I had the pleasure of meeting Dalia Lane in Frankfurt, at the all encompassing and slightly overwhelming Book Messe. I’m not joking about overwhelming. The field of a stadium could have fit right over where just the kids’ section was. And that was just one floor, in just one building. It was insane. But amid all of the insanity, Dalia seemed to float in her own little realm peacefulness. Fairy Dalia is much the same, like entering a realm of calm and depth.
The story begins with the opening of a flower. It’s a long awaited event attended by all the creatures in an enchanted forest. And when the flower does open, it opens with a fairy inside. It would take pages to go into the depths of ideas that are touched upon in this first installment. But essentially they boil down to messages of inner-strength and peace. In the end, Fairy Dalia leaves the enchanted forest, the field, even her flower, to go support those who live outside the forest with her wisdom.
To say that the illustrations are lovely would be a tragic understatement. They seem to emerge from a swirling magical mist, with a combination of whimsy and grace. The darker settings allow the pages to shimmer and the other-worldliness of it all makes the reader feel like they’ve stepped through a fairy circle. One of my favorite pages, depicts the trees donning sleeping caps before turning in for the night. Dalia Lane and Naira Muradyan work exceedingly well together helping create an extremely complimentary set of illustrations that helps set not only the mood, but the entire stage for the book.
So, without further ado…
What was your inspiration for the book?
My daughter, Lisa Dalia, is my main inspiration for the series.
When she was born I felt an urgent need and responsibility to provide her not only with love and care but also with a functioning world in which she could grow and thrive. I cannot call the world where people kill each other as functioning. Therefore, as an artist, I create my version of the world that my daughter (hopefully) will choose to recreate in her adulthood. At least I tried to explain it to her.
Upon whom is the book`s red butterfly character based?
In my books each character is a metaphor, an ideal, a dream. The little red butterfly is a collective young spirit, who is actually a child, always curious, inquisitive, alert, and creative.
You share the same name as the title character. Do you see yourself as Fairy Dalia?
Well, a bit. I was always fond of the winged creatures: birds, butterflies, angels, and fairies. Creative spiritual expression has fascinated humans since prehistoric times, and, I decided to carry this fascination further in my fairytales. The main character, Fairy Dalia, symbolises flight of imagination. As a mother of a girl I chose a character that all girls love: namely a Fairy. Fairies are very feminine, wise and elegant creatures. They are very powerful in their subtleness. I believe in “soft power”.
I’ll reveal a secret: initially my books had a title “Fairy Lisa”. But such character already exists. So, I took my daughter`s second name, googled it, and could not find any fairy named Dalia. I decided to go with it.
The book is filled with metaphorical allegories. What was your goal for this book’s overarching message?
All of the characters and events in the series represent or symbolize something from the real world. My story is a sort of a puzzle if you wish, each line hides a secret message that (I hope) parents will be deciphering together with their children. This is my main goal, that parents and children will discuss together their philosophies of life, that they go beyond their daily routines, beyond the practical, dogmatic and traditional, beyond automatism and habit I want them to connect with each other on more profound levels of subjective reality. Connection is the key.
My story and my characters are just a catalyst for the deeper dynamic between parents and children, teachers and students, brothers and sisters,,,giving some unconventional food for thought disguised in a fairytale.
Who is your target audience with Fairy Dalia?
“Fairy Dalia” series could be of interest to children and adults of all ages, practitioners of yoga and meditation, psychologists, teachers, peace activists as well as the artistic community.
If there was one overall theme to take away from this book what would it be?
I believe that the art of centering, the ability to balance our emotions and the skill to meditate are universal tools of utmost importance in the modern world, which is filled with an abundance of uncontrollable aggression.
I hope that children who master these tools will grow into mindful adults who would not want to judge. People who do not judge do not destroy or kill. People who practice peace of the mind will never start a war.
The illustrations are absolutely stunning. How did you and Naira Muradyan work together?
Thank you. Illustrating children’s books is one of the most exciting and my most favourite endeavours ever. It’s as magical as giving birth. It is sometimes painful but in the end there is only a sense of joy, awe and wonder.
As an artist I love experimenting with my visual expressions. I am a big fan of an abstract and surreal art. Magritte, for example, is my favorite symbolist. He is also the favorite of Naira. So, I am very lucky to have found my creative soul mate in the shape of this extremely talented illustrator and animator. (By the way the cartoon on our website is animated as well by Naira Muradyan).
We work very organically together. Basically, all of the characters are already completed in my head and my task is to describe them clearly for Naira so she can produce them on her computer screen. Most of the illustrations have been first sketched by me by hand, and then designed on computer. I send a sketched storyline with matching descriptions to Naira, and we develop draft by draft each character and each illustration until they are ready to be alive.
Together we have created more than 200 illustrations. As you might have noticed my books have no white spaces in them. The illustrations are very colorful and unique in their details, helping to attract children’s attention. The surreal style of the imagery gives adults a chance to contemplate and meditate while reading.
Do you have a favorite page in the book?
Not really. I love them all equally and each in a different way as a mother loves her children.
On the side of the book it says Book One. How many other Fairy Dalia books are there? Do you have plans for more?
Yes. At the moment I have drafted some material and collected some ideas for at least 10 more books. Three books in the series have already been published in English. Book one is already available in 4 languages: English, German, French and Russian.
When and why did you start writing? Was it always for children?
I have been writing since my childhood. I was always a big admirer of poetry. That is why my fairytales have so many poetic references in them.
In my school years I won various poetry competitions. I used to work as a journalist, and I sometimes still write for magazines, but I have a heart of a poet. I am also a songwriter and have a blog. Apart from “Fairy Dalia” I have written several other fairytales that I will publish in the near future.For the time being I feel like indulging in children’s literature. I’d love to use this special time of my life in which I am inspired every day by this wonderful little girl growing beside me.
Who is your favorite children’s book author or illustrator? Why?
I have plenty. As a child I was an avid reader, and for many years my favorite author was Astrid Lindgren. As I grew up I got swept away by Lewis Carroll, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy and many others. In my adolescence I was into the Indian Ramayana, Sufi fables and Japanese folktales.
Today I find books of Benjamin Lacombe, Robert Ingpen and Rebecca Dautremer absolutely stunning. I would say that a blend of fantasy and surrealism is my favorite style of illustration.