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 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.
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.
Did you want to be an author when you where you were younger?Read the answer
No, not at all — I wanted to be an astronaut first! And then a pilot, and then a thousand other professions, until I understood I was a writer.
What’s the best strategy to motivate yourself to write more often?Read the answer
I always want to write, so I don't really know how to answer that. Of course, we all know the days where we find a thousand other things to do. Just sit down in that case (it helps a lot when you write by hand instead of having to open a computer!) and write a few sentences. That usually puts the hook in. It’s of course easier when you work already on a story you love! Or on several.
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.
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:)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you own a typewriter?Read the answer
No, I was never a friend of typing machines. I dreaded them. My first typing friend was a laptop called Mad Max!
Could you tell me what book you are most proud of that you have written?Read the answer
I cannot answer that question, as that would be like wondering which of my children is my favourite. The ones that were hardest to write were the ones where I wanted to change my style for the story- The Thief Lord and Reckless. If you'd like to know which one I am most passionate about — that's always the one I am working on.
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.
Could you give me a tip of what can I do as training to be a future writer?Read the answer
Always have a pen and a notebook with you. Collect ideas and stories like pebbles wherever you go. And be curious about others and yourself and everything in the world. Always write your first draft by hand into a notebook. The computer takes all the playfulness and fools you to believe the first draft is already in print.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Could you give me your thoughts about the joy of reading?Read the answer
I was raised in a little town and the world was very small. And only the books opened a thousand windows. And they whispered the promise that the world is a wild and adventurous place.
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 is your biggest fear?Read the answer
I was VERY afraid of spiders until the age of twenty, when I became the owner of a chicken stable. It was so infested with spiders of all kinds that I either had to forget about my fear or have my chicken starve. The fear disappeared like early morning mist and now I can even deal with the Black Widows in my garden.
There is no better feeling than meeting a fear and walking right through it. I am still afraid of deep water though as I am a very bad swimmer :) Otherwise I am quite fearless.
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).