As a child
I was born in Hannover, Germany, but my family moved to a smaller town almost at once.
I somehow worked out how to read when I was four, and by the trick of holding the books upside down I managed to hide that skill for some time, so I got to read some really exciting books before school. School wasn't so exciting, but I managed to read more books under the table secretly. I had trouble staying awake and often fell asleep during exams because I had such adventurous dreams at night.
After thirteen years of school, which seemed like a very long time,I really felt like going somewhere else. I decided to go to England because I figured that I'd learned good English from reading lots of American science fiction novels.
As an adult
In England, I learned for the first time that there are other exciting things besides reading books, for example swimming in the sea and running around town with friends looking for things to make art out of (I'd enrolled in an art college). I decided not to go back, and now I live in London which is a bit too far away from the sea but otherwise very nice. I spend my days writing, drawing, making toys and going on exploring missions - well, walks. Sometimes I still read books, too, but only one at a time now.
As an artist
My favourite thing is to see someone laugh at one of my books.
There are a lot of frightening things in the world, and I think my job is to find the happy things curled up in the corners. That can be quite hard work, but then I get to put them to paper and have them printed in a book so they are more easily found again, and that is great fun.
I like drawing with brushes and ink and being surprised by what comes out. Sometimes I am not in a mood for surprises, then I draw with a pencil instead and spend ages on it, but to be honest it still never ends up looking quite like I thought it would. I don't think it has to look like I imagined, as long as it says what I mean.I make stuffed toys because I find it hard to draw things I've not touched, and you're not really allowed to handle animals at the zoo, for example. But if I've looked at an animal and also tried to make it out of socks I normally feel confident enough drawing it.
Things you didn't know about Viviane Schwarz
- I always wear lipstick for difficult work, because it makes me feel more serious. Sometimes I wear it on my nose.
- There are eight pet birds flying around in my house.
- I don't put my really scary ideas into picture books, instead I write long ghost novels which I keep in a box.