Hey, look who’s here! Author Jasper Fforde with the responses to your reader questions! I received an email from Jasper this morning apologizing for the delay. Apparently, he was “putting a book to bed”. Great news for his many fans!
So a big thank you to Jasper and, before turning this blog over to him, a few reminders –
1. Discussion on September’s Book of the Month Club pick, Heroes Die, kicks off next week when we’ll be joined by author Matthew Woodring Stover. So finish up, you slow readers.
2. Tomorrow is the deadline for submitting questions for actor David Blue who plays Eli Wallace on Stargate: Universe. So, if you’ve got a question, post it. Incidentally, David emailed me today after reading my “No one is safe!” comment with regard to the big season finale. “Btw, just read your blog,” read the email. “I don’t do Q&A’s if I’m about to die ;).” As always, I suggest a wait and see approach to these things. Check out the script first, then react. My last response to him: “Good things come to those who wait. Also, occasionally, death. :)”
3. Also received an email from Iron Chef Chairman, Stargate: Atlantis’s Satedan turned wraith worshiper turned ex-wraith worshiper Tyre, and future Dancing Star Mark Dacascos who sends hugs to thanks to the SGA crew. You can check out Mark’s non-lethal moves on the next season of Dancing With the Stars.
4. Jason Sizemore of Apex Books dropped by to link readers to the Apex order page for those looking to get their hands on October’s Book of the Month Club pick – Open Your Eyes, by Paul Jessup. http://www.apexbookstore.com/collections/books/products/open-your-eyes-by-paul-jessup
5. Speaking of links, if you enjoyed The Big Over Easy and want to learn more about Jasper Fforde and his works, head on over to his site: http://www.jasperfforde.com/
6. I invite readers to stick around for a modest mailbag.
Finally, and most importantly, today’s entry is dedicated to Dankriss.
Sylvia writes: “What was your impulse to write a story using established nursery rhymes?”
JF: Initially, the idea simply struck me simply as ‘fun’ – after all, ‘The Big Over Easy’ was the first book I had written, and since I have had no training to be a writer, nor attended any classes in writing theory, I had no idea. Looking back on it now, I think I was tapping into a subject that most readers have a sense of empathy with – that of the very familiar and cosy, being changed and subverted to gain new insights and new ideas. Even more simply, hasn’t everyone wanted to know why he fell off the wall? And once we suggest it was not an accident or suicide, the questions just keep on popping up.
“Did you have any character/people in mind as you created the NCD team?”
JF: Not really. Jack Spratt seemed as good as any other. Mary Mary started off as Bo Peep to begin with, but I wanted her to be contrary and have split loyalties – better for the narrative than a constant looking for lost sheep. Jack worked well in that I could make him the Jack of many of the stories – there are tons of Jacks in Nursery Rhymes, and it seemed only fitting to inveigle in a beanstalk and a bit of Giant killing for good measure.
“How were you able to come up with nice lead ins for each chapter? Usually relating to the chapter’s content. And, how did you come up with names for the periodicals that were running them?”
JF: Mostly after the event, once the book was done. I like writing news stories because you can tell so much in such a short period of time. It makes the books a bit hungry for ideas – by The Fourth Bear I was almost out of Nursery Stories and Nursery Rhymes, and had to move onto classics – such as Dorian Grey. Mind you, that led on to my third book, The Eyre Affair’, so it was accidentally useful.
“How did you keep everything straight – meaning the different papers and tabloids and who was writing about whom?”
JF: A few notes here and there. When you live a book for so long, you kind of remember what is what and who is who. I couldn’t remember now, of course. When I start NCD3 I’ll have to re-read all the books again to try and get it straight in my head.
“How did you manage to keep the complex plot from becoming unwieldy while using the simplistic nursery rhyme approach?”
JF: Again, you just hold it in your head, and then when editing (good writing is good editing, they say) you go through it again, and take out bits that are too complex, and try and smooth off the harsh edges. All my books start very complex and gradually become easier to understand. And new ideas pop up, and replace others, and the whole books gets pushed and pulled in every direction before settling down. It’s a bit like making stuff out of clay, really.
