Just Imagine

Q&A with Lou Carter & Nikki Dyson

Lou Carter and Nikki Dyson are the author and illustrator of the newly published title Oscar the Hungry Unicorn (Hachette). They have also previously collaborated on the popular title Pirate Stew. Lou’s other titles include There is No Dragon in This Story. 


We gather that writing wasn’t your first choice of career… can you tell us how you came to be a children’s author?

While working as a primary school teacher I would read to my class every day and it was during this time that I fell in love with picture books and knew that I just HAD to write my own.

Had you always had an interest in writing?

Not at all. As a child I was a very slow reader and a fairly poor writer. I didn’t enjoy reading until the age of 20 when I read Jane Eyre while at university, and it wasn’t until I was 23 that I even considered that I could be a writer.

What inspired you to write about “Oscar the Hungry Unicorn” and what makes him special in a world of many unicorns?

Oscar evolved gradually from other characters which I had developed over the years. He is the culmination of a farting pony, a penguin and a snow-pig! He differs from most unicorns because he is most certainly not magical, elegant, spritely or even particularly friendly! He is motivated by food and food alone.

Do you test the books out on your children & do they have any input into your stories?

My children are now teenagers, so test driving my books on them isn’t quite the same as it used to be, but my daughter is a top-notch editor, so I do usually use her as my first port of call.

Will we hear more from Oscar in the future? (We hope so!)

Oh yes indeedy! Oscar the Hungry Unicorn eats Christmas should be out next Autumn, fingers crossed!



Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into children’s book illustration?

I grew up in a small Oxfordshire village and with a strong desire to make mud pies for a living, when I realised this wasn’t the most sensible of career choices, I went on to study for a degree in General Illustration at Swindon and then worked in retail for a number of years, whilst still pursuing my dream of one day becoming a children’s book illustrator. I’ve always had a passion for drawing and I absolutely love books (especially funny ones!) and being read to when I was little, so I guess illustrating has felt quite like a natural path for me to come in to, almost like putting on a pair of comfy slippers! Being a very visual person, I found it lovely to be able to tell a story through pictures, there’s something quite magical about it.

We’ve loved hearing about Oscar the Hungry Unicorn! Was he fun to draw and do you have any hungry pets yourself who may have inspired you?

Yes without a doubt Oscar is one of the funnest characters to draw! Me and Lou wanted him to have a real deadpan look and it sits well with Lou’s wonderful funny story, I think it makes the interactions with the other characters even more amusing somehow! I often laugh to myself in my home studio when drawing him, I’m sure my neighbours think I’m slightly mad! Haha!

No, I sadly don’t have any pets, but I am myself a VERY greedy person! So I think there’s a tiny bit of me in there somewhere! I’ve had a lot of people mention to me that they see Oscar as their spirit animal, which is really funny and brilliant to hear! I’m so glad that people can connect to him in that way, it makes me happy to see that, as I love creating characters and bringing them to life, it’s a really satisfying part of my job.

This is your second book with Lou, Do you have anymore joint projects in the pipeline?

Well, that’s very funny you should ask me that question as I am currently working on the colour artwork for the Oscar the Hungry Unicorn sequel! I’m not sure how much I can say but I think it’s an even funnier story, it’s set at Christmas so I’ll leave it at that! Also I think there might be another book on the cards with Lou in the future but it’s still in the early development stages, I really love working with Lou so much so I’m hoping our collaborating will go on FOREVER! Until Oscar eats the whole universe that is! Haha!

Do you have a favourite thing to draw?

Bunnies. I LOVE bunnies! I like their floppy ears, twitchy noses and big feet. They almost look comical and cute at the same time!