Laurence Anholt is one of the world’s leading authors and illustrators for children. Growing up in the Netherlands, Laurence attended the Royal Academy in London and has produced over 200 picture books, published in 30 languages. Titles, such as the self-illustrated “Anholt’s Artists” and “Seriously Silly Stories” series have sold several million copies around the world. Many of his books are illustrated by his wife, Catherine, and they have won numerous awards including the prestigious Nestlé Smarties (Gold) Award on two occasions. Laurence’s first full-length novel, The Hypnotist, will be published in October 2016.
1. What was your biggest career break?
The most exciting break has come about quite recently. Having written children’s picture books for more than over 30 years, I was looking for a new adventure. I took a couple of years out to write two full length novels and I was amazed and delighted to be offered a two book contract by Penguin Random House. The first of these books, The Hypnotist will be published in October 2016 – I couldn’t be more excited!
2. Have you had a notable mentor – and if so what was it about them that was so inspiring?
The most powerful influences in my life have been wise women such as my mother, Joan; my daughters, Maddy and Claire; my Buddhist teacher, Alayasri; and especially, my wife, Catherine.
3. What one piece of advice would you give to the 20-year-old you?
Worry less. Quit smoking. Meditate. Live in the moment. Be proud of yourself. Hang on to those David Bowie albums. Take another look at that hairstyle.
4. What qualities to do you look for in new recruits?
I am in the blessed position of not employing anyone although I work with my wife, Cathy and a wonderful group of freelancers. What I look for in anyone I work with is honesty, individuality, positivity and a sense of humour.
5. Who do you admire and why?
I am a practising Buddhist and the people I admire have found some kind of higher wisdom. I admire those who value compassion, happiness and equanimity above material wealth or power. It is what is known as Right Livelihood.
6. What does the future of your industry look like?
The rise of Amazon, e-books, self-publishing, the internet and so on, has created an earthquake in the publishing industry. It is in the process of reinventing itself, but who knows what the future holds? Let’s hope there will always be a demand for magical storytelling and well-crafted prose.
7. If you weren’t in the role you are in today, what would you have been?
I trained originally as a Fine Artist at the Royal Academy, so I might well have become a painter. I am hugely proud of our son, Tom Anholt who is building a wonderful career as a painter from his studio in Berlin. Do check him out – the boy is living my unfulfilled dream!
8. What is your biggest extravagance?
As a self-employed person who lives in the wilds of the Devon countryside, I am able to leave my desk and wander along beaches or through forests at any time I please. This freedom is worth more than any salary I could be offered.
9. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and why? (you can invite three people – they must be alive)
Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, Barack Obama and Donald Trump should make for a lively evening.
10. What do you do to relax away from work?
I am a meditator and I have found that this simple daily practice brings health, stability and peace.
11. If you could change one thing about Britain today, what would it be?
More fairness and compassion – We could start by massively increasing the minimum wage; taking better care of the poor and needy within our community; and introducing a super-tax for super-wealthy corporations and individuals. We should also give true value to teachers, nurses, librarians, social workers, carers, artists and creative people who are the heart and soul of our culture.
12. What would your last meal be? (please choose a starter, a main course and a pudding)
French onion soup. Vegetable curry with rice. Plain yoghurt with fresh fruit. And an After Eight of course!