September 15, 2010 / 2:22 PM / 8 years ago

Book Talk: Cornelia Funke teams up for new children's series

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Children’s author Cornelia Funke spent nearly 20 years writing alone so was apprehensive when a friend from the movie business suggested working together on a new series in a fairy tale world with a modern, dark twist.

But the German author, best known for “The Thief Lord” and her best-selling “Inkworld” trilogy, said working with producer Lionel Wigram — who worked on the Harry Potter movies and “Sherlock Holmes” — taught her a lot and was inspiring.

After three years of collaboration, “Reckless” is being released on September 14 with Funke and Wigram on tour to promote the book that follows two brothers as they head into an updated version of the fairy tale world created by the Brothers Grimm.

Funke, now living in Los Angeles, began her working life as a social worker dealing with children from deprived backgrounds but had her first book published in German in 1993.

She became known globally with her 2002 book “The Thief Lord” which she followed up with “Dragon Rider” and the “Inkworld” trilogy about a bookbinder who can bring characters from books into the real world. “The Thief Lord” and “Inkheart” are now movies.

Funke, 51, spoke to Reuters about her new series:

Q: How did this new series come about?

A: “With Lionel Wigram, who is a friend of mine and a movie producer who studied literature at Oxford. We had words over a script but while we were talking he came up with the idea of a fairy tale world growing up and becoming more modern and infiltrated by our modern world. I liked that concept so much that I started playing with it and came up with a new story. He wanted to be involved in some way and it was one of the most inspiring things I ever did.”

Q: How did you work together?

A: “This world was a new adventure for me as I had someone else’s imagination battling mine. But it was quite fruitful and it gave me insight into my own mind which you usually only get at the late stage of a book when an editor comes in. Lionel had created everything with me from the beginning so I allowed him to be a ruthless editor and to question everything I was doing.”

Q: How will you present “Reckless” together on tour?

A: “We will discuss how it is when you work on a story with a best friend. We want to tell children of our experience, that you can spin a story together. I was the writer and the captain of the ship when it came to writing the book but for months we met for 6 to 8 hours a day and discussed and fought and battled our way through the labyrinth of the story.”

Q: Did you think you would enjoy the collaboration?

A: “I was apprehensive. Book people can be snobs. We think we are far more sophisticated than movie people in many ways. To bring in someone from the movies was not the approach from the beginning. But I am sure he’d be pleased to one day turn it into a wonderful movie, but these three years for him were exciting because he did not have to think budget, or who would play the characters, or how to tell the story in two hours on the screen.”

Q: Will the books lead to a movie?

A: “One day we may go on an adventure to make this into a movie. Of course it is tempting because it is his craft. I have my toy, a new literary world, to play with so he should have his toy, a new movie.”

Q: And you expect this to be a trilogy?

A: “Yes. We have been working for five months this year on the outline for the first half of number two. We are deep into it already. We work on Skype, on the phone, and we will hopefully work on the plane while touring but we are determined to do this together. I think it will be three books as we have ideas of where the story will go but I love the idea of having more books based on fairy tales in different countries.”

Q: Do you think you will ever write books for adults?

A: “I hope I won’t. I love my audience and the wonderful thing about being a storyteller is that you have them all - the children, the father, the grandfather. It may happen that a story comes to me which is something that will lose the children but that will be a sad moment for me.”

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: “Be passionate about it and really find out which stories you want to spend one or two years on. Many writers don’t spend enough time and you notice with a book how long a writer took to write it. Be curious about what is around you and inside you.”

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Paul Casciato

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