Sanne Dufft is the author and illustrator of The Night Lion, the feature book in our November 2017 boxes. Originally published in Germany as Magnus und der Nachlowe (Magnus and the Night Lion), North American rights were purchased by Canadian publisher Pajama Press. It was published in Canada in November 2017 and will be available in the US in late February 2018. Sanne lives in beautiful Tubingen, in the south of Germany.
MARMALADE BOOKS (MB): How young were you when you knew you wanted to be an author and an illustrator? Which came first?
SANNE DUFFT (SD): I must have been about eight or nine years old, when I decided to be a children’s book illustrator when I grew up. Here in Germany, the books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren are very popular, and were, not only for my generation, very present in our childhood lives. I adored the images by the Estonian illustrator Ilon Wikland, who illustrated a lot of her stories. Not only did I know I wanted to illustrate children’s books, I knew I wanted to illustrate exactly the way she did.
But later in my life, other dreams came along, and I did a lot of other things: First, I thought I wanted to make what I then thought was real art.
I learned marble sculpture and applied for art college. But before going to college, I wanted to see a bit of the world, which brought me to Northern Ireland, where I was going to spend six months - and ended up staying for more than three years! Then I discovered art therapy as a profession in which I could be an artist, and also work with people.
Later, when I had my children, I realized I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them while they were little. I loved being with them, and found myself filling sketchbooks with little sketches of them. I guess this reawakened my childhood dream.
Becoming an author was something I never planned or even dreamt of. It just happened, as some of the images I drew asked for words to go with them. I was lucky enough to have some wonderful people around me who helped me and encouraged me to turn these words into stories.
MB: I adore The Night Lion and the charming illustrations. How did the idea for the story come to you and how long did it take to get to the publishing stage?
SD: Thank you! First, there was an image which I made for a promotional postcard to send to publishers: A little boy lying asleep with a big lion. Don’t ask me where the idea for that came from… However, there it was, and I had the feeling that there could be a story to go with that image. In a process which took about two years, the story evolved, very much like a jigsaw puzzle put together from different elements, which came to me bit by bit. Some fragments for example were contributed by my children’s nana, my mother-in-law.
MB: You spent time in Northern Ireland working with special needs children. Can you tell us more about that?
SD: In Northern Ireland, I lived and worked at a Camphill Community, which is a boarding school for children with special needs, set up like a little village. An incredibly beautiful and inspiring place, for the children who live there as much as for young people from all over the world, who come there for a stretch of time to help and to learn.
MB: What is your hometown of Tuebingen, Germany like?
SD: I love Tuebingen. It is a picturesque little medieval town, with tiny houses in narrow alleys, cobblestone streets, a castle and a river running through it. I love living here. The town is large enough to have everything I need. There is even a bookstore specializing in children’s books! And it is small enough to easily get away from. From our house, it takes a short bike ride or a walk to be out in the fields or the woods.
MB: How old are your children and what do they think about having a mother who is an author and illustrator?
SD: My son is almost 16 years old, my older daughter is going to be 14, and my youngest has just turned eight.
All in all they like it, although my teenagers think I should be making ’cooler’ stuff. They are the most honest and straightforward critics I have, and this really helps me. (I don’t think I’ll ever live up to their expectations, though, but I guess that’s what it’s like to be a mother of teens…)
My youngest is a great fan of my work. She celebrates every new book with me.
She also draws and paints a lot and sometimes joins me in my studio to work alongside me.
MB: Have you ever been to Canada?
SD: I have, and I loved it! When I was sixteen, I had the opportunity to take part in an exchange program with a girl from Aurora, Ontario. I stayed there for a few months, and went to school with her. Luckily, I was there for part of the holidays, too, and got to spend some time at their little holiday cottage at Georgian Bay, which I absolutely loved. Over here in Europe, it is hard to find untouched nature like that.
MB: What is your next book?
SD: At the moment, I am working on the illustrations for a collection of fairy tales (most of them by the Grimm brothers), and on black and white illustrations for a chapter book about a little girl and her granny. This will keep me busy for while. After that, I’ll illustrate once more a story I have written. I do hope the one or the other of them is going to make its way to Canada.
My thanks to Sanne for this wonderful interview. We welcome you and your beautiful books to Canada. – Pat Oldroyd