Q & A
Throughout the past years, Cornelia has been asked countless questions by her readers. We have compiled a collection for you, that will keep growing.
What is the most important element of a story?Read the answer
Many and always different from story to story. Let the story tell you! And most of all — let the readers fall in love with your characters.
Do you listen to music when you write?Read the answer
Oh yes, I do. Mostly to classical music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Haendel or Henry Purcell.
How long does it take to write a book?Read the answer
It takes me about one year or longer to write a "big book" like Inkheart or Dragon Rider. But I have written books for younger children, which took me less time to write (about one or two months).
What influenced some of the common traits in your characters?Read the answer
They mostly step into my room and are so much alive, that I ask myself where they came from. Of course, some oft them are the result of hard thinking, adding characteristics, manners, etc., but others are alive from the first moment they appear. When I wrote Inkheart, this happened with Dustfinger. He told me his name and he was so real that after a while I had the feeling that he was standing behind me whispering his story in my ear.
Do you like the film adaptations of your books?Read the answer
Selling movie rights means accepting the fact that the richness of a novel needs to be shrunk for the big screen. Which makes TV so much more interesting. But I find it unacceptable when an adaptation changes my characters – which, for example, happened with Dragonrider.
What is your most precious memory?Read the answer
The birth of my two children – but in the past years so many precious memories have piled in my heart, that for the rest I can’t choose one. They are all about meeting people, finding new friends, working together – my memories oft he past years are like a box of treasures, and I am sure, there will be a time, when I will like to open it and look at them still shining.
Why did you become a writer for children?Read the answer
Why I decided to write for children: Well, first of all I am an illustrator, so the first story I wrote was about all the creatures I yearned to draw. Only children’s books are illustrated nowadays (with exceptions) so there is one reason, but I think the most important one is, that I see myself as a storyteller and storytellers don’t tell their tales just for the grown ups, they tell them for everybody.
What they also know is that children still take this world and the big questions we all ask very serious — and they don’t wear a mask when they meet me- which many grown ups got used to do. ask me whether i’d prefer to be with 1000 children or 1000 grown ups in a hall and the choice would be very easy:)
So when I am asked why I write for children, I say: I do write for children, but adults are allowed to read my books as well:) There is nothing scarier than a grown up, who has forgotten about the child in him. We learn all our lives to be children, I believe.
Do you have any drawing tips you could give me?Read the answer
How you draw should be dictated by your eye, your hand and your heart (I am sure the brain is involved too:) So no one can really give you advice on it! You have to practice, a lot, copy drawings of masters in that craft, sketch from nature, your surroundings ... etc in short: keep the hand busy:)
Is it a sign that you should move on to a different story if you are having doubts about the one you are working on now?Read the answer
No, you should get only more passionate about a story when it gets difficult. Otherwise you will always try something new when the story tries to hide from you. Understand it, tame it, know its secret, explore, find out — and charm it. A story is a living thing. And sometimes they bite us or hide!
What’s the most major thing to remember for writing children's/middle grade/YA books as opposed to books for adults?Read the answer
Don't think about that difference. Write the story that comes to you and write it the way it wants to be told. If you find a way to make it resonate with all ages you have fulfilled your task as a storyteller in the best possible way, but of course not every story allows that. nevertheless — never clip you imagination's wings by foreseeing what your readers want to hear. They will always surprise you (apart from the fact that children and teens are always underestimated).
Do you have any writing rituals?Read the answer
Oh yes, espresso, fruit gummies and liquorice, some chocolate, a candle, and music that fits with the time the story is set in.
I want to know if your location influences your writing?Read the answer
Location is like an another character for me. A very important character. It gives the story it's flavour and when I research it gives me a thousand ideas. Location is the canvas the story is painted on.
What is your writing style?Read the answer
Hmmm, I have no idea. I never thought about this. I think there are as many writing styles in the world as there are authors.
Do you struggle with writer's block?Read the answer
I don't think there is such thing! I came to believe that every story is a labyrinth (the better we get, the more elaborate it is) and the story will hide its heart in it as she likes to send us on a journey to find it. She teases us with wrong paths and wrong characters, she doesn’t reveal her secrets easily!
So when writers meet the so-called writer’s block—that means, in my opinion only, that the story tricked them and that they have to go back and find out where. Or cut a path through the hedge.
Whatever they do — those days are often the most insightful ones, as we do in the end understand the story better.
