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.

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?

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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 like the film adaptations of your books?

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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.

Do you have a favourite author who inspires you?

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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.

Why did you want to become an author?

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I was an illustrator, but I was awfully bored with the books I had to illustrate — so I decided to write my own story.

What's your favourite place to write?

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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.

Do you have any drawing tips you could give me?

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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:)

Could you give me a tip of what can I do as training to be a future writer?

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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.

Does what you read influence how or what you write?

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Every book I have read so far — the good ones and the bad ones — influenced my writing.

Do you have any writing rituals?

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Oh yes, espresso, fruit gummies and liquorice, some chocolate, a candle, and music that fits with the time the story is set in.

What is your source of strength?

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The world with all its visible and invisible wonders, good friends, anything that creeps and flies and swims and grows, and some very good-natured gods or/and angels who will stand by you, when nothing else could help.

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?

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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!

How long does it take to write a book?

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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).

Are there some characters you loved that didn't make the final cut?

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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.

Why did you become a writer for children?

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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.

Could you tell me what book you are most proud of that you have written?

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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.

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