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Interview John Connolly VO

Interview John Connolly VO

ActuSF : You break up the line between the child world and the adults world. Why did you write a book for children and adults in the same time ?
John Connolly : Well, as the dedication to the book says, there's a little bit in children of the adults that they'll become, and a little bit of the children that they were in most adults, so the line between the two isn't as pronounced as we'd like to think. I'm not sure that The Book of Lost Things really is a children's book, though. Older teenagers like it, but they read it in a very different way from adults, in most cases. It's a book that's suffused with regret and loss, and teenagers shouldn't have experienced too much of that. Inevitably, though, some will. At a signing in Arizona for The Gates last year, a young girl came up to me and asked me to sign her copy of The Book of Lost Things. It turned out that she'd lost her mother that year, and so the book spoke to her in a very real, intimate way. I really didn't know what to say to her. I just wanted to give her a hug. So, in the end, I've described the book as a book about childhood for adults, which seems about right.

ActuSF : Have you been like David when you were child ? Did you red a lot of books in your childhood?
John Connolly : Most of the first section of the book is very autobiographical, although my mother is still alive, thankfully. I did go through a period of worrying terribly about losing my parents, and I did suffer from OCD, and I was hauled off to the psychiatrist described in the book, and I did sleep in a little attic bedroom filled with books. It's still there, actually, and now I work in a little attic filled with books. I was a voracious reader as a child, and as an adult. As a consequence, I've never been bored. Getting kids to read at an early age is one of the biggest favours that parents can do for their children. Books become friends, ways of escape, and new ways to see and understand the world.

ActuSF : Your novel is based on old folk tales, did they inspire you ?
John Connolly : I was fascinated by old fairy tales, particularly by the darkness of them. They were designed, not for very young children, but for children who were expected to become adults at a much earlier stage than they do now, and who consequently needed to be given some elemental understanding of the way in which the world works. They're actually very psychologically acute, those old tales. Snow White, for example, touches on something very interesting in the relationship between mothers and daughters, and the tension that arises as one grows more beautiful while the other has sacrificed some of her beauty and energy in order to enable her daughter to survive. Also, different stories will speak to different readers in different ways, depending upon upbringing, life experience, etc. Thus, David naturally alters these stories so that they reflect truths about his world, and his experience.

ActuSF : Why the story takes place during the second world war ?
John Connolly : I'm not sure. I knew it was going to be a period piece, and I thought the turmoil of those war years might serve as a reflection of some of David's own inner turmoil. Mostly, though, I just find that period from just before WWI until the end of WWII interesting, and always have.

ActuSF : How do you choose your characters in your book ? Some are really funny like the fat Snow White or Roland the homosexual knight....
John Connolly : Snow White simply emerged in the telling of the story. I didn't plan the way that the stories would alter, but I knew David so well, and inhabited his consciousness for so long, that as the writing of the book continued I seemed to instinctively recognise which stories were appropriate. I would then begin telling them in a straightforward way, and they would just start to . . . change. It was fascinating, really. As for Roland, I'm not sure that he's gay, as such. The Crooked Man hints at it, and implies something much worse that isn't true as a consequence, but there is a certain amount of play on the notion of male camaraderie, particularly comrades-in-arms. But everything in the book is, in some way, a reflection of some experience in David's life, or something on the shelves in his room. They're also reflections of the attitudes of the time, so the Crooked Man implies that Roland is a paedophile because he is gay. We know that isnt true, but at the time, when attitudes were considerably less tolerant and enlightened, that would not have been an uncommon assumption to make.

ActuSF : It’s your first fantastic novel, why did you write this kind of novel and not a crime novel ? Will you write another fantastic novel in the future?
John Connolly : Not every story can be told in the form of a crime novel, I suppose, and this was one such story. I suppose that I had written a volume of ghost stories, NOCTURNES, and there are strong elements of the supernatural in the Parker novels, and in Bad Men, so in some ways The Book of Lost Things is a natural extension. I'm always reluctant to call it a fantasy novel, though, because I don't want to precondition the reader to make certain assumptions about it. It's a fantasy novel if you choose to read it that way, I guess. As for more fantastic novels, I wrote THE GATES last year, which really is a novel for smart kids, and smart adults. I'm working on a sequel to that at the moment, so I'm very fond of the genre.

ActuSF : Have you favourite fantastic authors ? Who are they ?
John Connolly : I loved John Wyndham when I was younger, particularly The Chyrsalids and The Kraken Wakes. I read less fantasy now, though, although I'm very fond of Terry Pratchett!

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