Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Mega-authors talk fantasy and ‘Fairy Tale Remix’ in one of the best book panels to date!

From L to R: Hale, Funke, Meyer, Tripp, Page, DiTerlizzi and Harbour
From L to R: Hale, Funke, Meyer, Tripp, Page, DiTerlizzi and Harbour

The first panel to kick of Lytherus’s book coverage of San Diego Comic Con 2014 was the Fairy Tale panel. MC’ed by Shannon Hale (Ever After High series) it featured Cornelia Funke (Mirrorworld series), Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles series), Ben Tripp (The Accidental Highwayman), John Peck (Charming series), Danielle Page (Dorothy Must Die), Tony DiTerlizzi (WondLa), and Katherine Harbour (Thorn Jack).

First off, let me say that Shannon Hale is an absolute riot. This was my first time experiencing her, and wow, she’s a character. Hilarious, witty, and goofy, she made this one of the most animated and engaging panels I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a single lull and the panel authors really fed off of both her and each other.

First question asked if the authors read fairy tales in their youth and their thoughts on them. Ben grew up on them, and said he discovered at a young age the idea of metaphor and how everything is a metaphor in these stories. Marissa started on Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie, which she loved, and so her family bought her the Hans Christian Anderson version, which is a lot darker. This made her wonder what else Disney wasn’t telling us (ha!). John thought the Grimm stories were boring, but he loved how creepy the Anderson ones are. But what brought the biggest laugh during this question was definitely Cornelia’s reply: “I’m German. Enough said.” She actually hated fairy tales, but they got stuck in her head. This lead Shannon right into commenting that hate is a powerful motivator, and she then regaled the audience in a hilarious description of why Rapunzel is dumb. Danielle followed this up, saying that her frustration with stories is also what motivated her. “Why does Dorothy have to remain in Kansas?” Tony agreed, saying that’s the exact same idea with his WondLa series.

andersenThe next question reflected on the fact that these tales are old, and Hale asked what the authors add to make it feel new. John immediately said character, and that old stories lack the depth of character that readers connect to. They want to know who these people are and what their motivations are. Marissa agreed, saying that the characters are often flat in the old tales, and that we take things for granted; that’s what they’re there for. But why? Ben likes to view it from a different angle: what do they do the rest of the time? These characters have to go home after the tales. Danielle added that it’s fun to take those characters and see where the story goes beyond the original tale. Cornelia said that authors bring their own sensitivity, and things like adding (back) in strong women (“Women weren’t always lame!”). Tony added to that idea, talking about that sensitivity regarding tropes. For example, a classic trope is that a kid’s an orphan. He said he couldn’t even imagine what that’s like, and what that does to people. Ben finished up the idea, commenting that in the 18th century being an orphan was no big deal, vs. our time where it’s become a big thing.

The third question wondered if authors have the right to re-tell. John paraphrased a quote (I can’t remember from whom), saying that no story is beautiful unless you add something new to it, and that the writers are doing that. Cornelia threw in that they’re adding heart to the stories. Shannon observed that they can also flip the stories, or can add to them, or can use satire to re-tell it. Katherine said that she loves bringing the modern into these stories. Danielle picked right up with that thought, adding that she wondered how a girl of our sensibilities would take on Oz and add in sarcasm, and also what she would feel because of today. Marissa said that the passive princess annoys her. She takes the stories and gives them heroines she can be proud of. Cornelia wants to travel the world with her stories, featuring not only Germany but Russia, China, Africa and others. She actually reads fairy tales from these places and they read like a travel guide, with all of the local details and references. Ben added that Hindu fairy tales are often the same as religious texts, which is fun because you can actually go to the places the stories take place.

For the next question Shannon asked if they are all essentially writing fan fiction. Marissa said that the characters make it different, because they have more freedom than a fan-fiction character restrained to the boundaries of the tale might. Ben added though that they are still sort of the same, and that essentially the authors need to stand the stories up and see.

At this point Shannon opened the floor up for some questions, and they were all great ones. At one point someone asked how the panelists actually define a fairy tale. Ben said intrusion of magic into someone’s problems, Tony said otherworldliness, and Cornelia said a journey, which I thought were great answers.

This was one of the best panels I’ve ever seen thanks to the humor of Shannon, the constant pace, and the thoughtful answers of the panelists. Lots of fun was had, and it was great to get some insight into the inner workings of the modern fairy tale retellings that have become so loved.

