20 | 352LUXMAG - Article 10.2010
J. K. Rowling
Published childrens author Mara
Montebrusco-Gaspari received her
big break last month when she
signed a deal with Lux Animations to
animate her children’s book Igor the Cat
(Les aventures d'Igor le Chat - http://www.igorlechat.com )
She spoke to reporter Jess Bauldry about
writing and holding down a full-time job,
her love of cats and who she would choose
to play her in the planned feature
When did you first begin writing ?
I began writing seriously about 3 years ago
although I’ve always been interested since I
learned to write. I began with poems, when I
was about eight, and then started with short
stories. I always just wrote for myself until a few
years ago when I realised I was getting old and
should start doing what I like to do. I work fulltime
for European Institution in Kirchberg and
have one daughter. When you work and have a
family you don’t have time to do what you want
to do. But, now that my daughter is 17 I have
more free time for myself to do what I want.
Even if I work full-time and have a lot to do I
make time for writing now; writing enables me
to cope with the daily stress.
Tell us about Igor the cat, where did the
idea come from?
Igor was based on my cat, also called Igor. He
died nine years ago and I suppose that the book
was a way for my cat to live on. The story (it’s
a christmas story) is very close to reality in a lot
of ways. Igor comes back as a ghost and looks
after his owner’s daughter, a girl called Sara,
a character based on my daughter. I am in the
book as well, as the mother of the young girl.
All the action takes place in Luxembourg City
and in Echternach. I used to create stories for my
daughter when she was young. Although this
story wasn’t especially for her we did discuss
it together and we worked on some things
together, for example, she put toghether and
styled the pictures used for the book cover.
How did Luxembourg inspire your book?
I find that Luxembourg is a very beautiful city
and an ideal backdrop for a film. But there are
not many stories that are set here. For some
reason it’s sometimes forgotten by writers.
Having such a beautiful backdrop like Luxembourg
city (Unesco), with the Pétrusse valley, the
Casemates, the fortress etc, it’s very inspiring.
I love going around these places and finding
stories. It’s quite magical I suppose.
Was it easy to find a publisher ?
At the beginning I published the book myself
with Books on Demand. I printed a few hundred
copies on demand. Eventually I found a French
publisher, which I was really happy about. The
trouble is it’s not that easy publishing books in
French in Luxembourg as publishers focus more on Luxembourgish and
German manuscripts. I did most of the marketing myself in bookshops
and libraries and on Facebook, and I contacted LuxAnimation to pitch an
animation of the book.
Tell us about the deal with LuxAnimation
I sent my pitch several months ago and as I didn’t hear anything I
contacted them again and they said they were about to read it and
were enthusiastic shortly thereafter. I think that they liked the fact that
the story is set in Luxembourg, the characters and poetry in the story.
They are now writing the scenario and are trying to get the funding and
producers to fi nance the project.
I know that it will be in French and I guess in English too as it will be
produced for an International audience. I feel confi dent that LuxAnimation
will do a good job. They have the right experience and contacts to
make a success of it. So far they have already co-produced animations
like ‘Le petit Nicolas’ ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Nine’ for which the main producer
was Tim Burton. I don’t know whether I will have a speaking part. We
haven’t discussed that yet as the project is about two years away from
making it to cinemas. I suppose that if I could choose someone to do the
voice it would be J. K. Rowling herself for the English version or Meryl
Streep. And why not Isabelle Huppert for the French version.
Has the deal changed your life at all ?
Since a few weeks ago when LuxAnimation decided they would animate
the book and press got suddenly interested in my novel, people have
started recognising me in public. Most people who have approached me
have said they think it is fantastic that I am able to do a full-time job and
write. It makes me so happy to hear how enthusiastic people are and to
know that the work I have done has been recognised. And I’m so happy
to have the characters I created on the page come to life on the screen.
What’s in the pipeline ?
I have already completed another book but it’s a picture book for smaller
children. I have yet to fi nd a publisher for it though. It’s called ‘La
Sorcière d’Opale’ and is about a Witch travelling from Afghanistan to the
North of France who helps asylum seekers get to England. She brings
her cat and broom with her and it’s all about her journey and her quest
for tolerance and freedom. I’m also already thinking of writing a sequel
of Igor the Cat as the end leaves it open to this.
Cats feature a lot in your work. Why do you think that is ?
I like cats very much. They don’t feature in all my work but I think that
they are good characters because you can let them do what they want;
they are independant and mysterious. After Igor died we bought a second
cat, a siamese called Siam-Carlos, who also features as the bad cat
in the book. He has since died too recently. So now I am without cats
but it won’t be long before we I get a new one. I suppose that I can’t
live without cats.
You’ve been compared to Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling,
what do you think of that ?
A reviewer in Belgium wrote that Igor the Cat was the Luxembourg
Harry Potter. I never really thought of it before. I’ve since ever dreamed
of becoming a full-time writer. But you have to sell a lot of copies to
make enough money to live off because a lot of the cover price goes
towards print, editor, distribution and library costs, leaving very little for
the poor author at the end. I am quite realistic and I don’t think I’m quite
at the same level as Harry Potter just yet. But perhaps I should let the
For more information or to fi nd out where you can purchase a copy of
Igor Le Chat, visit www.igorlechat.com
Text: Jess Bauldry
Photo: Xavier Patris