Q&As

Over the years I have been asked many questions about my books, my approach to writing, and even about my interest in woodwork. The answer to your question may be right here, so have a browse or search my Q&As.



Questions & Answers

Q

Lyra's adventures as a child sounded very interesting. Will you ever be publishing a book of those?

A

Quite possibly, but not yet. There is a little thing called The Book of Dust to do first.

Asked on 02 April 2009

Q

I am massively pedantic and just have a couple logistic questions about Amber Spyglass which I should think you're probably loathe to answer but I shall carry on unabated. Do you have in your mind any specific explanation to the way in which Asriel builds a fortress and an army in such a short space of time? And also another logistic thing, when Mrs Coutler has taken Lyra to the cave in the foothills of the Himalayas, how as she travelled there so far in advance of Will, who requires a long boat journey to go the same distance, considering they leave the hillside in the world of Cittigazze at most a day apart? As I say Iím a hopeless pedant so feel free to just tell me to stop worrying about such trivialities. Thanks

A

I have no explanation at all. Don't worry about it. I'm sure I could concoct an explanation if I needed to, but I'd only need it if it was germane to the story I was telling.

Asked on 31 March 2009

Q

Your writing seems to have a strong interest in epistemology apart from Kleist, which philosophers have made an impact on you

A

I am a very unsystematic reader of philosophy or reader of anything, in fact. As I have said, I read like a butterfly and write like a bee. It would be misleading to point to anyone in particular.

Asked on 31 March 2009

Q

Dear Mr. Pullman, Hello! I must say that I have truly enjoyed your His Dark Materials trilogy, even as a Catholic. Thank you very much for providing me with both entertainment and a well-put argument against my faith. But, as a Catholic, I have had a question in mind ever since I finished the work. Why do you suppose that The Authority is indeed a creature and not a Creator, and therefore a thing which is mutable, temporal, and finite? Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Leo

A

This is a good question that would require a longer answer than I've got time for here. I shall try to answer it in The Book of Dust.

Asked on 31 March 2009

Q

Can you summarize your views of religion? Or perhaps you have your own beliefs you wouldn't mind sharing.

A

My views on religion are changing all the time, as are my views on every other human phenomenon. But very briefly i'd say that the religious questions, such as Why are we here? Where do we come from? What is death? Why do we suffer? and so on, are fundamental human questions that we've always asked, and to ask them is not necessarily to believe in a God. I see no evidence for God, but I do ask the religious questions.

Asked on 30 March 2009

Q

After reading the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, I felt moved but also like I had been punched in the stomach it was that powerful. How did you feel once you had completed them?

A

I'm glad you felt it was powerful, but I wouldn't like you to take me to court on the basis that my book had assaulted you. It would be hard to defend a case like that. More seriously, I think I have to say that I felt moved as well by the story. After all, I didn't write it in cold blood, carefully calculating every effect and moving the emotions up or down a notch. I had to feel the things I was writing about.

Asked on 28 March 2009

Q

Mr Pullman, I'm in the process of putting together a website inspired by a wartime propaganda poster. To that end, Iím asking writers like you and others who have expressed similarly humane ideas about the importance of liberty to consider contributing a few words, anything from a simple endorsement to a full on feature article would be gratefully received to the site. Thanks for your attention.

A

Good luck with your website, but I have no time to do more than that: just wish you good luck. Thank you for your comments.

Asked on 27 March 2009

Q

When will The Book of Dust be finished?

A

When it's long enough to get all the story in. Sorry I can't be more explicit, but it's going to be a long story.

Asked on 25 March 2009

Q

Is there any way to contact you other than by the Q & A's section? The Q & A section is all very well for short questions, but what if someone has comments as well as questions, and wants to write a longer letter? Is there any other way they can contact you?

A

You could try starting a topic on the discussion forum. I'm afraid that I haven't got enough time to answer very lengthy questions. I wish I had, but no.

Asked on 23 March 2009

Q

Where do you get your ideas from?

A


This is the question that every author gets asked, and none of us know, so we all have to make up something that sounds as if it's helpful. People are genuinely interested, I know, and it isnít polite to be facetious about it. For one thing, people donít always know youíre making a joke. I once said in answer to this that I subscribed to Ideas R Us, and someone wrote in and asked for the address.

But what interests me is why people ask. I can't believe that everyone isnít having ideas all the time. I think they are, actually, and they just donít recognise them as potential stories. Because the important thing is not just having the idea; it's writing the book. That's the difficult thing, the thing that takes the time and the energy and the discipline. The initial idea is much less important, actually, than what you do with it.

Asked on 06 March 2009

Q

What do you do about writer's block?

A

I don't believe in it. All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don't get plumberís block, and doctors don't get doctorís block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?

Asked on 06 March 2009

Q

Where do you work?

A

I used to work in a shed in my garden. But it got too crowded with books and manuscripts and all kinds of bits and pieces, and I got fed up with being down at the end of the garden, especially on rainy days; and then we moved house anyway, and I had to decide whether to take the shed with us or leave it there. In the end I gave it to a friend, the illustrator Ted Dewan on condition that when he's finished with it, he'll give it to another writer. He's replaced the windows and some of the roof, and I like the idea that it'll get passed on to lots of other writers and illustrators, and each of them will replace this bit or that bit until there isnít an atom of the original shed left.

Anyway, I now work in a big study in the house we live in, and I have room for all my books, and for several power tools as well. I have a bandsaw and a drill press and a planer and a bench grinder in here, and two guitars and an accordion, and a lot of wood that I'm going to make things out of.

Asked on 06 March 2009

Q

What is a typical day like for you?

A

I'll get up at about half past seven and take my wife a cup of tea, and have my breakfast at the kitchen table reading the paper. I'll sit down at my desk at about half past nine and work until itís time for lunch, with a break for coffee half way through. If I'm lucky Iíll have written three pages by then, and I can fool about with my power tools in the afternoon. If not, it's back to the desk until the three pages are covered.

I write with a ballpoint pen on A4 sized narrow-lined paper. The paper has got to have a grey or blue margin and two holes. I only write on one side, and when I've got to the bottom of the last page, I finish the sentence (or write one more) at the top of the next, so that the paper I look at each morning isn't blank. It's already beaten. That number of pages amounts, in my writing, to about 1100 words.

When I've finished a story I'll type it all on to the computer, editing as I go. Then I read it all again and think itís horrible, and get very depressed. That's one of the things you have to put up with. Eventually, after a lot of fiddling, it's sort of all right, but the best I can do; and that's when I send it off to the publisher.

Asked on 06 March 2009

Q

Will there be another book about Lyra and Will?

A

There is already another book about Lyra. It's called Lyra's Oxford, and it will come out at the end of 2003. It's a short story set about two years after the end of The Amber Spyglass, and it contains some hints about The Book of Dust, which will follow in due course.

Asked on 06 March 2009

Q

Who is your favourite character to write and why?

A


I like them all, of course. People are surprised when I say that I like Mrs Coulter, but what I mean is that I like writing about her, because she's so completely free of any moral constraint. Thereís nothing she wouldn't do, and thatís a great delight for a storyteller, because it means your story can be unconstrained too. I'm not sure I'd like to know her in real life (well, of course I would; she'd be fascinating). Writers have always enjoyed the villains, and so do readers, if they're honest.

Asked on 06 March 2009

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