Magda Olchawska is a writer and award winning filmmaker.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born at the end of a very long and cold winter in Wroclaw, Poland. When I was born, Poland was still a communist country and a pretty scary place to grow up. Oh, and grey and ominous for a kid. After graduating from high school I decided to follow my dreams of becoming a film-maker and moved to London. While in London I joined an acting school, later followed by film school.
I’ve been making films and writing stories or making up stories for as long as I can remember. I’m mostly interested in social issues (women and kids), human loneliness and fantasy. I suppose that is why I make films about loneliness of human soul, which I would call dramas and write fantasy stories.
In 2004 I graduated from London College of Communication. In 2005 I set up a production company called Mayan Films to produce my own films. In 2007 I set up a website www.bulletfilm.com for indie filmmakers to showcase their work and network.
I’m happily married to Marek and together we have a wonderful son Mikolay.
When and why did you begin writing?
I always loved stories and as a kid I even wrote a lot of poetry. I really got into writing more seriously when I attended film school. Then I started writing scripts. I needed to write a script for my school project and after that it just felt natural to keep writing scripts. A few years ago, having nothing better to do, I started writing short stories and a novel trilogy, which hasn’t been finished yet.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My son. He inspired me to write my first whole book, from the beginning to end. After that I was just hooked. Honestly I can spend hour after hour just writing.
You are also an award winning filmmaker I see? Congratulations! Tell us a bit about that as well.
Thank you. I only got my first award this year after 10 years of making films but it’s still very nice and extremely exciting. Filmmaking is a long and exhausting process. So many people on so many different levels are involved in making films. Often, a film takes so much life energy out of a filmmaker that it is good to have something else beside filmmaking.
For me something else is writing. I love making films though and collaborating with other artists on creating one final “product”. I guess I will always be a filmmaker. I just love being on a set.
When you write, do you work with an outline or just write?
I just write and see where it’s taking me. Then I do a lot, but I mean A LOT of re-writing. I tried to work with an outline but it just wasn’t for me. I like my writing to be free-spirited, if you know what I mean.
What audience do you write for?
I write for children age 2-8, also those living in each of us grown-ups.
What is “Mikolay & Julia” about?
Mikolay & Julia is series of books about two five years old wizards in training. They get into all sorts of trouble while exploring and adventuring. Whilst creating trouble for themselves, Mikolay & Julia manage to help a lot of different creatures in need.
Each book ends with a “Find out” section where children are asked to think about the environment or warned about dangerous situations that can come up on their way.
How did you come about Joanna Gniady your illustrator?
I was looking for an illustrator who could create the whole, unusual and very unique world around Mikolay & Julia. A friend of mine recommended Joanna who did a fantastic job on Mikolay & Julia. For the illustrations she used real eyes and made every single character wear cowboy boots. All the illustrations you see are collages and took like a long time to create.
Where did you get the idea for Mikolay & Julia books?
I started thinking about writing children’s books and stories right after I had my son. By that time I had already written several screenplays so it just seemed natural to write something for my little one. I have always liked stories about wizards, witches and fairies, so it seemed natural to me to write about wizards who get into trouble, who don’t care about following the rules and try to save the world if they can. Besides, it was my childhood dream to have special magical talents.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I’m an independent filmmaker so it was natural to go indie with my books as well. Besides, so few illustrated books are published nowadays. To have your book published by a traditional publisher requires as much work as self-publishing. When you self-publish you at have least control and influence over what happens with your work.
What inspires your writing?
Anything can be an inspiration for me. Often it starts with one word or a phrase, image, illustration, sometimes a dream.
Do you have writing routine?
I never write in the summer because I can’t seem to concentrate in hot weather. I write during fall and spring a lot. When I start writing I usually write for 5 hours a day and do loads of rewrites.
How can people get in touch with you?
Just go to my website www.magdaolchawska.com and email me or join me on Twitter @magdaolchawska