Q&A; with Jenny Nimmo
Q: Is there a connection between The Magician Trilogy and the Charlie Bone books?
A: There is a connection between the Magician Trilogy and the Charlie Bone books. I began to make notes for The Children of the Red King a year or two after I had finished The Magician trilogy. Initially, it was a response to requests for a fourth book about my Welsh protagonist, Gwydion Gwyn, but I decided to have a new hero, Charlie Bone, and to give him, not only a Welsh ancestor, but also an African bloodline, so that he would be linked to a wider world. In The Magician Trilogy, I used slightly lyrical prose, to reflect the musical Welsh language. With Charlie Bone, the language is more straightforward.
Q: Ancient Welsh mythology is integrated throughout The Snow Spider. Why did you use Gwydion as a basis for your protagonist in The Magician Trilogy?
A: I used Gwydion as a basis for my protagonist in The Magician Trilogy because, in the Welsh myths, he is described as the greatest storyteller in the world. His character stood out from all the others. I was captivated by him, and longed to find a way to bring him into the present, and to introduce him to a new generation.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the world from which the Snow Spider comes? Does this snowy world have a name?
A: In ancient mythology there is a place called the Otherworld, a parallel world where the spirit lives. There is also the Tir na n'Og, a land of youth where one never grows old. My son had requested a story about other worlds (i.e the planets in outer space) but I cheated and chose to use the mythological worlds rather than reverting to science fiction. I imagined this world to be icy cold, pure and white, perhaps because I began to write it in the depths of a very cold winter. My children remarked that the cobwebs were covered in frost and looked like holograms, where it might be possible to glimpse another world.
Q: Which character in the first book do you most identify with?
A: I try not to identify too strongly with any of my characters. I like to stand back and see them objectively. I think this is why I often use boys instead of girls, just in case I get too close and lose the overall picture. But if I identify with anyone in The Magician Trilogy, it must be Gwyn, because I am seeing most situations through his eyes.
Q: The theme of searching for family recurs throughout the Charlie Bone books and The Magician trilogy. Why is this an issue that you're drawn to?
A: I had written two or three books before my husband noticed that in every one of them a family member was missing. He suggested that it was because my father's death, when I was five, utterly changed my world. I can only suppose he is right, and that this is the reason I am drawn to a narrative where someone's life is changed by loss.
Q: You make magic relevant to contemporary readers. How do you see magic in the real world?
A: I prefer to think of magic in its proper place, in stories. Folktales, legends, and fairytales were the books I first learned to read for myself. They were a great comfort and have influenced a lot of what I write. However, we all need a little magic in our everyday lives - through coincidence, happenstance, serendipity, and so on. And there are certain times of year, certain weather, certain moods when the world around us is not exactly as we thought - when we might actually see a fawn getting off a bus - as Gabriel Garcia Marquez did.
Q: How, when, and where do you write?
A: I work in a room overlooking the river. I try to get to my desk as soon as I've fed my cats and chickens. I use a blue 3B pencil and scribble away for about 20 pages before transferring it to the computer.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Which writers have influenced you?
A: Inspiration comes from the world around me. I'm an inveterate eavesdropper. Ideas are suggested by newspaper articles, magazines, and TV documentaries. But always there is the big story of fairytales in my head to dip into, to enliven the facts: the endless stream of shape-shifters, healing drops, wands, frozen hearts, poisoned chalices, falling stars, ghosts, flying horses, sorcerers, magic cloaks and much, much more. Bruce Chatwin has influenced the way I write, but much of what I write has been influenced by all those anonymous writers who contributed to books of legends, myths, and fairytales.
Q: What's next for you?
A: What next? A new Charlie Bone Trilogy, a book about Uncle Paton's childhood and The Red King Saga, which will tell the story of the Red King and his original ten children.