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Lytherus Exclusive Interview With Cornelia Funke: Part 2

Welcome to part two of the three-part Lytherus exclusive interview with Cornelia Funke. If you missed the first part of the interview, I’d encourage you to check it out, since this one builds on the previous one.

Also, since she talks a lot about her newest book Reckless, here’s a link to the Lytherus review of that book to peruse, for those of you unfamiliar with the story.

All of these questions I asked her stemmed from a lot of general questions she’s answered in previous interviews about her life and work. Click here to link to those.

In part two of the interview, she talks about working with a creative partner, how Reckless came about, being inspired by Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro, books vs. scripts, and more! She takes a lot of little rabbit-trails in this one, but they are fun and interesting, so enjoy the ride!

LZ: Writing with your friend Lionel, how did that actually come about?

Cornelia: It was very weird. Because of course I never would have thought of something like that. I’m perfectly happy writing by myself. I never feel lonely. In fact, I feel completely overwhelmed by having all my characters around me. No, it happened because I met Lionel at a friend’s dinner – and she, interestingly, played Ida in The Thief Lord movie, that’s how she became a very good friend of mine. I met him and his wife, and I thought, oh, a movie producer, well I’ve met a lot of movie producers by now. But then I thought, oh, look at this, he’s not cynical, he’s very sweet, he’s very passionate, he doesn’t feel the need to talk about himself, or isn’t full of himself. I live in Hollywood now, so you know (laughs). But I was so pleasantly surprised. So we started talking, and I said to him, well, if you ever want to try to do a movie together, let’s do this.

So a month later, he called me and he said, “should we have lunch?” and I thought, okay, he picked a book and he wants to talk about it. You know he does the Harry Potter movies, and he does the Sherlock Holmes series with Robert Downey Jr – that is his baby. He started developing that when I started working with him. So Holmes and Jacob are fighting each other ferociously all the time. He had to rush back to Baker St, I’m behind the mirror… Holmes got huge, and they are just cutting the second now. And so, he had to go to London and shoot and we had to work on Skype together, and it was all wild.

So, what happened was that he said, “You know what? I don’t want to have one of your books, we should do a big fantasy adventure for the screen based on The Nutcracker” I’m German, and it’s based on a German story by E. T. A. Hoffman. For me it’s very familiar, The Nutcracker, and I said hmm, that’s interesting, I could do something with that.

So what we did is, we worked together and we realized we are the best team ever when we work together. So we worked for seven months, did a script based on The Nutcracker, and when we were done, another Nutcracker movie was released in Europe. And we were dead on the shelf, as you say. Lionel is used to that. He’s a movie person. He’s done this for twenty years. But I am not. And I said wait, I love the world we created for this, it has nothing to do with The Nutcracker. We did it, and it was our world, it was a 19th century world, it was full of fairy tale and mystery. I said, “would you mind if I take this world and do a totally different thing and I put it into a novel?” And he said “Yes, I love it. But do you think I could be in any way involved?”And I said (laughs), “Well, I don’t know, I’ve never written a book with somebody, you know?” And he said, “Should we try?” And I said “Of course! It’s your world.” And also many of his characters. So we sat down and we started to play with characters, plots, all that I do normally. Normally I work about six to seven months preparing a book. So now it was with one of my best friends, which, I have to say, is fun. In the morning he came with chocolate croissants, and we sat in the writing house, started drinking coffee, and started working.

So, after a few months, I had characters, I had a plot, it started working. It was so much fun. At first I thought it’s just a toy, it’s not really an important book. I was doing Ghost Knight, I was doing other things, but that book just expanded and expanded and expanded.

What we first did is that, every single change I did while I was writing – because the story twists and changes while you’re following it – every single time [it changed] I sent him an email, I called him, we talked. We worked like this for two years. Everything we checked with one another, discussed with one another, so it’s all his baby too.

LZ: So not just the initial seven months, but as you’re creating it…

Cornelia: yes, they are his characters, the scene with the Red Fairy we rewrote fourteen times, so it was the most intense editing I’d ever had.

After that we also did all the touring together, and then he was doing Holmes, so we were… yeah, it was wild. I worked on the set of Sherlock Holmes with him on Reckless. We worked everywhere. It was crazy! (laughs)

With the second [book in the series] he’s had to start Sherlock Holmes 2, which was even bigger, and he had to move to London again for half a year. And I said okay, we have to change the rhythm. So what we do now is we meet for blocks of time, like, let’s say, a month, and work almost every day, and then I go into writing for two or three months, do the whole draft, check with him only with vast changes, but otherwise just play, and then we go back and discuss the next part. And so far that works very,  very well.

