Where did you write The House with Chicken Legs?
I carry a notebook everywhere, to scribble thoughts and ideas, so small parts of the book were written in all kinds of places — waiting rooms, bus stops, picnic spots. But mostly, the book was written at home, in my living room, with family chaos going on all around me!
What inspired you to write your book?
A combination of things; the Slavic fairy stories my grandmother told me when I was young, especially the tales about Baba Yaga; my experiences of grief; and my eldest daughter, who is growing up and seeking her own ‘destiny’.
How long did it take you to write The House with Chicken Legs?
The first draft took about three months, but then there were lots of edits! Altogether, I worked on the book for over two years.
Did you have any misgivings about writing a book for children with death as a central theme?
No. Death is a part of life, so I think it is important to have books with death as a theme. But I did want to portray death in as positive a way as possible. I didn’t want the book to be too dark, or scary, or depressing. I wanted to express how important it is to make the most of our lives, and how celebrating the lives of loved ones we have lost can help us balance our grief.
Was it hard to find a publisher willing to take it on because of the subject matter?
No! The book went to auction, which means several publishers wanted to take it on.
What does a day in the life of Sophie Anderson look like when you’re writing?
I am a mother of four children, who are all home schooled, so my days are mostly filled with caring for them, and helping them with their learning. I squeeze my writing into any moments I can, usually in the very early mornings or late evenings.
Describe your book in three words?
Quirky, moving and surprising.
How would you describe yourself as a child?
Shy, imaginative, and hard working. I haven’t changed much!
What was your favourite book as a child?
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson. It’s both immense fun, and philosophical too!
What was your favourite subject at school and why?
Science, because it helped me understand the world, and I liked the experiments.
Which book are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell which is absolutely amazing.
If you had the opportunity to meet any author (alive or dead!), who would you meet and why?
Tove Jansson, because she had a fascinating life, and I admire her art and writing so much I would love to talk about her creative processes.
What are the main messages you would like readers to take from reading your book?
That life is full of joy and sorrow, loneliness and companionship, pride and regret. To live means experiencing it all. Some things might feel heartbreaking, but they can never truly break your heart.
I hope my readers try to appreciate every moment — whether light or dark — and keep striving for happiness. We can shape and mould our futures, and the possibilities are as endless as the stars!
What advice do you have for young writers?
To read lots of books, because reading helps writers learn what makes a good story. And to write without fear of what others might think. Write for yourself, and have fun with it!
Click here to access reading resources and book club activities based on The House with Chicken Legs.