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Blog 'Choose Love' Q&A with Nicola Davies & Petr Horacek

'Choose Love' Q&A with Nicola Davies & Petr Horacek

By Nicola Davies & Petr Horáček | Guest Blog, Q&A, Author, Illustrator

'Choose Love' Q&A with Nicola Davies & Petr Horacek

Author Nicola Davies and illustrator Petr Horáček talk to us about their new book 'Choose Love'!

Can you give us a brief description of what Choose Love” is for those who might not have heard about it?

Nicola: Choose Love is a collection of poems that retell real life incidents shared with me by refugee organisations, and in the news. Its aim is to make those experiences accessible to readers, to help them to understand and empathise with the trauma and life disruption that becoming a refugee can cause. It was important to me that I did not profit from this collection so both my royalties and Petr’s will go straight to the charity for which the collection is named ‘Choose Love’.

Petr: Choose Love, is a sequence of very powerful poems, inspired by humanitarian crises we hear and learn about every day. We hear about them, but we stop listening and often refuse to understand. Behind each of Nicola’s poem is a real story of real people. They are the same people as us. To read Nicola’s poems, and to listen to Nicola telling the stories behind each poem, was for me an unforgettable experience.

Was there a particular story that really stood out to you? Why?

Nicola: The story of the Syrian women who had carried her mother’s favourite teacup all the way across Europe. She held herself and her family together through their journey and all the trials and tribulations they had to face. She remained hopeful and positive for months. Then her mother cup broke and she found herself crumbling. But when her daughter painstakingly stuck it back together, she felt restored. I think that story shows how human beings can be sustained by love, by comfort and by hope, and anything that symbolises those things for them.

Petr: The book is such a complex collection of poems that it will be very difficult for me to choose only one of them. But I remember reading “Supermarket Flowers” for the very first time and realising how very little we know and how often we don’t realise what impact our actions may have on the lives of others. Human beings have a responsibility to care and look after each other.

How long did each story take to turn into a poem/drawing?

Nicola: Poems tend to come to me quite quickly when I begin to focus on the idea. Writing poem versions of stories was great because the material was already there, already with a structure so half my job was done. Probably a day or two for each one?

Petr: I read the poems and I started to paint. Not much thinking, no sketching. It had to come out straight onto the paper. I had never experienced anything like that before. When I finished, I said to Nicola: “This is what I can do. I can’t change anything.”

Luckily, Nicola liked the illustrations.

Whats it like to work together?

Nicola: Petr and I work well together. We’ve worked both ways round…he’s illustrated my words and I’ve written to his pictures. I knew he was the perfect person to do this collection and I was right; the images he created…seemingly very quickly were perfect, full of emotion but open to the reader’s own interpretation, so they draw the reader into the collection in an intimate and personal way.

Petr: Nicola is very professional, passionate about everything she does, full of energy and great fun to be around. She’s also very generous and supportive of my work. That’s something which is quite important if you’re working as a team. We always have a good laugh when we see each other.

Do you have any top tips for budding writers and artists? 

Nicola: Read and draw - both writers and artists should do both. They build your ability to pay attention to process ideas, and to focus. Keep a notebook write and draw in it every day and build your ability to look at the world around you and to think about it.

Petr: Just to be absolutely honest in what you are doing and take responsibility for your work. If you are honest, it can’t go wrong.

Do you have a special place you write / illustrate?

Nicola: I have a study in the garden, with a desk and books shelves it's LOVELY.

Petr: I have a small studio at the bottom of our garden. For me it’s one of the best places in the world to be.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Nicola: Lord of the Rings by JR R Tolkien

Petr: I grew up in Czechoslovakia, so the titles of the books I read as a child won’t tell you much. But the book which made me start illustrating and writing books for children was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. I didn’t know the book until I moved to England in my late twenties.

Where can fans of your work find out more about you and your work?

Nicola: Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @nicolakidsbooks and by the end of the summer I will have a new website.

Petr: I have a website, and I’m also on Instagram @p.horacek_

Do you have any projects in the pipeline you’d like to share with us?

Nicola: A poetry collection with Petr! It’s called the Star Whale and is out in September. I wrote words to go with Petr’s beautiful art. Also, the paperback of my YA novel The Song tight Sings US is out in July and the prequel to that story ‘Skrimsli’ is out in September.

Petr: Nicola and I are having a new book published at the end of the summer. It’s called “The Star Whale”, to be published by Otter-Barry. It’s a big book with almost 50 double spread illustrations in full colour.

It was great joy to work on the book with Nicola. I can’t wait to see it when it’s out.

How would you describe Choose Love” in one sentence?

Nicola: Poems that show the human experience behind the dehumanising label ‘refugee’

Petr: Painfully beautiful, written with love, compassion, and hope.

Published: Fri 14th Jul 2023

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