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?

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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 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.

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.

Could you give me your thoughts about the joy of reading?

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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 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’s the best strategy to motivate yourself to write more often?

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Where do you get the names of your characters?

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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 is your biggest fear?

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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.

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.

What do you love about being an author?

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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.

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!

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