Monday, June 27, 2011
Cornelia Funke's Reckless Blog Tour
As one of Ms. Funke's biggest fans, I swooned with joy when ChickenHouse asked me to be part of the Reckless blog tour. I jumped at the chance and worked my butt off on the questions and the interview below is the result.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
Reckless drips with dark fairy tale menace, and several of your other books also have a ‘fairy tale’ feel. Are you a big fan of fairy tales and can you perhaps tell us which have influenced you the most?
Funnily enough, I never liked fairy tales. I preferred myth and folk tales that are much older. But, as a German child of my generation, I was brought up on Grimm’s fairy tales, and they haunted me and proved to be quite unforgettable. Reckless is also about my experience of living in two worlds: in America, which is in so many ways the younger and more modern world, and in Europe, where we still meet the past at every corner and our own romanticised interpretation of it. Fairy tales talk so much about a lost past, about human nature and all its darkness and light, that the more I explored them the more I was fascinated by how much they have changed and how they were sometimes used as a tool to transport beliefs and social rules.
In Reckless, your writing style is far darker, more mature, than in, say, your Inkheart books. Was this a deliberate change in tone and how did Lionel Wigram co-writing with you affect your writing voice?
When I was editing Inkdeath I started to feel that the style did not fit me anymore. The last few years brought vast private changes for me: my husband of 27 years died, I moved to America, and my daughter left home and now lives in London - which makes me travel a lot. I felt I needed a less ‘baroque’ language; less sentimental, less wordy, more modern. I also felt that there were stories stirring in me that were older. With my being 52 that’s probably not a big surprise; even my ‘young’ son is now 16 and taller than me. When my friend Lionel Wigram [producer of the Harry Potter movies] came to me with the initial ideas for Reckless, he was the perfect collaborator for helping me find that new voice. Lionel and I were soon working so closely together that we were ruthless when it came to criticising each other’s ideas. It feels different to be edited by a close friend who is also a well-respected creative partner. I am much more protective of my characters and stories when editors criticise them, as they only spend a few days or weeks with them while I have been living with them for years. Lionel, in contrast, had created them with me and therefore sometimes knew them even better than I did, especially the male characters. It was also vastly inspiring (and refreshing) to discuss characters and motives not only in my own head but with someone else. It was like I could paint a rather brilliant Yellow and Lionel, a beautiful Blue. But together we could suddenly paint this quite magical Green – rich and dark and unlike anything we could have come up with alone.
I recall Lionel mentioning at your hardback launch last year in London that he had learned a tremendous amount writing Reckless with you. Do you think any of Lionel's script-writing skills have rubbed off on you?
First of all, he taught me how to collaborate, to enjoy the inspiration of another imagination colliding with my own. Guillermo del Toro [producer of Pan’s Labyrinth] asked me to work with him on an animation project this year and I realised how much I had learned about collaboration during the past five years.
Lionel is used to telling a story in a very disciplined and lean way as he has only two hours to fill on the screen. I, in contrast, am a storyteller who can get easily distracted by every minor character who stumbles out of my imagined forests. Lionel learned from me, I think, to sometimes follow those random intruders and I learned to sometimes stay away from them and follow our main hero instead. Lionel is sometimes more insistent on asking a character some quite uncomfortable questions (Jacob hated him for that). On the other hand, Lionel enjoyed spending a whole chapter inside a character’s head – something that is impossible to do in a script. Some readers mistook my new voice for something more movie-like, whereas I personally find it more literary with its inner monologues.
I recently read one of the interviews you gave and you mentioned that your characters sometimes scare you. Who in Reckless had the greatest impact on you and your nerves?
I think that character will fully appear in book three. I only discovered him while I was promoting Reckless in Moscow. I took a walk across the Red Square with my literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg, and suddenly I stopped and murmured something like: “Heavens. I had no idea! So he is behind this.” Writers are used to this kind of fictional ‘encounter’, but Andrew had probably not witnessed it before and was quite amused.
Of course the Tailor, whom we meet in Reckless, is very scary, and two of the characters in the second book aren’t the kind of company you might wish for, but I don’t think they are any competition for the character I met in Moscow. Let’s see…
I loved your two female characters in Reckless (Fox and Clara), and was wondering how much time you spent creating these characters or did they simply turn up, fully formed, ready to be written into the storyline?
Fox turned up fully formed and ready, but only because Lionel fought me when I wanted to turn Valiant into an almost dog-like devoted companion for Jacob. “No!” he said. “If you want a dog, give Jacob a dog; let it be a talking dog if you want, but the dwarf is mean!” A talking dog… hmmm… that was interesting.
Suddenly, all the foxes popped into my head that we meet in the Grimm’s dark forests. They always talk and they are wise and very helpful. So… there was Fox. I only realised that Fox was a woman a few chapters later. That came as quite a surprise. Fox is my alter ego, more than any character ever was; she is the alter ego of my female side.
Clara, in contrast, hid from us. We had endless discussions about her before we could see her clearly, and what finally made me understand her was how she related to Fox.
As for the female characters in Reckless, I admit my secret favourite (aside from Fox) is, for sure, the Dark Fairy, and many girls, even very young ones, love her passionately. But I was once asked to kill her…
You have written extensively for teen and younger readers. Have you considered writing exclusively for the adult audience?
No, I love the fact that as a writer for children I can tell a story for three or four generations, and that they can travel together through the world I offer them. As I am now 52 and my children are both quite grown up I have started having ideas for ‘older’ stories – quite natural I guess. Reckless is a step in that direction, though I have heard from 10-year-olds who loved it. I will for sure write another three or even four books in the Reckless series, and I have plans for stories that are for a younger audience. But I also love the fact that some stories just come my way and won’t leave me alone until I write them. So let’s see who and what will show up in the next few years.
What are some of your favourite reads as an adult? What are you currently reading?
At the moment I mostly read books that are research for Reckless – books on the 19th century and on fairy tales. One is The Conquest of Nature, by David Blackbourn, about the straightening of the Rhine river, completely fascinating. And then, just for fun: Forests and The Dominion of the Dead by Robert Pogue Harrison; The History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor; Mirror of the World by Julian Bell; and Citizens by Simon Schama – which may be research for a possible new project. Additionally, I love to listen to the audio version of Ten by Maugham: A Collection of Short Stories by Somerset Maugham. He is still one of the greatest storytellers for me.
For all the aspiring writers out there, can you share with us any advice you received as an aspiring writer that stuck with you?
I didn’t receive any advice, as I just started writing one night because I was a very bored illustrator and desperately longed for different stories from those the publishers sent me. I developed my method and rhythm of writing over the years myself, as I think that every writer has a different way to find the right story. I tell children who want to be writers that they should always carry a pen with them (one that also writes on skin in case they run out of paper), as the best ideas tend to show up in the most impractical places and dissolve in our minds as easily as soap bubbles. I also recommend that they only choose to write stories that they feel passionate about – passionate enough to spend many months or years with them – and that they should allow their characters to sometimes surprise them and show them what their story is truly about. But, as I said above, for every writer there is a different path through the labyrinth.
Thank you so much to ChickenHouse and to Cornelia for this great interview.
Do follow the rest of the tour!