LZ: And I’m sure it fits better with your schedule too

Cornelia: Exactly. We don’t have to chase each other constantly, because that was so exhausting for both of us. And when you are also very good friends, you know, Lionel has two daughters, and he had to already balance his family, the set, and then the writing, so as a good friend you’re all the time like, no, wait, first deal with your family. But on the other hand, the book needs decisions, so I think we now find a way. We’ve been working together for five years now. It’s wonderful. You have a creative partner. It’s very very interesting.

LZ: Are you going to work together for the whole series? For all five books?

Cornelia: Yes, I think so. He also just came with another project to me which I like very much, so we will play with that too, which will probably first be for the screen, but we’ll see.

I say that because it’s interesting in my [book tour] readings when I talked, I said to kids,”imagine when you say, ‘Oh, when I’m writing sometimes I have writer’s block'”—there is nothing like writer’s block, but that’s a different thing—I always say to them, “What if you try with your best friend? Try. Maybe it’s more fun. Maybe you get through the crisis better.  Maybe you look forward to sitting down.” And so many kids embrace that. We saw that very clearly. For them it felt like a very natural thing to do, you know. It’s unusual in novels, [but] for script it’s the most usual thing.

LZ: That’s interesting.

Cornelia: Yeah, it is. And I’m sure you see this, working on a website, but the world is changing, we are collaborating in other ways, we are communicating much more, and I think that it is very interesting and very inspiring, and it may change this concept. [For example] Neil Gaiman did Good Omens with Terry Pratchett.

LZ: I’m just about to start reading that.

Cornelia: Oh, you should listen to the audio. I did all my illustrations for Reckless listening to Neil’s books. And I wrote him in between, I said, “Neil, this is just such a pleasure, I listen to your books while I’m working,”and he wrote, “We’re doing art together, how exciting! “(laughs)

LZ: I’ll check it out on audio then. I haven’t started it yet.

Cornelia: You should, it is such a treat. Martin Jarvis reads it, it is just so good.

LZ: Okay, I will!

So, kind of taking that one step further… you said you like to challenge yourself, you like things to be different; going on what you just said, they wrote a book together.  Two authors created this world. Have you ever considered taking that next step? Because, right now you’re creating [with someone], but then you’re writing alone.

There’s also Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, David Levithan and John Green created Will Grayson, Will Grayson, these famous writers are coming together.

Cornelia: I absolutely would be open to that, absolutely. It’s such an interesting thing, if the chemistry works or not. I just had a wonderful adventure working with Guillermo del Toro. I got an email in January from Dreamworks, and they said, would you be interested to work on an animation project and story-telling on it? And Guillermo wrote me a letter, saying he’d love to work with me. His movie Pan’s Laberynth is my favorite movie, so that was such a treat. For six weeks I worked with him and Rodrigo Blaas on a storyline for a possible animation feature, and goodness he’s a storytelling animal! He’s just, like, genius! It was interesting, we worked in a very different way. Guillermo said to me, “Cornelia, we’re limping on the same leg.” And it was true. We came from exactly the same perspective, from myth, from fairy tales. Guillermo has this incredible house, it’s called the Man Cave, and there are seven libraries on horror and science fiction and fantasy, and movie props and everything. Believe me, it is the most amazing house.

LZ: You must have been just awed.

Cornelia: Yeah. He gave me the tour, it was mind-blowing. So, that was interesting.

With Lionel, I work totally different because he doesn’t come from myth and fairy tales. He loves it – God, he’s been on the Potter films for ages – but he comes more from character. So, if I have a scene with Lionel – I get easily distracted, I’m a storyteller, right? I see the whole thing. So, Jacob and Will let’s say, are in a clearing in the forest, and I’m like, “Do you think there’s a heintzelman running through?” and he’s like “I don’t care about the heintzelman, tell me what’s happening with Jacob and Will!” So he’s so in the main characters, and so wants to hear about the emotional themes, that it’s very wonderful for me as a storyteller when he says, “You do all the heintzelmen and whatever you want to do,” but he gives me the perspective to focus, and many storytellers we know, reading a lot of fantasy, easily get lost in their plots, right?

LZ: Yes! (Pull out A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin)I’m reading this right now and it’s all over the place. It’s great-

Cornelia: It is wonderful, it is, it’s still my favorite fantasy, but-

LZ: I have to keep looking at the map to try and figure out who’s going where.