“Have you considered or has anyone considered making this a movie – even a cartoon? Although I think a mixture of animation and live actors would be a wonderful creation.”
JF: I get tons of offers, but so far, nothing that we have agreed upon. I’d like it to be done properly, and most people want to buy an option so they can sell it on to someone else, which isn’t movie-making, it’s commodity brokerage. Yes, it could be great fun, but I also know that once I sell it, the project is out of my hands. So in many ways, the only control I have is over who I sell it to.
“How did you come up with some of the character names? Some are true to one or more nursery rhymes, but others are not and yet, fit in so nicely.”
JF: Silly names have a long tradition in British nonsense fiction. They have to just sound right, be silly, and be not TOO silly. There is a fine line to be walked whenever nonsense is written. Go over the edge and it just seems, well, wrong. Many of the names belong to characters in TV and radio sitcoms. Brown-Horrocks, for instance, was from a BBC Radio comedy of the sixties called ‘Round the Horne’. It’s a wonderful name – all British and pompous!
AnneTeldy writes: “My sister wants to know: In the Thursday Next series, are vampires and werewolves actually from that world/reality or did they ‘escape’ from the pages of fiction and began inhabiting Thursday’s world/reality?”
JF: No, they really do exist in Thursdays world. Gods are quantifiable, too, and have, after many years in the shadows, decided to prove to even atheists that they were there all along.
“Friedland Chymes has the catchphrase “The case… is closed!” If you had a catchphrase, what would it be?”
JF: ‘It’s funny how things turn out’ Generally speaking, it is. Who would have thought that a fish crawling onto dry land would eventually land on the moon? I ask you, what else is going to happen?
“Jack Spratt keeps track of the crossword puzzles he’s failed to complete. Is this a trait of yours?”
JF: It is. I’m terrible at Crosswords. Even when I’ve got the answers I stare at them and wonder how they could get from one to the other. Mind you, I’m quite good at guessing the words when the letters are in the boxes..
“…and of course the Dong, who so generously agreed to entertain us with his luminous nose.” Does ‘dong’ mean over there what it means over here?”
JF: No, not at all. If you google ‘Dong with the Luminous Nose’ you will find the poem by Edward Lear. He also invented the Quangle-Wangle. You could google that, too.
“Jack tells Mary he’s been at Nursery Crimes for 26 years. He would have been 18 when he started which seems unlikely, unless being a PDR changes that some how?”
JF: No, you can start with the police here at 18, and many do, since you can retire on full pay after 25 years – at 43. He’s a career policeman, and knows no other life.
Antisocial butterflie writes: “In the book Jack talks about how most nursery characters don’t even realize they are one until something strange happens. So is Jack a nursery character, himself, or are his senses merely attuned to the nature of nursery crimes? Basically, did Jack, in cutting down the beanstaqlk fulfill some nursery destiny or was he just an awesome detective?”
JF: Well, I think this is a predestination thing really, and although he might suspect it, he’s probably living in denial. I examine this in ‘The Fourth Bear’ where he has to admit to his wife that he is a PDR – a ‘Person of Dubious Reality’. It’s playing with the whole notion, really, but to be honest, it’s simply in Nursery Rhyme character’s nature to do what they do. Mrs Hubbard is a good example of this. They just do what they do because that’s what they do – like humans, really.
“You have a very complex “world” with a large amount of geo-politics factored into the story (which you incorporated beautifully). Did you develop the world before the characters or was it vice versa?”
JF: The idea of a Humpty Dumpty murder mystery came first, and the world is there to really make the whole idea probable, or even possible. The NCD world gives credibility to the notion that Humpty could be a large egg and die – it’s a bit of a stretch to have him firmly planted in our world, where people would start screaming and pointing at him in the street.
“Was there any particular person upon whom you based the Jellyman or is he just your idealized version of a politician?”
JF: He was a joke my brother made up to amuse me when I was small. But I also wanted to write about an honest, much-loved politician – well, this is fiction, after all, so I came up with a quasi-spiritual leader of huge intellect and sagacity. The world could do with a few of those.
“Why a veruca, of all the foot ailments? Was it just because it sounded the coolest?”
JF: A verucca seems to me the funniest – and could be spread through swimming pools. A heinous plot, and one that would have been heavily endorsed by Dr Evil.
Michelle writes: “Has the book been translated to other languages, and were there any in which the nursery story references just couldn’t be translated sensibly?”
JF: The book has not been translated as the Nursery Rhyme idea is very culturally dependent – the French don’t know who Humpty Dumpty is, and neither do the Germans. Literature is another matter. The Thursday Next books are in eighteen languages.
“In the world of the book, is everyone in the society obsessed with true crime stories, as for example the way our society obsesses about actors? Or is the book just focused on that aspect of the society?”
JF: I think people in our world are definitely obsessed with crime. Every time there is some salacious crime, the media is there to give it saturated coverage. Do you remember the coverage of the Rwanda massacre? No? Well, that was probably because the news media was full of the whole Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan episode.
Edith writes: “One aspect of the book I really enjoyed was the setting. As a resident of Caversham during the 60/70s (we lived over the bank where my father was manager. The front door used to blow open and we’d have a policeman ringing the doorbell to let us know.) I have to say I can’t think of a better place to set that part of the story. I went to school up on the Heights, and it is, in my imagination, just as you describe it. Did the setting help to generate some of the ideas for the story, or was it simply a familiar place?”
JF: I visited Reading to scout for locations, and I simply wanted to find where the wealthy people lived. Caversham Heights is the Beverly Hills of Reading. For a while the book was called ‘Caversham Heights’ (in emulation of ‘Wuthering Heights’ but ‘The Big Over Easy’ was better.
“I have a feeling we had some Friedland Chimes – I’m sure our front door bell played a tune. I recognize the allusion – do you ever envisage a scholar going through all the references and writing notes – or indeed, doing them yourself? Perhaps something like “Pale Fire” – or is that taking the whole thing too seriously? I expect it is.”
JF: Friedland Chimes is usually associated with that ‘bing-bong’ sound, but they also made all manner of other doorbells. Still do, actually. I’ll leave it for someone else to write the notes. Someone has for the TN books – they are up on my website.
Arctic Goddess writes: “Were you aware of a short play called Nursery Crimes: Four And Twenty written by Damian Trasler, David Lovesy and Steve Clark when you wrote your book? I found the plots of both stories very unique in their treatment of childhood Nursery Rhyme characters. Why did you pick this genre for your novel?”
JF: No, not aware at all. It’s an idea that has been used before, but not in the way I have. Agatha Christie wrote a book called ‘A Pocket Full of Rye’ where the murder happens as though the characters were in a nursery rhyme, and although they weren’t, I liked the idea that they might be. It seemed fun, and possible – so I did.
LineNoise writes: “Jack Spratt makes an appearance in “The Well of Lost Plots” a couple of years before “The Big Over Easy” was published. At what point did you decide to give Jack his own book?”
JF: ‘Big Over Easy’ was published first but since I had an eye for publication, I wrote him into TN3 to make him a spinoff book which I hoped my publishers would go for. They did, so I then had to rewrite BOE with the TN3 connection in mind. It worked quite well, I thought – The NCD series is simply a place where bored and restless nursery rhyme characters go for a bit of rest and recuperation – but you don’t learn that from reading the NCD series; it’s part of the TN adventure. I like a certain degree of ‘connectiveness’ between my books.
“I enjoy the Nursery Crime books more than the Thursday Next series probably because I at least have an inkling about the nursery rhymes being referenced. Unfortunately I haven’t read most of the literature generally visited by Thursday so I feel I’m missing a lot of the humour. Have you considered referencing more modern works of fiction in forthcoming Thursday Next books?”
JF: Not really, and mostly due to copyright reasons. I’d suggest you go back and have another look – the TN series was written with those who had not read the classics in mind – you only really have to know that Shakespeare wrote plays, Dickens, and Bronte wrote books and that Jane Eyre is a classical victorian melodrama that you shouldn’t mess with. The rest of the series feature the classics, but are more about the way we read and tell stories.
Narelle from Aus writes: “A Thursday Next question if you don’t mind. How difficult is it to write some of the passages which involve waste products of apostrophe’s and ampersands?”
