From the pulse of London to the idyllic, quiet little seaside community of Ljunghusen in the South of Sweden, Jules Nilsson’s life had taken a 360 degree turn. With an M.A in Art History from the University of Edinburgh, Jules was working as a Senior Art Consultant for a top London Gallery in Mayfair. A chance encounter with a Swede on a ski holiday led to marriage after a 3 year long distance relationship. Leaving London for Ljunghusen in 2009 with two young sons, Jules started to live a life very different from one she had known before. Buster the Schnauzer came into their lives in 2010, and a little daughter was added to the Nilsson family in 2011.
The Hounds of Falsterbo was self published in 2013, written in rhyming prose with all illustrations done by Jules herself, this book is a joy both for children and adults alike. It is one of a series of five books, the other 4 covering the different seasons in Falsterbo where the Hounds live.
How did the idea for the book arise?
I had decided to set up my own company and become a mumpreneur after my
third child was born in 2011. I wanted to work in a creative field but
at the same time have flexibility. I had contemplated setting up a
customised furniture company or a bespoke art buying service in
Scandinavia, but eventually fell in love with the idea of combining my
passion for art, writing and design and felt publishing was something I
would really enjoy. The three dogs had always sparked a strong visual
and emotional reaction in me when we met for walks together on the beach
and as their characters unfolded and the seasons begun to play a huge
part in my life the picture book concept developed organically.
What made you decide to set up your own publishing house?
I had a creative vision of making a specific style of book. A book for
children and parents and a book that felt timeless and elegant. I knew
that publishers would never commit to such a creative vision given the
cost and format of the book series I wanted to produce. Children’s book
publishers are notorious for taking a book, paying off the author and
limiting the input of creative direction. The Hounds of Falsterbo was
initially printed in possibly the most expensive format I could have
chosen, a cloth cover, de-bossing and silver foiling. It was a complete
vision of my ideal and most perfect book that I would want to receive,
leave on the coffee table or pour over with my children. The pallet of
colours ,weight and scale of the structure and the board book pages all
combined to form a unique format that was designed to crossover from the
book shelf, where we tend to store away precious paper paged books from
children and instead have a book that can endure tiny hands and inspire
a stylish mummy, grandparent or dog lover.
How did you initially cope with the move from a very fast paced life
to one that was the total opposite?
When we moved I was very much involved in the Bob Dylan art exhibition
in Copenhagen and still working for my London based art gallery which
made the transition quite thrilling. It was as though two perfect
worlds had collided and I could live in a tiny slice of heaven by the
sea in Ljunghusen and pop off to New York to meet Bob Dylan’s manager
whilst I continued to still work for The Halcyon gallery. There was
also much ground to cover as my two sons had to learn Swedish and adjust
to a new school, friends and languages so I was kept very well occupied
laying foundations for my children. We extended our family quite quickly
as we bought Buster, a Schnauzer puppy, who gave us all a great sense of
belonging and he was amazing company for me when I felt a little
isolated or alone in my new home.
What were the challenges you faced moving not only to a different
country, but to one that had a very small tight knit community?
As I had previously lived in Stockholm and Malmö I had relatively low
expectations when we moved to Ljunghusen as I knew it would be
challenging to fit into a new Swedish community. It takes time and
though language is not really a barrier, as practically every Swede
speaks very educated fluent English, many aspects of Swedish society
requires an understanding of the underlaying protocol and traditions.
Inevitably it is easier for me to relate to international Swedes who
have lived abroad or other couples where they have mixed marriages such
as mine. A majority of my friends are today Swedish and over the years I
feel that I have gradually learnt to understand my adopted country-folk
and enjoy our similarities and differences.
Are you pleased with the way the book has been received?
The Hounds of Falsterbo was a culmination of two very passionate years
of work and I have very much enjoyed the journey and the experiences as
an author, illustrator, creative designer and publisher. Last year I
held over 40 book readings and signing in the UK and met with over 1000
children. I was invited as a guest author to the prestigious Wilderness
festival, I was interviewed by BBC radio in London, The Guardian website
featured the short promotional film on their website and we were awarded
Best Picture Book of The Year 2014 – Highly Commended by Junior Design.
This year we were very lucky to be the shortlisted book for Best
Children’s Book 2015 by Prima Baby & Parenting in the UK. It feels as
though I have established a good foundation for The Hounds of Falsterbo
book series and I hope all of the wonderful followers on Facebook and
children who have written me lovely letters are patient enough to wait
for book II. I have given myself a decade to complete the five book
series and I shall continue to pursue this vision despite all the
enormous challenges which all independent publishers face.
The book has now been translated into Swedish, how has it worked with
translating your rhyming prose into the Swedish language?
As a visual person the text not only had to sound elegant but look
elegant and fit with in the balanced layout of the pages. That can be a
problem as the Swedish language has far fewer adjectives and the rhymes
can become labored and wordy. My rhyming prose also has a classic style
so the translator had to find a balance between contemporary and
historic undertones. I approached Lennart Hellsing, a famous Swedish
children’s book translator, who felt that he was too old at 95 to take
on the challenge, so I set about finding a translator in Skåne who could
interpret my text. After a failed attempted with one translator and
numerous other test translations I met with Lena Öhrström who I
instantly liked and I felt could communicate with. She was incredibly
patient with me and my rather limited Swedish. I am looking forward to
now working on the translation of book II.
Life must be hectic for a mother of three young children, how do you
cope with finding that balance for your own creative time?
I don’t think I have found a balance yet and am still a
“working-mum-in-progress”. I have obsessive working periods where I am
almost focused to the point of delirium and then find myself pulling
back and regrouping with my family. I love writing songs and stories
and these are wonderful moments of secret creative bliss which happen
often very early in the morning or late at night. As I work from home
most days until 4.00pm I will often continue working in the evenings or
early morning in order to be free for when the childcare are home from
nursery or school. Friday’s are officially Super Girl Day when my little
daughter and I spend the who day together visiting galleries, the
aquarium, or simply having lunch and going to pick out some new paints
or coloured paper to create with.
What are the future plans for the Publishing House Vind & Våg?
Vind & Våg has been working with several new formats for The Hounds of
Falsterbo Book I, so we now have a paperback, board book and hardback
version as well as the Swedish version. The CD song book was released
at Christmas and features 4 songs which I have written inspired by The
Hounds and the full audiobook. The second book from The Hounds – A
Winter’s tale should be available by Christmas and there will be a short
film and CD of songs to accompany this book as well. We have also
collaborated with Oskar & Ellen and are working on a gorgeous play bag
of finger puppets which relate to The Hounds of Falsterbo character and
Vind & Våg is also publishing this summer a charming art history book
based on 17 historic chairs. The book is entitled “Please Be Seated –
Chairs and The Tales They Tell” and the Art Historian author Gun
Bjerkander Handberg is a Swedish museum Curator, Lecturer and Auctioneer.
I am very much enjoying the role of Creative Direction and it is
certainly something I hope to do more of. I am currently working with a
handful of authors who are still in a developmental stage and I hope I
can offer my support and vision in realising their publishing
JUNIOR DESIGN AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE BOOK-