I recently had the pleasure of connecting with the wonderfully talented Cornelia Funke, author of bestselling Inkworld Trilogy. The stories she has created have captured our imaginations and inspired writers worldwide. For this interview, she pulls back the curtain a little and shares her insights on writing and more. Now, without further ado, Cornelia Funke…
Middle Grade Mafia: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Cornelia Funke: I was so bored by the stories I was sent as an illustrator that one night I decided to write one myself – filled with all the creatures I longed to draw.
MGM: We hear of bestselling authors having their first manuscript being rejected many times before landing that first deal, please share your journey to becoming a published author.
CF: Mine is not typical. I sent my first manuscript to four publishers at the same time – which they don’t like. 🙂 The first one said no, the second one said yes, then three and four said yes too and when the first one heard about all the interest they changed their No into a Yes.
MGM: What is your process in developing the initial idea for a book into a full story?
CF: I prepare a book for about half a year, doing research on place, central motives, characters…. I plaster my walls with photos, illustrations, paintings, that I find visually inspiring. I also get rid of my clichés that way, feed my mind and eye with a sense of place and time. In short I prepare the canvas. Then I write the first draft, but only prepare the first chapters without knowing (or wanting to know) where the story wants to take me. I like to be surprised and I like a story to grow organically and without a corset. In my opinion that makes me much less predictable for the readers as well. I don’t tailor a story for an audience. I think that cripples it – and underestimates the readers. I think especially younger readers want to be challenged and take story very serious. And they love to ask serious questions about life, the world, human nature… I don’t think that publishers know what readers want, especially when it comes to children, and I strongly believe that writers are artists and shouldn’t behave like mere craftsmen who build exactly the table the publishers ask for. Surprise them! And yourself and your readers. So much more fun.
Also…don’t pretend to be middle grader yourself, IF you need to think of a certain age for your writing (is there really a typical middle grader???) Young readers love an older voice – a storyteller who went into the world for them to bring back truth and secrets from the adult world.
MGM: You are best known in the US for your Inkworld Trilogy. What inspired that story?
CF: The feeling that every book eater knows. That literary characters sometimes feel more real than real people, because we are allowed to look into their hearts. Not many real people give us that insight. We will on our deathbed probably remember some fictional characters better than some friends, that’s how real they become. I wanted to write about that feeling. But then it became also a story about writing itself- and it is my confession that I am a book addict.
MGM: Is there one character from your books that you can relate to the most?
CF: Yes, Fox from my Mirrorworld books. And then there is Jacob Reckless, my male alter ego, irresponsible, fearless…everything I secretly would like to be sometimes.
MGM: Is there a project you are currently working on?
CF: Several. I am currently finishing my illustrations for Heartless, the third MirrorWorld book. I am playing with the first ideas for 4 (and 5 and 6, as they are supposed to take me once around the world) I will start writing a second Dragonrider book in November. And then I am planning several short stories, one set in LA, one science fiction, one for the Getty and its visitors (which will be the second of seven short stories).
MGM: Any advice you could give to beginning writers?
CF: Yes. Write the first draft by hand, never on a computer. Always have a notebook and a pen with you. And…a good story feeds on two things: passion, but most of all time. Lots and lots of it. Which means many, many many rewrites. Cruel ones!
I want to thank the Cornelia for taking the time to share with us. It is great to learn from such an amazing writer and we are all looking forward to her new projects. Now go out and create your own table, the way you want it to be. To learn more about Cornelia Funke, you can follow her on Twitter or on Facebook.