A_Bookaholic Interviews Cornelia Funke, Author of Reckless

Finally! After months of waiting, here’s my interview (via email) with Cornelia Funke, the author of Reckless. Thank you Odelia from Pansing, for helping me arrange this 🙂

Cornelia is a multiple award-winning German author of children’s fiction. She is best known for her Inkworld trilogy (Read the first part, Inkheart. Loved it 🙂 My brief review here. Inkheart won the 2004 BookSense Book of the Year Children’s Literature award. Inkheart was followed by Inkspell, which won Funke her second BookSense Book of the Year Children’s Literature award (2006). The trilogy was concluded in Inkdeath (published in Germany in 2007, English version Spring 2008, American version Fall 2008.

Have you always wanted to be an author?
No, as a child I wanted to be an astronaut as Neil Armstrong had just landed on the moon and I was obsessed with Star Trek. But then I found out you have to have military training and I abandoned that dream. I also wanted to be a pilot at some point- and many other things but I never thought I could be a writer. It seemed to be a magical profession, something no normal human being could do. When I was young I didn’t even know what my favourite writers looked like and I for sure never thought I could meet one.

What’s your favourite book/story?
The Once and Future King, by T.H.White, but I also love William Goldman’s Princess Bride and The Lord of the Rings and…….so so many other books. My favourite fairy tale by the way is The Six Swans.

What are your writing habits? Any peculiar ones?
That changed a lot over the past few years. When I still lived in Hamburg and my children were small I used to have very regular writing times, but in the last five years I had to travel very much and my children live a very different life and need me in another way as Ben is 16 and Anna is 21. So I learned to write wherever and whenever I can as I need it every day-at least a little portion. I am addicted to it as much as I am addicted to chocolate. This year I once again hope to just be at home and write, which means I go to my writing house (which is in my garden) after I did my emails in the morning and write there until Lunch. Then I continue writing until I pick up Ben. I make dinner for him, we watch his favourite car or cooking show – and I do some more writing while he is i-chatting with his friends. A perfect day 🙂

What’s your favourite spot to write and/or illustrate?
My writing house is my favourite spot to write. It is filled with books and what children send me. It has a huge old Indian table and a sofa and a chair and a fire place and a lemon tree in front of the door. My illustrations I do at the main house, either in my dining room or in the living room where I have a drawing table.
Which do you prefer – writing or illustrating? Which one usually sparks your imagination?
I prefer the writing. But the illustration is a wonderful thing to do once I am finished with the writing. It makes me visit my stories in a very different way and it feels very different to work with pencil and paper instead of words. I love to listen to audio books while I am drawing which is such a treat.
On “Reckless”
What inspired Reckless?
Reckless is the first story that I found thanks to someone else. One of my best friends, Lionel Wigram, usually produces movies (he produces the Harry Potter movies and the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey) and we worked on a script idea of his together when we found the Mirrorworld. At that point it was just the idea that there is a world where all the fairy tales we know are reality. I loved that idea so much that I finally asked Lionel for permission to use it for a novel. As he had make me find that world we worked on the plots and the characters together so Reckless was also the very first book of mine where I allowed somebody else’s imagination to have a huge impact. If you ever want to write a story try to do it with a friend – it is a great adventure!

As for the world we found – it took me a while to figure out how to get there. First it was a door, but then I read about mirrors and all the stories and secrets connected with them and I thought: yes, that is the perfect entrance. I also felt that the fairy tales in the world behind it shouldn’t just be fairy tales in general but that the Mirrorworld should be a version of a 19th century world and have the same geography as our world. Which means that you only find trolls in the northern countries (unless they emigrated:) and that every country has the creatures and fairy tale motives we find in its folk tales. For part 1 I read German, Austrian and Slowenian fairy tales, for Part 2 English, Swiss and French tales. Part 3 is supposed to go to Russia, Part 4 to Spain and Part 5 may take Jacob to JApan, but let’s see. In my experience a story always has its own will!

How long did it take you to write it?
It took me almost three years, as I already worked on another book when Jacob Reckless came my way, which will come out in 2011. Normally it takes me about two years to write a book but it also took longer because I wrote in German but worked in English with Lionel and we always had to translate in between to keep on doing the story together.

What were the challenges you faced when writing the story?
It was a beast of a story. It liked to hide from me and make me get lost in its labyrinth then suddenly show me the way! It was such an adventure. I had never had such an impatient and thoughtless hero and he made me try to find a style that suited him. I wanted the language to be short and fast and more modern, to fit Jacob and his temperament. The Inkworld need a totally different language and pace.

It is always a wonderful challenge for a writer to change and develop one’s style and language. The first time I did that was with Thief Lord and I remember that I had 13 drafts at the end. With Reckless there were 6 or 7. Of course it was also a great challenge for the first time working WITH someone. As Lionel knew the characters as well as I did he questioned me much more than any editor would dare and it was incredibly inspiring to work like this but of course also much more exhausting. We are working on Part 2 and now it is already much easier because we built the world and found our rhythm together. In fact I will be done with it by the end of the year and its’ sooooooo much fun to write it.

What are your favourite characters in Reckless?
Hmmm, I guess Jacob is my favourite because he reminds me very much of my son – and he is my male alter ego and makes me feel very free and reckless while I am writing his story. Though…….on the other hand I LOVE Fox. I think I never creeted a character that is so much like me. And then there is the Dark Fairy and Valiant and Will and …as you see, I love them all!

How did you come up with the names like Kami’en and Hentzau?
For Kami’en I looked at the Polish word for stone as I always thought the Goyl come from the East and its mountains. As for Hentzau- he is Lionel’s favourite. He created the character and he gave him a name from one of his favourite movies: The Prisoner of Zenda.

Thank you for your time, Cornelia.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Terrific interview! And an interesting lady.


  2. A Bookaholic says:

    Yeaah! She also made me realise how much work and research and reading one's gotta do in order to write a really good book! 🙂


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