Cornelia: And the thing is, you do that willingly as a fantasy author often. For example, Neil does it willingly. He gets lost in his plot and he wants that. But the thing is it’s interesting to say to yourself, “okay, let’s try it differently,” try to have somebody chop in and say, “wait wait, come back, look at that later,” and I have to say for me as a writer that’s all very inspiring. With Guillermo, once again, it was deepening my aspect of the myth and the fairy tale because he came from that direction, so when you pick a collaboration, it will always do something else, but that is of course so inspiring. But then you have to find your own voice again.  Because if that gets lost, I think the reader will be dissatisfied. There has to be a voice in the book, and it has to be quite strong. So, I don’t know. I don’t think I would be able to write with somebody, because I work so much on language. I’m in my third draft of five drafts of this book, and almost every sentence changes constantly. That is very hard to do when somebody else works on the language as well.

LZ: Especially if they are like, no I love this sentence, and you’re like, no I hate this sentence, or the little things.

Cornelia: That’s difficult. Of course if I have a discussion like that with Lionel that’s fine, but he will always say “I defer to you. You’re the writer.” And in a way I need that. So let’s see. Maybe someday that changes as well.

LZ: But at least you know that about yourself, as opposed to saying, yeah, let’s give, say, Neil a call and try to do this and then you guys are both like this is a disaster.

Cornelia: And also with Neil I would always think he has such an original tone and story I would not even want to get in there, because it’s so powerful, I want his voice. I don’t want my voice mingled in there.

LZ: I believe with Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I have yet to read it, but it’s the story of two boys with the same name and each one wrote that boy. So John Green had one Will Grayson and David Levithan had the other and the chapters alternated.

Cornelia: Oh! Interesting! That makes sense.

LZ: I thought that was smart because they both have unique voices and they both are good at what they do, I think that could be fun, because depending on the character creation you have your own totally different voices.

Cornelia: That makes perfect sense. I could easily imagine that. I think that works. If you pick a perspective, for example in script Lionel and I did that when we worked script, we always rewrote each other’s chapters, so it went back and forth. But that is possible because script is a different thing. Script is not a language. Script needs the dialogue to be very precise.


The conclusion to the interview will be posted on Lytherus this upcoming week, so stay tuned. She talks about the use of semi-precious stones in her stories and their meanings, the inspiration for her upcoming book Ghost Knight, writing for different ages, the Ink world, and more!

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Lytherus Exlusive Interview with Cornelia Funke: Part 1


Cornelia Funke came to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last weekend for an event at our city library. She took an hour and a half out of her busy writing schedule to sit down and chat with me about her books and the worlds she’s created.

A lot of what I asked built on the questions the Lytherus readers asked, which she answers often because they are the ones people are most curious about. To not waste the precious time with her repeating herself, I decided to ask her things that were a little different. To watch or read one of those previous interviews, which answer a lot of basic questions about her life and he work, click here.

In part one of the interview she talked a lot about her newest book, Reckless, so be warned: there are a few Reckless spoilers throughout. If you want to check out the interview, but are unfamiliar with her most recent work, click here to read the Lytherus review of Reckless. She dives into the fairy tale element in the stories, the geography of the Mirrorworld, her thoughts on series and keeping the books fresh, her unique writing style in Reckless, and more!


LZ: Do you know for sure how many books are in the [Reckless] series?

Cornelia: It lt looks like it will be five. You never know with a story, but that’s what it says at the moment, yes.

LZ: You’ve mentioned [in previous interviews] how Inkheart was a stand-alone book originally, and then it became book two, and then book three. You started out form the beginning with Reckless to be a series.

Cornelia: Yes, because you know, with Reckless, there is the idea in there that you play with fairy-tale motifs, and to do that with just the Grimm’s motifs, which is mostly Germany, Austria, central Europe [isn’t enough]. I always felt like, ooh, what if you go, let’s say, to Spanish fairy tales, French fairy tales, and at I that point  thought probably [the series] will be three [books], but when I was in Russia last year I heard about Russian fairy tales, and I had a very strange moment on the Red Square where I suddenly thought, oh my God, I didn’t know about that character, oh my goodness, well, that changes it all.  I guess I will have to do five! So it was a very weird thing. Moscow made my head explode you could say (laughs). It was so inspiring, and it was very interesting, I had already worked on the motif for number two, and when I told my Russian translator about it, she said, “Oh, but that stone is in one of our most famous fairy tales!” So, suddenly, you have these moments as a story-teller where you feel, “well, I guess the story is already showing me once again the way.”

