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Read an interview with Jackie Morris, author of The Secret of the Tattered Shoes!

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Jackie Morris, author of The Secret of the Tattered Shoes

We were lucky enough to get a quick interview with Jackie Morris, renowned illustrator and author of our book The Secret of the Tattered Shoes! She worked with Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi to create the book, which is based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Here’s what she had to say about her beautiful book.

What inspired you to retell the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses?

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a story I have known for years but never really been able to understand. The character of the soldier, usually illustrated as a Hussar, has always been an enigma to me. And the twelve girls who buy their happiness with the lives of others, well, I have always found them to be the strangest creatures. I’ve read so many different versions, but really wished to bring it up to date. I’ve never understood the idea of using people as prizes in competitions, of fathers offering their daughters up as a ‘gift’ to someone, should they complete a task. But more than that I could never ever understand why anyone should choose the hand in marriage of someone who treated the lives of others with such casual cruelty.

What do you think of Ehsan’s illustrations?

The opportunity to work with Ehsan is such a gift. I love his illustrations, his line, his colour. I was so pleased to see how he made the soldier so contemporary, and the dreamlike beauty of his illustrations add such layers to the text.

What relevance do you think fairytales have for contemporary readers?

I think these fairytales live for centuries because they speak to and of the human condition. They are archetypal stories that cross so many borders. So many fairytales are found in similar forms in so many cultures because they speak of humanity, try to explain, understand what it is to be human. I think they are often the finest example of all that connects us, makes us not a collection of different races, but one species — humankind, connected together by bridges of stories. One race, the human race.

What messages did you want to convey with this story?

I never wish to specify a ‘message’ from a book. It is always better if people find their own paths through stories. I did wish to touch upon, open the possibility for, there to be a discussion about suicide. The soldier is tired of life, for all that he has seen, much that he has done. It wanders around the edges of suicide and PTSD. But every soul who finds their way to this book brings their own experience and will read it in a different way. I hope that the updating of the story, where the forest becomes the refuge, away from the urbanity of the palace will sing to those who love the natural world.

You’re well known for your wonderful illustrations — what was it like to write a story and have someone else illustrate it?

This is my fifth text that has been illustrated by another illustrator. I love writing for other people and really hope to write for Ehsan again. It’s such a wonderful experience seeing your words clothed in the images of another. It gives the book a different kind of strength, two artists working together.

You’re a big supporter of diverse independent publishers. What would you say about Tiny Owl?

I have loved working with Tiny Owl on this book and hope to do many more books with them. At all stages of the book creativity has been central to the book. The design and production of the book is just wonderful. They have made our book a gift to be treasured. I’ve loved working with Ehsan, an illustrator and creator I have such respect for.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and illustrators?

Always keep your eyes and your ears open for inspiration as it can sneak up on you and take you by surprise. Be true to yourself and always try to do the very best you can and then some. If you wish to write one of the best ways to learn is to read, read and read, and if you wish to paint and draw then do, and try not to let anything, or anyone stop you. And make a friend of self-doubt.

  • Read Jackie Morris’ blog post about The Secret of the Tattered Shoes

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