Where did you grow up?
In Dorsten, a little town in the midst of Germany (not very pretty).
What were you like at school?
Good - and not ambitious (which means, quite lazy) but I loved to write essays,
though always too long and not always strictly on the topic, and English.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut, later on a pilot or live with the Red Indians. I
was quite serious about all these plans.
What did you do after you left school?
I studied Education (the most stupid idea of my life), because I wanted to work
in some way with children, not as a teacher, but as a social worker. I think, I
wanted to make the world a better place, but I found out, that you can't live
against your gifts. And my gifts are writing and drawing. I nevertheless learned
very much about children, when I worked as a social worker. I still have the
greatest respect for the ones, I met in those years - and they all had bad, bad
things to deal with, and did it so bravely. In The Thief Lord I tried to
describe, how much children can care for each other even under the worst
circumstances, even if they are left alone by their parents.
Why did you begin writing/illustrating?
As I said above, you shouldn't ignore your gifts - so after having
worked as a social worker for about three years I became an illustrator, and
when I never got stories I liked, I started to write
them myself - and discovered my passion for writing is much bigger
than for illustrating.
How would you describe your books?
They are stories. I am a storyteller.
Where do your ideas come from?
From everywhere and nowhere, from outside and inside. I have so many, I won't be
able to write them down in one lifetime.
What is your ideal place and time for writing/illustrating?
I can write everywhere (illustrating is a different thing, you need
your material). My favorite place for writing at the moment is a small table in
a small house in Malibu, California, straight at the Pacific, where dolphins and
pelicans pass and I hear the ocean. But my writing room in Hamburg is also a
very nice place.
Which book would you most like to have written?
Oh, of course everything from Shakespeare - and then T. H. White: The Once
and Future King.
What is your favorite film? Gods and Monsters by Bill Condon, with Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave and
Brendan Fraser (but I warn you, it is rather boring for children!)
What is your favorite music?
Henry Purcell (weird, my son would say) and Neil Young - oh yes, and I like
What is the funniest joke you know?
It doesn't work in written form, but it has to do with two hippos, the three
kings and Bethlehem
What is your most precious memory?
The birth of my two children of course - but in the past two years so
many precious memories have piled in my heart, that for the rest I
can't choose one anymore. They are all about meeting people, finding
new friends, working together. My memories of the past two years are
like a box of treasures, and I am sure, there will be a time, where I
will like to open it and look at them still shining.
What are you most proud of?
Very easy. My two children, Anna and Ben
What is your advice for aspiring authors/illustrators?
Read - and be curious. And if somebody says to you: Things are this
way. You can't change it.' don't believe a word (Shel Silverstein put
this much better in a poem).
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher.
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