I struggle like crazy to develop characters, I always fail, even if I create one, it doesn't have that oomph! factor. Any tips please?Read the answer
Don't look for an oomph! factor! Let them come — the ones who show up to have their story told by them. Then give them time. Find out what they love, fear, hate, dream of. Where they come from (they may lie to you first) where they were born, who their family is, their best friend.... and what they want you to write. About them, the world, life, yourself.... Feed the story with patience, passion and time. And many rewrites.
Why should people read?Read the answer
First of all- why should they eat chocolate? Because it makes incredibly happy. On a more serious note: because it builds windows and doors when the world seems narrow, because it shows us that we are not alone with what we fear and love, that someone found words for what we may not know how to express, because it shows us that the world can wear a thousand costumes, because it feeds our souls and hearts and brains, because it teaches us to create images in our minds, that are uniquely ours, because......it can make us hear the heart beat of the world.
What are some of your insparations to write?Read the answer
The ideas come from the inside and from the outside. I collect ideas about things I am really passionate about, characters I want to talk about and that readers would want to read about. Then I collect ideas for places in the book, I look at photos and books about different places for inspiration. Then I start collecting little things about the story and background... until I have a chest full of ideas. Then I start writing the plot of the story, based on these ideas.
Do you like to read Charles Dickens? Do you like the Brontes? Do you like Mark Twain?Read the answer
I LOVE to read Dickens — I think The Christmas Carol is my favourite, but Great Expectations is of course glorious too ... and all the others. I also admire Kipling, Mark Twain (heavens, I was so in love with Huckleberry Finn), not sure about the Brontes or Jane Austen. I also love Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, David Almond, poets like Ted Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca.... so many voices, so much written magic!
Do you have children?Read the answer
I have a daughter and a son. Anna works as a restorer and Ben composes and produces music and works as a DJ.
Does what you read influence how or what you write?Read the answer
Every book I have read so far — the good ones and the bad ones — influenced my writing.
Would you ever consider writing a book in which the main character has autism? I think it would be really cool to read about the different (and often magical) ways we autistics see the world. Did you know that I can talk with the seasons? You may have noticed that we've gotten quite a bit of snow all over the US - I'm afraid that was my fault. Ol' Jack Frost and I got into an argument.Read the answer
I love that idea. I have known children who are called autistic and I know some adults who could claim that label — I myself find it hard to put any label on human beings (I think we all have at least one autistic self in us) and I am sure you'll detect characters in my books who could be called autistic in parts, but .... that all said .... I will look at your way to see the world more closely and I hope one day you'll meet someone in my books who shares your view on the world.
If I had a time machine, where would you travel to?Read the answer
I'd go to Elizabethan England and see Shakespeare himself performing on stage, meet Heinrich Heine, Mozart and Henry Purcell, watch Rodin at work, visit the Acropolis, when it was still highly coloured, travel to a time in the future when it is possible to visit other planets.
Where do you get the names of your characters?Read the answer
I have name dictionaries, and I scan through them until I find a good name that fits the character. I sometimes also get names from plant dictionaries and animal dictionaries.
What do you love about being an author?Read the answer
I can be a million different creatures and at a million different places with my stories — and that I come to countries for the very first time to find my stories have been living there for years in thousands of heads and hearts ... that is the ultimate magic.
What's your favourite plant?Read the answer
Oh there are many! There is a German flower called Akelei, I don't know the English name, then there is a Chinese bush the humming birds in my garden in Malibu loved to feed on, the lilies in the ponds, the old roses, full of scents and blossom leaves, but also humble plants like Thyme, Camomile, Mint ... I am quite sure I was a witch in a former life, so I cannot live without plants and, of course, I talk to them.
Are there some characters you loved that didn't make the final cut?Read the answer
Yes, I did cut characters out, who wanted to take over. Others turn out to be very different from who I thought them to be and I need to change hundreds of pages to do them justice.
Do you have other jobs besides being an author?Read the answer
Being an author means having many jobs: writing, answering emails, having meetings, recording audiobooks, travelling...
Why did you want to become an author?Read the answer
I was an illustrator, but I was awfully bored with the books I had to illustrate — so I decided to write my own story.
Do you have a favourite author who inspires you?Read the answer
Many! There is a list on Goodreads which shows some books that inspired me: T.H.White, Dickens, Kipling, Maupassant, Steinbeck, Heine and Buechner .... but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
What's your favourite place to write?Read the answer
Luckily, I can write anywhere — airports, waiting for a train, even walking my dog. I always have something to write down. Sometimes the best ideas come in the most unusual places.