How We Met: Cressida Cowell & Lauren Child

'We'd start playing Cluedo and end up decorating the board because it looked boring'

Cressida Cowell, 45, is an illustrator and children's author, best known for her series of novels starring Hiccup the Viking. The first novel in the series, 'How to Train Your Dragon', was recently turned into a blockbuster animation by DreamWorks. She lives in Hammersmith with her husband and three children

We were 16 when we first met and we'd both just moved to the same boarding school, Marlborough in Wiltshire. I remember first meeting Lauren in somebody's study, and I felt she was a kindred spirit from that instant. I remember she laughed at all my jokes, which is a very loveable decision to make.

We were both arty, creative people and that was a big connection. Lauren's father was the school's art teacher, and it had a fantastic art department – which was part of the reason I changed school. I remember both of us writing the beginnings of books both alone and with friends – I did this tongue-in-cheek romantic novel called Angora of the Shetland Isles – although interestingly we never did that sort of thing together. What I do remember is that we used talk to each other about children's books we liked: I introduced Lauren to Molesworth and she introduced me to Grimble.

Since then, we've always been close, and it's spooky how things have happened for us at the same time by sheer coincidence. After school, we took different paths: I read English at university, and was briefly in publishing. I spent a lot of time in my twenties feeling a bit left behind, and Lauren was also having difficulties. Then, we had our first books published in the same year – almost the same month, in fact. Also we started out writing picture books, and then both wrote a novel based on our picture-book character, and again published them in the same year.

Along with my sister, Lauren is my greatest confidante and our lives overlap in so many ways. For example, my daughter Maisie voiced Lola in the TV adaptation of Charlie and Lola. Lauren was trying to persuade [production company] Tiger Aspect to use a child's voice, rather than an adult voice actor, because she felt it would be more in the spirit of things. So she came round to my house with a Dictaphone, and recorded Maisie, who was four at the time. When they heard it, they realised Lauren was right.

That's also a great example of how Lauren sticks to her guns. Five years before her first Clarice Bean book, she took it to a publisher who said, "Yes, we like it, we want to publish it... but we want you to change everything about it." She said, "You know what? I don't want to change everything about my book to please you." I really admire that strength about her.

Lauren Child, 45, is an illustrator and children's author, whose works include the Clarice Bean novels and the Charlie and Lola picture books. Her latest Charlie and Lola adventure, 'Slightly Invisible', is available now from Orchard Books. She lives in Belsize Park, north London

I met Cressida early on [at Marlborough] at what they call girl's coffee. One of the things I liked immediately about her was that she wasn't competitive. I could tell that she was funny and clever, but it wasn't in a show-off way. I'd come from a school where people were quick to pigeonhole you and you were always scared of saying the wrong thing. But because Marlborough had this arty reputation, it had an intake of unusual people, and there was a freedom about the friendships I made there.

Often in the holidays, I remember I'd go and stay with Cress in London, which was always quite exciting, being a country mouse. I remember funny afternoons when we didn't have anything to do and we'd start playing Cluedo, and then end up decorating the board because we thought it looked boring. I also remember Cress as the person who introduced me to taramasalata.

I was going through my parents' attic a few weeks ago, and I found lots of funny notes that Cressida had passed me in class. I think we've always shared a similar sense of humour. But on a deeper level, we've both always been interested in the psychological side of things: I think it intrigues us why people are the way they are, or why children react as they do.

It's great to have a friend in the same industry, and she's always giving me great advice. Recently when I saw her I was getting really panicky about my new book, because it was the first one which had been trailed a long way in advance, and that raised the anticipation around it. The next day Cressida phoned me up, and said: "Don't listen to anybody." That was really nice, knowing that she had been thinking about [my situation] beyond that evening.

One of the great things about a long friendship like ours is that it makes you feel forever young. We were at a friend's house not so long ago, and we were chatting on the fire escape, and Cressida dropped something over the edge. I remember seeing her nip over the side to pick it up, despite there being a huge drop below. I wasn't expecting her to do that at all; it's the kind of thing that takes you back to being schoolgirls again.

'How to Train your Dragon' is available on DVD on 15 November. Green Drops and Moonsquirters: The Utterly Imaginative World of Lauren Child, is at the Discover Children's Story Centre (London E15, until April 2011

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat