Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Interview With Author Catherine Fisher

I’ve been told that you don’t spend a great deal of time online. I must admit I’m both jealous and impressed. As an author, I seem to find myself with an ever-growing load of Internet-related work tasks. At times, it can be quite overwhelming. How do you feel about the growing role of the Internet in authors’ lives?
Until recently I only used the internet at the local library, and even now I have a computer I don't really use it much. I find the internet unsatisfactory- it's inefficient and information tends to be shallow. It also takes too much time! However I know what you mean about
its growing importance for authors, certainly in terms of connecting with readers. That's a compromise we have to make. I suppose I feel about the internet in rather the same way the builders of Incarceron felt about the prison- we made something to serve us, but it's gradually becoming our master.

I enjoyed every page of Incarceron and Sapphique, and I frequently recommend the series to others. But I still find it difficult to describe the entity at the center of the story. “A prison that’s alive” doesn’t do Incarceron justice. How do you describe it/him?
Thanks for recommending the books. Personal recommendations are always so enthusiastic- you just want to go out and get them. As for the Prison, it's definitely another character in the book. From the first I wanted it to be alive and a real personality. I call it an intelligence. I really enjoyed the idea of this perfectly designed system warping slowly out of control. Perhaps it's a fallen angel.

I want to ask what inspired these books, but I know that the answer to that sort of question is rarely short or simple. Is there a single moment of inspiration that you might be able to share?
I met someone who worked in a prison. It was just a brief conversation but the word PRISON just kept echoing in my mind. It linked it with an exhibition I'd seen a while before of Piranesi's engravings of imaginary prisons. As you say, all sorts of things go into a book, but maybe those were the real triggers.

I’ve heard people describe this series as “steampunk.” How do you feel about that label?
I've heard that too. I'm not sure I really know what the term means- a sort of old-fashioned futuristicness? There are so many terms and categories- sometimes they don't do books a great service. Like teen, and YA. Every label excludes someone. I prefer to think of the series as just books. Literature, hopefully.

Each chapter begins with a quote from another text. Do the Songs of Sapphique exist? Have you written King Endor’s Decree?
As you know, presenting information about the back story without boring everyone is one of the great headaches of a book like this. So the chapter quotes are my way of doing it. I really enjoy writing them- I usually do them last- and trying to get information in obliquely, or some sort of comment on the story. I like using different forms of writing, and I especially like writing the poems. I have to confess that neither the Songs of Sapphique nor King Endor's Decree nor any of the others exist fully. Just the bits in the books.

I would imagine there are quite a few estates in Britain where one might easily recreate a world from the past. Did any such places serve as models for the Wardenry?
Britain is full of places that might be the Wardenry. I don't think I used anywhere specific, but took aspects, like the moat, etc from various places. It's hard to say because these houses and estates are so familiar. I even went to school in a Jacobean house which was just our school then but has now been refurbished and opened to the public. That had a lake with woods round it, and that is certainly the lake at the Queen's Court. So, as usual, a patchwork of influences.

I was quite taken by the relationship between Claudia and her tutor, Jared. Were there real sparks between them—or was I imagining things? (That has been known to happen, unfortunately.)
I don't know the answer to this. The answer is different for every reader, including me. The hints are there- make of them what you will, is what I usually say. Personally, I think Jared has other things on his mind. I find it interesting that we always feel there is a 'real' answer
to the relationships between characters, or what happens after the book ends, and that the writer has that answer. I don't know about you, but I think if it isn't in the book, it's anybody's guess.

Many thanks for your questions, Kirsten, and congratulations on The Eternal Ones. I really enjoyed it very much.

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