“The Hobbit” and “Lost” actress Evangeline Lilly spoke with CBR TV’s Steve Sunu at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss her new venture — writing children’s books. Lilly brought her debut book, “The Squickerwonkers” featuring art by Weta’s Johnny Fraser-Allen, which actually began for Lilly when she was just 14 years-old. Lilly discusses making the transition from Hollywood actress to author, why she wanted to debut the book during Comic-Con and how “The Hobbit” both connected her to Fraser-Allen and inspired her to finally pursue her passion for writing. She also explains her collaborative process, what it feels like to see her dream realized, her future as an author and how she desperately wants to work with Wes Anderson.
On making the transition from Hollywood actress to children’s book author and why Comic-Con was the right place to debut her first book: It’s a dream come true for me. I’ve been dreaming about being a writer for a really long time. I bided my time and waited for the right moment, and hopefully this is my moment. I love writing. It’s my first and foremost passion and I’ve been fortunate to have a successful career as an actress, but, for me, acting kind of takes the back seat to writing.
That’s why I chose to debut at Comic-Con was because I know that these guys are no bullshit — they’ll tell you if it’s good and they’ll tell you if it’s bad. And if it’s good they’ll love you forever and if it’s bad they’ll never forgive you. [Laughs] I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I wanted to test myself against not only some of the toughest, but also most adoring and loving, fans in the world. And they’re my fans, you know? They’re people who like the kind of stuff I do as an actress so it gave me a safe place to go and be loved and be cared for.
On how her collaboration with artist Weta Workshop artist Johnny Fraser-Allen came about as a result of her work on “The Hobbit”: I went into Weta Workshop for my wardrobe fittings [as Tauriel] and when I was in there I was wildly inspired. It’s a building full of people creating every day, all day. It’s the kind of place that you imagine exists in the world and then when you stop believing in Willy Wonka you stop believing in places like the Weta Workshop factory. But it does exist, it’s just in Wellington [New Zealand], you have to go all the way across the world to find it. And so I decided at that moment, ‘You know what, knowing these people and seeing this workshop has not only inspired me to reach out and create something for myself but it’s given me connections within which to do that.’ So I’d be a fool not to take advantage of those connections. I took full advantage. I found Johnny Fraser-Allen — or he found me, we kind of found each other — and we started work on another book of mine, actually, called “The Galloping Man,” and it was Johnny who said, “It’s gotta be ‘The Squickerwonkers. I love your story ‘The Squickerwonkers’ and this is what I want to do with it.” And I fell so deeply in love with his vision for the story and his illustrations. I think you will, too.
On seeing her 14 year-old self’s vision come to life after all these years and the virtues of young creators: Aside from the fact that it’s a realize dream, it also for me has really validated that you should never underestimate what young people are doing because there is brilliance in youth. There is brilliance in the lack of shame and inhibition that comes when you’re still young and ballsy and you just try different things. At my age now, I don’t know if I would have come up with “The Squickerwonkers.” It’s such a kooky and strange title and a such a kooky and strange book and idea. You can almost tell that it has its roots in a young mind. But then what happens beautifully over time is you can refine your skills. That’s what had to happen for me before I could publish is I had to refine my skills as a writer and practice. You know practice practice practice practice, write write write write write. And so yeah, twenty years later I’m publishing a story I wrote when I was a kid.
On what the book and her foray into children’s books means for her future as a writer: “The Squickerwonkers” is meant to be an 18-book series, so it should keep me busy in the children’s realm for a long time — hopefully, knock on wood. Next year it’s my intention to start work on a new adult/adult novel series and maybe even graphic novel series based on a script that I also wrote many years ago, but not as many years ago. I think probably four or five or six years ago I wrote this script. So yeah, I do wanna delve into the adult world I just think it’s more challenging and — well, actually, I take that back. One of the most challenging things about writing for kids is you have to be so incredibly succinct and still say something. So I look forward to having those shackles taken off and be able to just write page upon page upon page upon page, and immerse myself in writing some novels.
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