Questions & Answers

In your letters to Cornelia, you almost always ask questions on her books. Here is a selection from nearly 30 years of fan mail history.

Would you want to be a character in one of your books?

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I AM Fox! And I would definitely like to be one of the 'Dragon riders', for that's what I have always been dreaming of — to ride a dragon.

I revisited Drachenreiter, one of my very favorites, and, having read it also in English, I became very curious as to why Lung's name was changed to Firedrake in the translation. Personally, I think Lung is an excellent name for a dragon!

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Indeed, Lung was Lung in the original draft translation. The change to Firedrake was one asked for by the publishers. We try to accomodate such requests as we have to trust the publisher to know their country and their readers better than we do. They probably wanted to avoid confusion with the lung...

How did you create such different personalities for Sorrel, Twigleg, Firedrake, and Ben. Is it hard to make sure each character is unique?

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I have no idea... they just pop up in my head. They start living and breathing and doing their own things. They end up being very different in every book. I think I have a lucky gift. Sometimes it is hard to make each character unique. You have to remember the characters you have written before, and think about them a lot. If you think about it hard enough, they become unique.

What is the difference between a Hippogriff from "Harry Potter" and a Griffin from "The Griffin's Feather"?

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A Griffin is half lion, half eagle, with a snake as a tail. A Hippogriff, as you met in Harry Potter, is half eagle, half horse, as far as I know... The myths about Griffins often show them as guardians of treasure and you find them as statues and frescoes, for example, in the ruins of Persepolis.

Do you really think Scip is happy being a grown up? I think he is, but I can't help thinking that there is a little childish part of his life that he regrets and misses because well "kids are caterpillars and grownups are butterflies and no butterfly remembers what it was like to be a caterpillar" (favourite quote).

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I know he is very happy. He is having a brilliant time. And he really doesn't miss to follow orders of a father who doesn't love him. As for the child in him — every wise grown up keeps that very much alive anyway! Mine is — more than when I was a child. I think we learn to be children while getting older.

What made you make Dragon Rider a trilogy (maybe more from what I've seen snooping around) after the first book came out in 1996? I mean, I love Dragon Rider and I'm glad to see it being continued. I'm just curious what made you start it again?

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I tried to write a sequel twice, because so many readers asked for it. But it never felt right. Until I worked with a few artists on a Dragon Rider audio play. Suddenly all the characters were back and they immediately told me another story.

I was just wondering, if Cornelia ever read the book "Something Wicked This Way Comes". I find some ideas in it are similar to "The Thief Lord".

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I heard this question a few times by now, and no, I never read Ray Bradbury's book, although I love love love his Martian Chronicles! But.... I think it happens quite often that storytellers use similar motives, as we all fish from the same soup. I guess you ask about the carousel (I heard there is one in his story as well). I got the idea from an old photo of an Italian garden, when I did research for the Isola Segreta, but I don't know where Ray Bradbury found his.

Did the Thief Lord movie match your vision?

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Movies never match a writer’s vision. But there was much to love about the movie (although they got many things wrong). Prosper and Bo and Riccio especially. Victor and Ida .... the actress Caroline Goodall became a very close friend of mine. And — I won’t forget watching the gang walk over St. Mark’s square. As if they had just walked out of the movie.

Is it true that the Mirrorworld is really the Inkworld just a few hundred years earlier? Does that mean Fenoglio created the Mirrorworld? Wait... or does that mean that the Ink/Mirror-world already existed before Fenoglio wrote it? Do all stories already exist-authors just become aware of them and harness them within books?

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Yes! Perfect description of what writers do. I wrote a short story about a book bound in silver that is the reason for all the silver tongues in the world — and for the magic trapped in Fenoglio's book. Of course it was made by someone who came through the Mirrors.

Which country behind the mirror would you like to visit?

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Japan, which is called 'Nihon' behind the mirror.

Do you really think Scipio is happy being a grown up? I think he is, but I can't help thinking that there is a little childish part of his life that he regrets and misses because well "kids are caterpillars and grownups are butterflies and no butterfly remembers what it was like to be a caterpillar" (favourite quote).

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I know he is very happy. He is having a brilliant time and he really doesn't miss to follow orders of a father who doesn't love him. As for the child in him — every wise grown up keeps that very much alive anyway! Mine is — more than when I was a child. I think we learn to be children while getting older.

A question on your book "Igraine the Brave": What happens to Sorrowful Knight's grey mare after the tournament? You wrote that she had a limp on her leg and that the Knight refused her nuzzling him and sent her back to Igraine and the last thing we read about the mare is that she comes to Igraine with her head lowered (meaning, according to me, that she is sad and that the Knight is angry with her).

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O no! Of course she hangs her head because she feels guilty that she let him fall! She is his best companion. The Sorrowful Knight would never blame his horse, but she is a very noble mare and took the blame although he was just worried about her leg.

How did you came up with the idea of Fox, this half-animal, half-woman?

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Fox appeared in a very interesting way. I worked on the first book with my friend Lionel Wigram. We discussed each step of the story before I sat down to write it. One day I told him that I want someone to wait for Jacob when he steps through the Mirror, someone who is his devoted companion, as faithful a friend as a dog. I suggested that we turn Valiant, the dwarf into such a companion. "Noooo!" Lionel said. "No, Valiant is mean. Please don't make him friendly and nice. If you need a dog give Jacob a dog. Make it talk if you want to!"These we're the words Fox had been waiting for. Yes, not a dog. A fox. I remembered all the wise foxes in my childhood's fairy tales who tell the heroes what to do (and they are always right), but Fox tricked me for quite a while. I only knew that she is a girl when she changed at the Gingerbread House. She kept her secret from me as she did with Jacob. My Japanese publisher has told me about the women foxes in her country's fairy tales — which proves once again that we know about things we don't know... after all, we share the same world, though we sometimes forget that.

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