And then I was in Spain, in Barcelona and in Madrid, I did a conference with children where you go into the newspaper, and then children could call in and we did an i-chat. And they were like, “Oh the witches in Galicia are much different from the witch in Catalonia, you have to know all about them!” And I suddenly realized, oh my goodness, in Spain the folktales are very much alive, even much more than in Germany, where they are mostly in a polished version. So I thought, “Oh, I guess, the Spanish fairy tales are also very interesting, so maybe I have to change Jacob all around.” So yes, it does look like it will be a lot.

I sometimes think this will be the world I will spend the rest of my writing life in. It is so multi-layered, that the first [book] was just a glimpse, and I start now exploring it. For example, I have finished the second draft of number two, and it is in Albion, which is England, and in Lorraine, which is France. And then it will go into Switzerland, so the world is expanding. You will see more; I’ve based all the world on the European lands of the 19th century. So I have the geographics, which makes it quite easy and  it’s very nice. And what I do is I look at real places, let’s say, there’s a French town where they still have a myth about two giants. So I take that myth and I say, well, behind the mirror, the giants are real. So it’s much fun, that you almost play with saying, okay, in our world you sometimes get a glimpse of what’s on the other side.

So for example when I read about Pittsburgh,there’s a crystal palace in Pittsburgh.

LZ: I didn’t even know that!

Cornelia: The stadium is called the Crystal Palace. A friend of mine is quite a famous basketball player and he said to me, “When you go to Pittsburgh, you know there’s a crystal palace.” And I was just writing about a crystal palace! So I was like, this is very strange. I looked it up and it is a staduim, but nevertheless, you could play with that. You could say, well, on the other side of the mirror, there may be a true crystal palace. So that is what I want to do more in the next books.

LZ: Is the mirror going to lead to one [mythical] place? We’re not going to know it’s France, [the characters] are going to go and it’s going to be just that world you created?

Cornelia: Well, in the first part it is New York. So, the mirror will stay in New York. So when Jacob goes out, he always ends up in that ruin that you met in the first [book]. But from there you will understand the geography of the world. So I am even counting the coach rides. How many miles, quite precisely, because I think then you will have fun following the travels. So if I say, okay, it takes them ten days to go to Paris from where the ruin is, or to Vienna is five days—Vena I based on Vienna, it is the old name for Vienna. It’s wonderful, I have a huge map in my writing house— I have a little writing house in my garden, , not so little, but yeah (laughs)—but there is a map, and I have little pins in all the places, and it gives you another kind of substance for the world, and I always wanted to write about Europe.

LZ: So this is a chance for you to explore that, which is great.

Going back to the question I asked a few minutes ago, knowing from the start that this book was going to be at least a trilogy, and now is five books,  have you changed your mindset on multi-book series? I know your younger books are series, but I remember you saying specifically [regarding Inkheart], “Oh, I don’t want it to be a trilogy, there are too many trilogies, this is cliché to do,” but now you’re setting out for that.

Cornelia: Definitely. I was completely cured. Because of course, once you see the readers’ reactions to exploring a world like I did with the Ink world, and feeling yourself that satisfaction when you can do that, it’s very hard to get back to one book. To explore the characters, to explore the world, it’s very hard to chop and say, “That’s it.”

There are some stories who don’t ask for more, so it may still happen. For example, I will publish a book next year called Ghost Knight, and that’s one story and I would never say, okay, there has to be more. It’s always possible; I write my books always like that, that the reader feels, oh I could tell that story on. Because we all know from life, no story ends, right? So there are stand-alone stories, and then you suddenly enter a maze. And you suddenly feel, oh my goodness, this is a labyrinth, and you will get lost in it for ages. And then I think you should not back away from it, you should say that’s it.

And also, I’m 52 by now,and you feel like, okay, I have this world now, I love this world, why should I do another and another and another. Let’s see how deep I can get with this one.

LZ: And that makes sense. As a reader, the reason we read, the reason we escape into books is we feel connected, and if you love a character, you don’t want to see them end. You want to know and be with them for a long time. I’m a fan of series because I can’t wait.

