The L-Space Web: Interviews

AM Promotional interview


Promotional Interview for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by US publisher, HarperCollins.

1. What did you read when you were in your teens?

I started out, as so many do, by reading all the sf I could get my hands on. And (as also happens a lot, although it's seldom acknowledge) the interest in reading that sf had awakened let me to read my way through the whole of the local public library. The one thing I didn't read in my teens was books for teens.

2. What first put the idea into your head that you would rewrite the story of the Pied Piper?

I came up with the book title a long time ago, and it became just a one-line gag in an adult Discworld book. Then one day I just sat down and thought had about it and, being me, got hold of every book about rats I could find. I thought it was going to be a simple little fun story that'd take me a couple of months to write. Boy, was I wrong...

3. Discworld plots are fast, furious and knotty! When you begin writing, do you know where your going, or do you have to let Discworld take control and see where it takes you?

I'm not sure about the 'furious and knotty'! And the answer deserves with one sentence or an essay. I'll try to summarise it like this: writing, for me, is a little like wood carving. You find the lump of tree (the big central theme that gets you started) and you start cutting the shape that you think you want it to be. But you find, if you do it right, that the wood has a grain of its own (characters develop and present new insights, concentrated thinking about the story opens new avenues) and if you're sensible you work with the grain and, if you come across a knot hole, you incorporate that into the design. A lot of things in Maurice 'weren't there' when I started; it'd be more true to say, though, that they were there, inherent in the basic story outline, and emerged as I worked through draft Zero, the one I write for myself to tell me how the story goes.

This is not the same as 'making it up as you go along'; it's a very careful process of control.

4. "There's no subtext, no social commentary," complains Malicia about "Mr Bunnsy." Fantasy is often thought of as escapism, but is it escapism with a firm root in reality?

Well, Malicia is a very knowing girl. She reads a lot. She's aware of the things we try to foist on kids via their reading. Fantasy IS escapism, but wait...why is this wrong? What are you escaping from, and where are you escaping to? Is the story opening windows or slamming doors? The British author G K Chesterton summarised the role of fantasy very well. He said its purpose was to take the everyday, commonplace world and lift it up and turn it around and show it to us from a different perspective, so that *once again* we see it for the first time and realise how marvellous it is. Sure, there's a lot of rubbish produced for kids, usually in order to get them to buy the merchandising, but fantasy per se -- the ability to envisage this world in many different ways -- is one of the skills that makes us human.

5. As a writer, do you spend too much time in Discworld to really enjoy other writers' fantasy worlds, or are there other favorite worlds that you enjoy escaping to?

To paraphrase Captain James T. Kirk: no, I live in this world, I only *work* in Discworld! I do read enough to keep up with the genre but, in truth, a great deal of my reading these days if either non-fiction or right outside the genre, which is as it should be.

6. 'Maurice' is set in Discworld, which has already seen 26 adult books, yet it's aimed at a younger market. Why?

In truth, it's aimed in theory at older children but in reality I'm quire sure that a lot of the adult readers will buy it. I already have quite a lot of cross-over readers, and I have written seven independent childrens/YA titles.

A lot of authors who have created a successful series tend, eventually, to franchise it. I've franchise DW, but to myself: I've decided to try new things with it. 'Maurice' is 'canonical' with the adult series -- it's clearly in the same world -- but writing it specifically for children offers me new challenges and opportunities. One of them was to work harder on a book than I've ever worked before!


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