Cornelia Funke - Author
German author Cornelia Funke is famous and successful in America. But she's even more famous and successful in her native land. She's written many popular books for kids, including The Thief Lord, Inkeart and Dragon Rider, all of which are being made into movies. Her latest book, Inkspell, is the second in the Inkheart trilogy.
Cornelia also has experience as a book illustrator, game maker, and social worker.
RIF: As a child, did you believe in dragons, magic merry-go-rounds, and other fantasies? Do you believe in it now?
Cornelia Funke: I am not sure I did. It was actually never important to me, whether they were real or not. It was always enough that I could imagine them, and so it is today.
RIF: Have you ever wanted to be older or younger, like some of the characters in The Thief Lord did?
CF: Yes, as a child I always wanted to be older, so I could get myself a dog and a horse and live at a more adventurous place than the little town I was raised in. Now I don't want to change anything. I like to be a grown up, but maybe this will change when my knees start shaking.
RIF: You’ve said you love writing even more than illustrating. Did you want to be either a writer or artist as a child?
CF: No, never. I guess I couldn't imagine that normal human being can do magical things like writing and drawing (and earn money with that.) I wanted to be an astronaut for a while, a pilot or go to Africa and make the world a better place. That's also the reason why I became a social worker first, but I had to realize that you can't supress your talents. they just want to come out and be practiced.
RIF: Do you translate your own stories into English? Do they lose anything in the translation?
CF: No, I have a brilliant translator named Anthea Bell and some of my books my cousin Oliver, who is bilingual, translates and understands perfectly what and how I write. And no, they don't lose anything in translation. All the English translations are wonderful. I read through them sentence by sentence.
RIF: Do kids know who you are when they see you in person in Germany? What about in America or other countries?
CF: To writers this doesn't happen often, as my face is not to be found on posters or a big movie screen. Sometimes children recognize me, when they know I am around, both in Germany and the USA, or after I have been on TV. The good thing is children are very nice fans!
RIF: Reading aloud is an important part of your books. Do you read aloud to your kids (Anna, 15, and Ben, 10)? Did your parents read aloud to you?
CF: Yes, I love to do that. Always did. My parents didn't read aloud, as far as I remember, but I had a grandmother who told us stories all the time. And my father always took me to the library. I loved to do that with him.
RIF: Do your children read your books?
CF: Yes, luckily they read them and love them. They are always my first readers and critics.
RIF: Do you have anything in common with Meggie from Inkheart and Inkblood?
CF: Yes, I was a book eater as well and couldn't live without piles of them. and I have a very gentle and funny father as well. Otherwise though I was quite different. AND I have a nice mother too, not one, that got lost for ten years!
RIF: You seem to really like kids – you make them into strong, independent characters. Do you remember what it’s like to be a kid?
CF: I don't remember very much. I remember playing outside a lot and waiting to grow up, but I am a person who doesn't look much at the past but at the present and future. I think, I learned about children from the children I met and loved when I myself was a grown up already.
RIF: Mo in Inkheart is patterned off actor Brendan Fraser, and your son Ben shows up as Bo in The Thief Lord. Do they like being characters?
CF: Yes, luckily they actually do. Ben always loved the idea to be in a book and Brendan once told children in a reading, who asked him, how it feels to be inside a story: 'You know, it was very strange to find out, that someone on the other side of the planet knows so well, who I am.' And when he sends me an e-mail he sometimes calls himself Mo.
RIF: Do you have a favorite book of all time?
CF: The Once and Future King by T.H. White.
RIF: What kind of research do you do for your books? For instance, did you spend time in Venice for The Thief Lord?
CF: I spent some time there, but before I wrote the book. Most of my research I do by reading books. For Inkheart for example I read on booksellers, bookcollectors, book murders, on fireeaters, on Liguria and bookbinding...and many other things. I do that for about half a year.
RIF: Are you involved in the Inkheart and The Thief Lord movies being made?
CF: I wasn't very much involved in Thief Lord. I read the script versions and made comments and I looked at the cast and visited the set several times, but I didn't have much influence. On Inkheart I am a producer on the project and for example did choose the scriptwriter together with the producers from New Line. Do far working with them has been a very good experience.
RIF: What are you working on next?
CF: On the third part of Inkheart.
Get in touch with Cornelia!
c/o The Chicken House
2 Palmer Street