Jasper Fforde is the author of ‘First Among Sequels,’ ‘The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next),’ and the latest release, ‘Shades of Grey.’
Describe your typical writing day?
Author Photo: Mari Fforde.
I try to get a head start by kicking off the day at 7:30, in order to get a good head of steam to tackle the book. I find that if you concentrate fully and for long periods of time, then it all comes a lot easier – a bit like getting ‘on the step’ while jet-skiing. Once you get that speed up, then ideas and situations come a lot easier – full concentration and absorption. But like most humans I am easily distracted, so if something happens to kick me off the step, then I might not get back into it that morning, and if shopping, eBay, daytime TV or baby daughter require attention in the afternoon, the day can dwindle rapidly into non-productivity. We’re currently building an extension to the house, and my new office – cell, actually- will be empty except a word-processor, and no phone, no internet, no books, no nothing – not even a view. I may even insist on being bricked up for six months and fed food through a slot – now that would make me write books faster!
When starting a novel, what planning do you do in advance?
I don’t structure novels in advance. I wish that I could; it would make writing them a lot more efficient. I tend to just pick five or six different strands that I want to include, and then write them in parallel before figuring out a way of intertwining them at the end. There’s a lot of rewriting. And a lot of wastage. I usually write 300,000 words and eventually get down to a 100,000.
Is there a literary character that you most identify with?
No idea. A mixture of Alain Quartermain and Biggles, I’d like to think.
Is there an author you’d recommend?
P.G. Wodehouse, without a doubt. Funniest author writing in the English language. Pure joy and should be up there with Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare. Begin with ‘Summer Lightning’ and life will never be the same again.
Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written, and why?
‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de St Exupery. A delightful allegory full of wonderful characters, pathos, extraordinary imagery and concepts of such comic simplicity that one stands awe-struck at their creation. The rose, the baobabs, the volcanos, the planet, the lamplighter…
What are the most important things you’ve learned about writing?
The difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’; not to use the word ‘majestic’; there is a lot of difference between Joanna and Anthony Trollope; the ‘U’ key gets less wear and tear when writing for the Americans; that a comma can change everything; that prose is like hair, it improves with combing; that there are very few new ideas; that try as I might, I still can’t spell ‘compleltly’ the first time; that writing requires concentration and constant self criticism; that it is a lonely profession; that there are people out there you read far more into my books that I ever intended, and then give me credit for it (thank you); the difference between ‘fewer’ and ‘less’; that there is always someone out there who knows the real meaning of ‘decimate’, irrespective of the meaning I give to it; that readers are fantastically forgiving of dodgy prose as long as you remain entertaining; that the cardinal sin of writing is boring your audience… (that’s enough, thank you Jasper)