Cornelia: You know, you have to make sure the books don’t go stale. I always say to myself, as long as I am sure the next part is better than the part before, I keep on writing. If you feel you get bored with the character or the world, you feel you have told the stories about the world. So for the Ink world, I felt, okay, for now I told it. It can always happen that you go back, for another character, for another story line, but for now, you told it. I think that you have to follow that, and not say, okay, the readers want another one.

I had that once with a series in Germany, where the readers went mad when I stopped it. It’s a reality series called The Wild Chicks. It’s just published in English in England. After five books, and every single book I didn’t want to do, the readers said, “please, Cornelia, make the world a better place, write another Wild Chick book.” So you continue, and after a while I said no, it’s not the world I want to be in.

At the moment another author writes other parts of it, but not under my name, under his name, because the kids were so hungry for it that I said okay, I will not block the characters. If you want more stories, I’ll allow somebody else to continue, but it will not be me, and it will be very clear on the book that it’s not me.

LZ: That’s interesting. I actually had a question from one of our readers: Has support and feedback from your fan-base inspired you in any way or possibly consider changing a story’s plot? So, kind of along those lines, since you get so much feedback from the readers…

Cornelia: We just did a story competition on my website, which was so overwhelming, the quality of what the children sent. Well, not only children, also grown-ups. But we could not even give one award per language. I have a Spanish, an English, and a German website, and we will give nine awards to English language stories, five to German, and two or three to Spanish.  It was so interesting for me to read which characters did the kids love most, which aspect of the world interested them the most. And I was not surprised by much, because I have forseen it. For example, Fox [from Reckless] will be one of the main favorite characters, but nevertheless, it was very interesting how much they loved the Goyl. I had hoped that, but there were many who did also switch into the stone skin. It was very interesting. Because it’s an outcast thing. Therefore, every encounter with readers makes you aware of another aspect of the story, or they ask you a question which you didn’t think about, or they point out something about your character that you didn’t see. I also love to get doodles or a collage, or visual material, and we are working at the moment massively on my website to make it more communicative, so that I see more what the readers do and what they are interested in. Because I write for my readers. And there have been times, for example, with The Wild Chicks, I once had an idea from a child which I took. I wrote her and I said, can I use it, and I used it for one of the books.

Normally of course you follow the story  and the story has its own way, but it’s very interesting to me, to communicate like that.

LZ: The writing style in Reckless was so much different than the Inkheart trilogy. I even actually opened up the first Ink book last night to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. [Reckless] is very abrupt, succinct descriptions and in your face. Why did you choose that? Obviously we know it was as deliberate choice as a writer.

Cornelia: When I was editing Inkdeath, I felt something inside, like, yeah, I’m kind of tired of this style now. I did it, that was for that world,  a baroque, medieval world that needs that kind of language, and I felt at the end of it that I wanted to try something new. I always try something new. The Thief Lord is different from Dragon Rider, and Dragon Rider is different from the Ink books. So, I thought, well, what can I do? And then when I started working on Reckless, it was the first book that I worked on with somebody, one of my best friends [Lionel Wigram], and of course I warned him, I said Lionel, you will get all the blame for everything that I do now differently , they will blame you. That’s great (laughs) !You’re a movie person so they will say, oh, he did make her do that, and he was like “Are you sure?”, and I was like yes, I’m sure, you’ll see!

But the thing is, of course he has no influence on my style. We talked plot, we talked characters, and we just did that for the second [book] again. But I am the writer, so it was Jacob’s fault, because he’s so impatient. He’s so thoughtless, he’s so on the move, that to do that tapestry language is almost impossible with him.  He’s like running away when you do that. He’s much more modern. He’s a New Yorker. He’s someone with European origins, like I am, but he’s American too. And I wanted to capture that.

The second book will probably get a little closer again to the older style because now I’m in the world, he calms down a bit, he doesn’t have to save his brother in the second book, he only has to save himself. I will try to keep it though because I think for this hero I need another language. It will not be right, and also it’s a more modern world, it’s a 19th century world, that tastes like ours already, and I felt I needed that in the language.

What’s very interesting is that when I got the competition stories, they had changed their style. That was the most amazing thing. You look at it, and you have two or three kids that wrote like the Ink world. And then there were four or five who were doing the Reckless kind of language, and to me it was so fascinating, that they took it like a new tool box; let’s play with it, let’s see how it expresses your feelings. Because it would do something else.

