Author-Illustrator Spotlight: Einar Lunden

© Einar Lunden

April 29. 2016

Today we present author-illustrator, EINAR LUNDEN! Einar is a published cartoonist, graphic novelist, and illustrator. 

Welcome, Einar!

Tell us about your background and how you came to write and illustrate for children.

I was born in Norway and moved to the States when I married my American wife in 2000. I come from a background in comics and graphic novels. When I was a kid, I would bring my allowance to the store and blow it all on books, mainly French and Belgian comics like Asterix, Lucky Luke and Tintin. Hergé’s Tintin was (and still is) my main influence and the reason I decided to go to school to learn how to draw comics. I left Norway and studied cartooning and graphic art at the Joe Kubert School in New Jersey.

Around the time when my son was born in 2004 I rediscovered a lot of amazing books for kids and exciting new ones I hadn’t seen before. I decided that’s what I wanted to focus on going forward and started sending out illustration samples, mostly to Norwegian publishers at first. 

I ended up illustrating several books written by one of Norway’s most beloved children’s book authors, Tor Åge Bringsværd. Eventually, I also both wrote and illustrated three more books of my own for kids inspired by the style of those French and Belgian graphic novels I grew up with.

You are a published cartoonist, graphic novelist, and illustrator. How are these types of work similar and different? How do you decide which vehicle works best for a project?

Usually it’s pretty obvious. My style of drawing tends to be similar no matter the genre - it’s the writing style that varies. 

Most ideas tend to lend themselves to a specific genre, but there is one particular project that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years that has gone through very different iterations. The characters really appeal to me but it’s hard to find the right outlet for them. At first I worked on it as a newspaper comic strip, which worked pretty well. I then tried to write it as a picture book, which was not as successful, before finally landing on a graphic novel as the most appropriate format. Turns out the characters probably needed more room to move, in a way. 

The truth is, these particular characters COULD work in many formats, but that’s often not the case. The picture book I’m currently shopping around, for example, would not work in any other format than that.

You’ve worked in Norway and the U.S. Have you noticed any differences in the kid lit industries in each country?

The obvious difference is the size of the market. In the U.S. you have a much better chance of reaching a much larger audience.

That being said, there are systems in place in Norway to compensate for the smaller market. The government will in many cases help out publishers, writers and illustrators with grants and other incentives. For example, all the books I’ve worked on have received subsidies in the form of the government buying a set number of copies of the book in order to distribute them out to libraries. That way, you’re guaranteed a higher print run, leading to a higher advance and not as steep a hill to sell out that advance and start receiving royalties. There are other compensations too which means that advances in Norway are often higher than what you’d see for a comparable book here in the States.

There’s also not the same system of needing to go through agents to reach publishers that we often see here in the States. It’s more common to deal directly with editors and ADs, even at an early stage.

© Einar Lunden

What projects are you working on now?

Too many! I’m shopping around my picture book dummy while writing a new book. I also have graphic novels in the works. I have a hope of adapting Shakespeare into graphic novel form for kids.

© Einar Lunden

I love how your characters are so full of expression and personality. What tips would you give to other illustrators on developing characters?

That’s a big  question! One of the things I would highly recommend is to look to animation. Nobody does expressions and gestures better that animators. Look at the work of masters like Eric Goldberg at Disney, for example. Truly amazing stuff. I have a degree in animation and although I never ended up working in the animation business, I learned a lot that I apply to my illustration and cartooning work. I particularly like drawing goofy-looking characters with exaggerated expressions - it makes my work day a lot more interesting!

Another thing that I’m sorry to say I don’t do enough of, is drawing from life. Sketching people at the coffee shop, drawing animals at the zoo, etc. Or just friends and family and pets. Generally just observe what’s around you. When creating characters it’s often really helpful to base them on someone real. I read a lot of interviews with creative people from all fields and it’s amazing to see how many of the famous and beloved characters we know in books, TV and film are based on very specific people from the creator’s life - a grandparent, a terrible boss, a parent, even an animal they’ve owned, and so on.

© Einar Lunden

Any general advice for aspiring illustrators?

Don’t try to be something you’re not. Learn from others but find what YOU like to do and a personal style will eventually emerge. I’ve struggled too much with this over the years. You keep hearing from editors, ADs and art reps that  “your style just doesn’t quite fit our line.” That doesn’t tell you anything helpful, but it’s always going to happen and it’s frustrating and might make you think you need to completely change what you’re doing. I

’ve second guessed myself too much over the years after getting these kinds of rejections, I find it so much more satisfying now to ignore the urge to change things too much and to keep doing my own thing instead of always trying to chase what I THINK others might want to see. Eventually, you’ll find someone who likes what you do.

That's really great advice. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m quite good at baking lots of different kinds of bread… It’s a hobby I really enjoy and that I take very seriously. It also has the added benefit of feeding the family! In fact, the book I’m currently writing about exactly this - a baking day gone terribly wrong.

Where can people find you online?

My portfolio is at I keep trying to blog and use Twitter and all that stuff, but it just doesn’t come naturally to me. You can find me at Twitter if you look for @einarlunden, though, and I have a Facebook page at

Einar Lunden has been a professional cartoonist, writer and illustrator of children’s books, graphic novels and comics since 1997. He was born in Kristiansand, Norway in 1974 and grew up in the small town of Lyngdal, beautifully located at the end of two fjords in the South of Norway. He's lived in the States since 2000 with my American wife, Anya, who is a professor of linguistics at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. He has a son, Espen, who is 12 years old, and a house full of cats. He's written and illustrated several books for kids in Norway, as well as many comic strips for some of Norway's largest newspapers over the years, in addition to various types of freelance illustration work.


  1. Love the goat!! Looking forward to baking day gone awry! Thanks, Einar :)

    PS: My daughter's name is Anya :)

  2. Adorable Shakespeare-inspired art! Thanks, Einar!

  3. I was going to go to a four-year college and be an anthropologist or to an art school and be an illustrator when a friend convinced me to learn photography at the University of Southern California. Little did I know it was a school that taught you how to make movies! It had never occurred to me that I'd ever have any interest in filmmaking.


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