marinka, who wants to escape a lonely destiny as Guardian of The Gate between this world and the next.
I have to say one of my favourite characters was actually the house! Despite the house not having any dialogue, you created it with such personality and warmth. And Marinka is such a headstrong and heartfelt heroine that you can’t help but feel for and grow with Marinka throughout her story of self-discovery. Where do you get your inspiration to write your characters?
I am inspired by the people around me. Marinka is based on my children, especially my daughter. Baba was based on my grandmother, and I am probably the house!
If you had a house with chicken legs for a day, where would you go?
To the enchanted forests and lakes of Eastern Europe, where my grandmother grew up.
Do you have any other favourite fictional houses?
The Moomin House!
Fairytales and folktales, myths and legends have become massively popular in both children’s and adult books, why do you think that is?
They are stories that have stood the test of time. They speak of the human experience, universal hopes and fears that affect us all across time and space.
I loved your enchanting reimagining of the Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga! Why did you decide to write about this tale in particular, and did you carry out any research when writing the book?
I have always been fascinated by Baba Yaga, since my grandmother first told me stories about her when I was very young. She is an ambiguous character, and I always sought to understand her. When writing The House with Chicken Legs, I read all the Baba Yaga stories I could find, and also read many non-fiction texts about her. The more I read the more fascinated I became!
What are some of your other favourite fairytales and folklores?
I have a particular fondness for Russian fairytales; The Snow Maiden, Sadko and Maria Morevna. But I also love tales from other places, for example the Anansi tales from West Africa and the One Thousand and One Nights tales from the Middle East.
Do you have any top tips for writing your own fairytales?
1. Read plenty of fairytales - reading is a brilliant way to learn how to craft a story.
2. Reimagine a familiar tale - tell the story from a different point of view, or change the setting, or a character’s role.
3. Use a sprinkling of fairytale words to set the mood, but keep the language simple and accessible.
Where and what do you envision Marinka doing in the future?
I like to think I left Marinka with lots of options, so I imagine her exploring all those possibilities, looking for the things that make her happiest!
What’s on the horizon for you now? Are you working on anything new?
I’m about to do the final copyedit for my next book The Girl who Speaks Bear, and I’m in the early stages of plotting another book.
And finally, I have to ask, what’s your favourite children’s book at the moment? Or what are two of your favourites? A childhood favourite and a current one!
My childhood favourite is Anne of Green Gables, and a more recent favourite is A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison.
And, if you could invite any five people – past and present – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?
My husband Nick and our four children, because I love spending time with them! Is that cheating? If I could have one more, I’d choose David Attenborough because he has so many fascinating stories to tell.
A massive thank you to Sophie Anderson for taking the time out of her very busy life to answer these questions with me. If anybody wants to find out more about this magical book you can check out more via Waterstones here, and for more details about Sophie and her upcoming events you can check out Sophie's beautiful website here.
Sophie's new book, The Girl Who Speaks Bear, published by Usborne and gorgeously illustrated by Kathrin Honesta is out September 2019. Check out more of Kathrin's illustrations via Instagram @kathrinhonestaa.
They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found - only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong. Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered about where she is from. She tries to ignore the strange whispers and looks from the villagers, wishing she was as strong on the inside as she is on the outside. But, when she has to flee her house, looking for answers about who she really is, a journey far beyond one that she ever imagined begins: from icy rivers to smouldering mountains meeting an ever-growing herd of extraordinary friends along the way.
Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka's journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs.
© 2018 Bluebird Reviews