I have a wonderful audiobook reader in Germany, for fourteen years I have done all my stage events with him and he reads all my audiobooks, and said to me Reckless is like a pop-up book. Every sentence, you pop it, and a whole world comes out. But you have to pop it. You have to look. So in the first chapter when it says Jacob takes the key for the room of his father out of his mother’s drawer, and it lies next to the pills that make her sleep, of course you can read over that, and you don’t look at it. You can also say wht can’t she sleep? So, I try to do that, and it’s a more mature writing.

I always said for the younger ones, Reckless will be difficult, because I tried something that is, let’s say, more older literature.

LZ: There’s a lot of subtext there.

Cornelia: Exactly. But the funny thing is, the younger ones didn’t have a problem. Because they are fast, so in a way I had ten or twelve-year-olds, and I said, “You shouldn’t read Reckless yet,” and they said, “ha, I read it three times, it’s fine.” (laughs). Okay, okay, whatever you want to do! So it’s interesting and they take other layers. Like for example the relationships between Jacob and Will and Clara are more mature. They are also more twisted, more difficult. In Inkheart the emotions are clear… well, Dustfinger isn’t very clear.

LZ: But he’s kind of the exception in that world, whereas Reckless is the exception, the whole world.

Cornelia: That’s a very good way to describe it. In a way it’s a whole Dustfinger universe! It’s almost what I saw in his character. And that’s what the German actor reader said, “I smelled it already in Inkdeath. I tasted it on my tongue that you would do something different.”

In the next parts now I will do more description, because so many readers said, “Yes, but please, give us more description!”And I respect that. But I want to try to nevertheless keep that style. So I will try my best, to write faster and more mature in the writing, but on the other hand give a little bit more description.

LZ: I don’t feel like your decription was lacking though.

Cornelia: I don’t think so!

LZ: The first scene that pops into my head is with the unicorns. You’re wondering about Jacob’s scars, and they are not these pretty white things, but are actually these monsters, sort of. I mean, they’re pretty, but they mauled him, you know? You didn’t go into this huge long description, but it was just enough,bursts of image.

Cornelia: That’s good to know. When you write yourself, you can see how liberating that is. If you can catch one phrase, it is much more intense. And I have to say, I decided this, but Lionel was such a big help, because he comes from script, so he’s used to melting things down. So when I sometimes had a description he read it and said, “Cornelia, if the moon reflects one more time in a pond, I’ll go crazy!” (laughs). And I was like, oh, sorry, and I cut it out. Because you have your cliches, you know? I just read a chapter before I came down [for the interview], I’m polishing, and I was like, oh God, there you did it again! And then you cut your cliches. And he was very good at that, because if you only do that in your head, it’s much more exhausting than having somebody sit next to you whom you can discuss it with.


In part two, coming Wednesday, Cornelia talks about creating with her friend Lionel, her thoughts on Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del toro, writing with another author, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy style, and more. Be sure to join us then!


Book Events, Books, Events

The Cornelia Funke Pittsburgh Library Event, a Prequel to the Lytherus Exclusive Interview!

Cornelia Funke Autographing books at the end of her event on Sunday, April 10th, 2011


New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke was in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this past Sunday for an event through our city library. I had the pleasure of interviewing her before this occasion (the transcript of which will be posted in parts beginning later this week), and also got to experience her in her element during the event, answering audience questions and autographing books.

Cornelia reading from Reckless

The event took place in the city library’s theater, which was filled with fans young and old, desperate to get a chance to interact with one of their favorite authors. Funke (pronounced FOON-kah), having done this many times before, knew that there would be a lot of questions from the curious readers of her books, so this set the shape of the event, having most of it be a Q & A with the audience.

Corneila getting into the illustrating.

But first, to get everyone warmed up, she started off by reading the beginning pages of her newest book, Reckless (click here to see the Lytherus review). She also took a break from reading to draw some illustrations on a nearby art board—she began her professional career as an illustrator, something she still continues to do to this day in her own books, and it was nice to see a live demonstration of her abilities.

Q & A with audience memebers.

There was a good 45 minutes of a question and answer session, but sadly the sound system in the theater wasn’t great, so I can’t decipher the audio recording I made. However, the questions were common ones, so I have included both a video interview and a few transcripts from Scholastic, her Inkheart publisher, for you to enjoy.


The first of a two-part Lytherus Cornelia Funke interview will be posted later this week, but to hold you over until then, here are links to those past interviews .

Scholastic 8-part video interview

Scholastic Q & A Transcript

I’d encourage you to check out these interviews before reading the Lytherus interview, as many of the questions I asked her build off of basic knowledge of her life and work that is revealed in these previous Q & A sessions. We’ll be bringing you the detailed transcript beginning later this week, so stay tuned as Cornelia talks about the Reckless world, the process of writing, why she chooses the magic elements in her stories, and much more!


