Interview: Cornelia Funke

NZ Booklovers chats with the incredibly talented young adult fantasy author, Cornelia Funke. Cornelia’s books include the Inkheart trilogy, and the Mirrorworld series. She is coming to New Zealand for the Auckland Writers Festival in May, and you’ll be able to catch her at her Mirrorworlds event on May 16th 2014.

Hi Cornelia, thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for NZ Booklovers!

Your Inkheart trilogy strikes such a chord with readers, perhaps because being able to read characters out of a book is every reader’s dream. If you could read any character out of any book, who would you read out?

I would read out Jacob Reckless and ask him to bring a witch comb from behind the Mirror that allows me to turn into a bird.

As a child did you always want to be a writer, or did you want to be something else when you grew up?

I only wished to be an astronaut. They had just landed on the moon and I was obsessed with StarTrek… but then I found out I would have to go to the army for it, which killed this dream, as I am not good with following orders.

How much research do you need to do before you start writing a book?

I LOVE research. I get quite obsessed with it. I mostly spend almost half a year on it before I start a new book, though by now with MirrorWorld I mostly do the research while working on the plot, as most of the world is already established

How long does a novel generally take you to write?

Two years at least. Though I plan to write a sequel for Dragonrider, that I hope will take me only a year, as I know the characters so well and the book is for a younger audience. I also love to write short story by now to play with other characters and motives, while being stuck behind the Mirror (a world that will probably keep me enchanted for the rest of my life J

Both your Inkheart and Mirrorworld series take a lot from other stories and fairytales. What book do you think has influenced you the most as a writer?

Everything I read of course, the bad stories and the good ones. But I believe that the most inspiring influence still comes from reality and what life serves us as experiences, images, tastes…The stories and books often give us tools to clad those experiences in words or imagery, but the heart of the book should always beat by pumping blood, not ink J

The Mirrorworld series’ brothers are named after the Brother’s Grimm, and a number of the Grimm’s tales are referenced in Reckless. Is Fearless heavily influenced by Grimm stories as well?

I plan to travel around the world in the MirrorWorld series using folk tales and myth as my flying carpet and travel guides. Fearless plays with motives from French and British fairy tales and Heartless, which I just finished, with Russian, Ukrainian, Mongolian tales and many others from that region. Book 4 will hopefully take me through Asia and to Australia and New Zealand, Book 5 to the Americas and Book 6 to Africa and Spain. BUT my stories tend to have their own plans so let’s seeJ And of course I do not only use motives and treasures from folk tales, but also make up my own- and the best compliment is when my readers don’t know whether a treasure or creature came from a tale or is my creation J

What can Reckless fans expect from Fearless?

While Reckless was just the first glimpse through the Mirror, Fearless travels deep into that world. It is mostly about Jacob and Fox and their unspoken love. It introduces a few new heroes like Nerron, the Onyx bastard, we meet Jacob’s father for the first time, though many readers won’t notice – and we are introduced to a character who is at the heart of it all. In fact he is even the reason for the Silvertongues in Inkworld (which is Mirrorworld 600 years younger) but…that is another story. I wrote it already but it is only published in German and Italian so far.

Is there going to be a Mirrorworld Book 3?

There will be six in all – if I live that long J I just sent Book 3 to my brilliant German editor and I can’t wait to get the manuscript ready for print. This world is expanding so rapidly in my head and heart, that I find it wherever I go. I can’t wait to come to New Zealand and find the Mirrors there. And the tales that tell about the world behind it.

I’ve heard that Inkheart’s Mo was largely based on Brendan Fraser, who also played him in the movie. Are any of Mirrorworld’s characters based on real people?

Both Jacob and Will are inspired by my son Ben. He is more of a Jacob, but there is a lot of Will in him too. Clara is inspired by my daughter Anna (who is always my first reader and editor) and Fox… Fox is just me.

Speaking of the Inkheart movie, how did you end up feeling about the result?

The filming itself was an unforgettable experience, and some of my characters wear the face of the actors now – Paul Bettany was a brilliant Dustfinger and Jim Broadbent was such a magical Fenoglio – but the film itself taught me, that the complex worlds I create don’t fit on a movie screen. Maybe they work as a tv series with an endless amount of episodes, but I am not sure anymore. So far I prefer Mirrorworld to breathe and grow in my readers’ imagination. I plan to give passports and identities to a few hundred in summer.:)

Mirrorworld has its own app – can you tell us about that?

It is an IPad App – and we prefer to call it a Breathing Book. To create it together with the young wizards of MIRADA was the most fulfilling creative collaboration of my entire career. It felt as if for the first time I had found people who can look into my head – and make what they find there visible for my readers! I had tears in my eyes when they showed it to be for the first time. And my German editor told me, that the short stories I wrote for the App, are the best writing I ever did. It has 110 minutes of content and I call it the visual travel guide for MirrorWorld. Even I get lost in it still. Which made me found a  company called BreathingBooks with Mirada, as I want to achieve the same magic for Inkheart and Dragonrider.

Do you have any specific plans or ideas for any books after the Mirrorworld series?

I always have a thousand ideas, but I plan to stay in that world for at least another six to eight years. I do work on other projects though by writing short story – I just a Sherlock Holmes story for a friend’s anthology on Holmes, I wrote one for the Getty Center in LA. I plan another one for Salisbury Cathedral in England… I want to write a Science Fiction short story. And let’s see what waits for me in New Zealand!

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JJ is a writer by night, & a Product Manager by day. She loves young adult and children’s fiction and is the director of NZ Booklovers. She has a Masters in Creative Writing, and is an ex-English tutor. She lives in Auckland with her husband, daughter, and two chihuahuas.

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