JF: Not hard at all. Once the idea is there, it just sort of happens. The typesetters enjoy it because it’s something new…
“Did you find Humpty Dumpty a sad character when you were younger or was it a portrayal that you decided on just because it assisted the storyline?”
JF: No; I always thought of him as a jolly fellow – like an over=weight uncle who gives you chocolate, laughs a lot, enriches your life and then dies, making you fell all sort of empty (don’t worry; I didn’t have an uncle like that; it’s the author in me talking) Sort of Uncle Buckish. I liked the idea of a rough diamond who appeared to be a scoundrel, but was in fact deeply committed to doing the right thing – even if against the law. And he did like women – isn’t that what the ‘Hump’ in his name was all about?
“Lola Vavoom features in both the Nursery Crimes and Thursday Next. Apologies if you’ve already explained this elsewhere, but who is she a representation of? She feels very Zsa Zsa Gabor. Lola seems like she’d have a good right hook or she’d hire someone who has a good right hook to do it for her. And maybe a slapping glove.”
JF: She’s ‘generic hollywood starlet’ to be honest – all of them mixed together. You only have to hear her name to have a good idea of what and who she is.
“Particularly in the Thursday Next series you incorporate jumping into classic titles, time travel, alternate history, just for starters. Are you a writer that has a full concept of where the book will go and what it will cover before you start writing or do you partly “use the force” as you go?”
JF: You’ve hit the nail on the head. I just start with a few abstract notions and see where it leads me. If you have no idea where a Jasper Fforde book will end up, you’re in good company – neither do I!
And today’s mailbag:
Sifiguy writes: “have you heard about, or seen the first of the REDO of neon genesis evangelion?”
Answer: I remember hearing about it hears ago when it was in development, but haven’t seen the finished version. Any good?
Sifiguy also writes: “also, have you heard of GANKUTSUOU? it’s a retelling of the count of monte cristo, set in 5000ad. and it looks REALLY cool.”
Answer: Seen it and loved it. Another one of my very favorites.
JYS writes: “did you enjoy get backers?”
Answer: I own the series but haven’t gotten around to watching it.
DasNdanger writes: “So he is the ultimate man alone for the simple reason that – in theory – he should outlive everyone.”
Answwer: I understand what you’re saying. Although it’s kind of ironic that, in the world of comic books, no one ever grows older.
Cherluvya writes: “you seem to vear more towards the action side of anime so ill just stay on that.
someone already suggested Gankutso and FLCL”
Answer: I wasn’t picking favorites shows. I was picking favorite titles. If I was to pick my favorite anime series, the list would look something like this: Azumanga Daioh, Berserk, Boogiepop Phantom, Cowboy Bebop, Death Note, Elfen Lied, Excel Saga, Gankutsuou, GTO, Hellsing, Infinite Ryvius, Kino’s Journey, Last Exile, Love Hina, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ninja Scroll, Noir, Now and Then Here and There, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Champloo, Trigun, Video Girl Ai.
PG15 writes: “Is Andy Mikita directing the Incursion 2-parter?”
Anwer: Yes, he will be.
Celestis writes: “Ever heard of ‘Baccano’?”
Answer: No but given that we have similar tastes, I trust your recommendation and will track it down.
Scot B. writes: “If you liked Cowboy Bebop you should give Macross Plus a spin.”
Answer: Done. I think I own it.
ian R. Rogerson writes: “1. who is directing lost
2. will sgu still have lots of tecno babble”
Answer: 1. Ronn Schmidt.
2. We’ll be trying to avoid the techno babble but focus on the science and astronomy.
Maddog1995 writes: “On a different note, I’m fairly sure you are a fan of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” and thought you’d like to know (assuming you don’t already) that HBO is planning a pilot for it. Any thoughts?”
Answer: Yeah, hope it’s good. And who did they cast to play the roles of Jaime and Tyrion Lannister?
PBMom writes: “Joe: You might enjoy this dog video. I thought of your dogs when I saw it.”
Answer: What a cutie. Thanks.
AJT1982 writes: “Is there any news on the SGA movie yet, or are MGM still waiting for the market to rise?”
Answer: No new news on the movie front.