A close-up of Cornelia's illustrations. Can you see which books they relate to?
Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Reckless: A Dark Modern Twist on Classic Fairy-Tales

In honor of the Lytherus interview with Cornelia Funke coming up this weekend, it seemed only right to review her most recent book, Reckless. Based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, this first book in a new series hit the shelves on September 14th of 2010.

In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if I hadn’t planned on going to hear the author talk at a lecture. Fairy-tales aren’t exactly my thing, and though I don’t despise them, I often pass over books with this theme to something a little more… hard core. But, you know what they say about when you assume something. Yet again, my pre-conceived stereotypes have been broken. This book was so completely different than anything I was expecting, and it was way darker than I thought it would be.

This book is about a world on the other side of a mirror. Through the Looking Glass for modern times, if you will. Jacob and Will’s father disappeared when they were young boys, and one day twelve-year-old Jacob took a risk and explored his father’s study, looking for answers. What he found instead was that by simply touching the beautiful mirror on the wall just so, he was transported to a world where fairy-tales rule supreme. Elves, dwarves, and fairies abound. Humans exist, but so do ogres and dragons. And then there are the Goyl. Made from semi-precious stone, from Moonstone to Jasper, these beings were despised because of their uncanny resemblance to humans. Though they had colored stone for skin and yellow eyes, they looked and acted the same. So they were persecuted out of fear.

Over a decade passes. Will has followed Jacob into Mirrorworld, which Jacob has visited so often since his youth that he now considers it his true home. But there is a war going on, and Will becomes a casualty. The Goyl now have a king, and with the help of the evil dark fairy they are conquering all the cities who over the years made them suffer. The fairy gave them strength, putting a curse on all the enemies of the Goyl: whenever the Goyl’s black, stony nails cut the flesh of a human, stone was sowed, and within days the injured human became a Goyl of his own.

That’s how the story really starts out. Will is injured, and the traces of stone are starting to seep across his body. It’s a race against time for Jacob to try and find a cure. But the enemies are after him, because Will’s stone is Jade, the rarest, and a prophesy states a Jade Goyl will make the king invincible. Throw in some characters like a shape-shifting girl who prefers her fox form, and Will’s girlfriend from Earth, mix thoroughly, and you have a imaginative, fast-paced tale that kept me up into the wee hours.

Having read the author’s Inkheart trilogy and the beautiful story-telling it contained, I wasn’t expecting the abrupt, succinct writing style that this book presented. There were lots of non-sentences, flashes of detail that bring the reader into the heart of the story. Not worse, by any means, but such a different feel that I noticed it immediately. I honestly believe that the writing added so much to the telling of the story that it would feel like a completely different tale should it be changed.

This is not a happy sweet place with gentle, beautiful things around every corner. For example, at one point the characters have to pass through a field full of unicorns, and if the immense scars on Jacob’s back are any indication, these are not the lovely, innocent creatures from the movie Legend. This is just one example of many where typical fantasy stereotypes are challenged. Some are there, for sure (like the cameo of Sleeping Beauty and her rose-covered castle), but they are woven so well into the story along with these new ideas that everything feels like truth.

The ending totally threw me. Looking back now, I should have seen it coming, but the author is so good at what she does that I didn’t suspect a thing. Those out-of-left-field surprises are one of my favorite parts of reading, and Funke delivered beautifully. But it is by no means tied up, and I will definitely be pondering how the author plans to resolve these issues in the next book. This was a quick, interesting, and entertaining read. Though dark, it wasn’t heavy, and being chock-full of fantasy made for a nice escape from reality.

This is not your Grandmother’s fairy tale, for sure.

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Upcoming Lytherus Interview With Cornelia Funke: We Want Your Questions!

This upcoming Sunday I am going to be chatting with international award-winning superstar author Cornelia Funke. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, she is most well-known for her Inkheart trilogy, which got turned into a movie in 2008 starring Brendan Frasier. She is also the author of Dragon Rider and The Thief Lord, among others. Her newest book, Reckless, is the first in an awesome new trilogy set in a world on the other side of a mirror. 

We want to hear from you! Is there something you’ve always wanted to know? Here’s your chance. Post your questions in the comments. I’ll be taking a list of the best questions with me to the interview on Sunday. So get creative and get thinking!