A Rainy Dragon Day — Author Interview








Julie Völk is a celebrated illustrator from Vienna, Austria, who studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg and has illustrated many award-winning picture books. In 2018, she was named an IBBY Honored Illustrator

This is the first book you have both written and illustrated—how is it to write your own story compared with illustrating other people’s?

It is indeed the first book I have written with text, but it’s not the first book I have “written” myself. I have written three picture books without words—“silent books”. There isn’t a big difference in the way they work compared to a book with text. In both cases, I tell the story. While text can help clarify understanding, it also limits the readers and, to some extent, limits me as the storyteller. One story usually has many stories tucked within, and I like to let the reader to discover their own stories for themselves.

When I am working on my own ideas, I take a lot of time transforming the main idea into a good story. Then I spend a long time on the storyboard. The technique I will use is already clear to me at the beginning. At this point I have most of the pictures in my head.

It’s completely different when I illustrate other people’s stories. First, I familiarize myself with the story and the protagonists, then consider which technique will best suit the theme. After that, I set to work on the storyboard.

Do children relate more to the story of needing a bathroom or the dragon fantasyland?

Firstly, they react strongly to the dragon. They are entertained by the dragon standing in front of the bathroom door and ask if they should let him in. When they take a closer look at him, they quickly realize he’s a nice guy.

Children find the toilet story funny and the dragon’s world beautiful and exciting, but most important to them is the dragon himself; they show true empathy for his problem. That makes me especially happy because above all my aim was to tell a story about friendship, a day that could be a completely cozy and normal but becomes a special day because of a friend.

What are some possible interpretations of the scene where Fred and the others fly over the hill with the rocks hurling rocks?

The three friends have left the town behind and are on the way to Dragonland. This scene is a transition from our world to a fantasy world. In the background we can see a faint suggestion of civilization and in the foreground, on the cliffs, the stones are awakening into trolls.

I was inspired by a vacation in Norway, where you bump into troll caves and troll cliffs everywhere. The tall mountains, deep fjords and dark forests are wonderful backdrops and make it easy to think about mythical creatures. The fact that the trolls are throwing stones makes the scene not just a beautiful backdrop but also something exciting. What is happening here? Does Fred already know the trolls, and are they perhaps angry with him?

How do you create your artwork?

First, I work on the storyboard, until the picture sequence, flow of text and tone of the story fit exactly. From this I make small composition thumbnails of the individual pictures. Then I do some color and technique testing, to find how and with what I can best transfer the pictures onto the paper from my head. For A Rainy Dragon Day I first painted the background in watercolours and then drew over this with pencil, colored pencils and pastels.

A Rainy Dragon Day | Available August 2024 from all good bookstores
In this atmospheric picture book, a rainy day indoors turns into a fantastical journey to dragonland when Fred the elegant dragon arrives in need of a bathroom.