Questions Frequently Asked

I was privileged to have so many of you send through your questions about my work – thank you. Please find my popular questions and answers below.


Question:

Why does Amazon Germany, US and Spain offer HDM on kindle but not Amazon UK for your very own native country?

Asked on 17/08/2012 17:54:27

Answer:

Aha. Now we get into some very complicated country indeed. It has to do with royalties and contracts and things like that, which I don’t understand, so I’m leaving it to my agent to sort out. I’ll just say that writers have to be very careful not to let their books be sold for prices that are too low. Everyone likes low prices, but this is how we make our living. Just suppose you were in business making some piece of machinery that was important and useful, and you charged a price for it that let you earn enough to live on. Then along came a huge great retail company and said “We don’t think people ought to have to pay all that much for your machinery. We think they ought to pay much less! So we’re going to sell your machinery for a tenth of the price, and you’ll have to put up with it.” Does that sound fair to you?


Question:

Dear Philip Did you name Will Parry after Will Stanton from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence? I thought you might have because your Will leaves his mother with a Mrs. Cooper at the start of The Subtle Knife. from Ian

Asked on 10/08/2012 02:12:58

Answer:

In a word, no.


Question:

Dear Phillip, I was interested to see that you like woodwork. Are there any similarities between your two crafts? Do you feel like a story is something you build?

Asked on 04/08/2012 15:47:39

Answer:

In a way … But the main thing is that I’m using a different part of my mind, and using my body too, when I make a piece of furniture. It’s a change and a rest. It’s physically satisfying to pick up a straight piece of oak or walnut and imagine how I’m going to cut it and plane it and fit it together, and then to feel it changing shape under my hands.


Question:

Hi Philip! Can we please get an update on the progress of The Book of Dust? Are you still planning to release it? I only recently got into the His Dark Material books and I love them. I really wish there was more to read about Lyra & Will’s worlds. Thank you Will.

Asked on 03/08/2012 12:03:29

Answer:

Yes! The Book of Dust is now approximately 200 manuscript pages long. I’m writing it steadily, and it’s making good progress. Part of the reason I’m able to do that is that I’ve got everything else out of the way. I can’t let you know when it will be published, but it’s a lot longer and more advanced now than it was when I last answered this question, so progress is being made.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, I’ve read that the first Sally Lockhart Book – The Ruby in the Smoke – started life as a play. Has this been published, or is there an adaptation for the stage, and why did you choose to turn it into a novel?

Asked on 09/07/2012 17:04:51

Answer:

No, it hasn’t been published, and unfortunately I’ve lost the manuscript, so I don’t suppose it will be. Actually the play was very different. The book is better.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, I was wondering if you sell prints of your illustrations. They are beautiful Sasha

Asked on 30/06/2012 19:13:09

Answer:

Thank you. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of that, but now you’ve put that idea into my head I’ll have something else to get in the way when I’m supposed to be writing The Book of Dust…


Question:

Hello Mr Pullman, I am just curious to know if any music impacted/inspired you in writing His Dark Materials? May I just say too that by being an avid reader of your fantasy work that you really go into describing alot which really brang the books to life, so top marks on that facet, I’m a teenage reader and I’ve read the Harry Potter Series and the Inheritance Cycle and many others (except LOTR which I found boring and confusing at times) and I’m just wondering what I should read next? How can I broaden my reading horizons? Cheers -Luke

Asked on 27/06/2012 11:51:16

Answer:

Music is so important to me that I don’t listen to it when I’m writing, because I can’t concentrate on my work. I can only listen to it when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve words. And I love all kinds of music – jazz, classical, pop, everything. As for reading, the best thing I can suggest is to go to a library and browse until you find something that looks good.


Question:

I was happy to see that you are planning to write more in the Sally Lockhart series! Any news on when book 5 might be out? A lot of us are really looking forward to her next adventure! Thank you. Carol

Asked on 20/06/2012 02:34:18

Answer:

One day, when I’ve finished The Book of Dust, I shall turn back to Sally and her friends with great pleasure.


Question:

Dear Philip, For my English homework we have been asked to find out as much about you as we can i.e where you were born,where you grew up. I’ve found the answers to all of the questions apart from who are your favourite authors and i was wondering if you can answer this for me ? Thankyou James.

Asked on 17/06/2012 17:01:06

Answer:

Too many to list!


Question:

Hello, Philip Pullman. I know you must be tired of hearing the same question, but I would like to know if you have any estimate of when the book’s dust will be ready. I greatly admire his work. I also write my stories, and I must say that you inspired me a lot. I also take very seriously the daemons. I have one since I was 12 years. Today I am 14 and he is still here beside me. You have no idea how much he helped me in life … You have a daemon? How did you know about this? And one more question: Do you believe that dust can indeed exist, and it is real, as some people argue on your forum, or you think it’s just fictional? Thank you. Giuseppe 14 years, Brazil.

Asked on 13/06/2012 01:03:50

Answer:

As I say in an answer to a question above, I can’t say when it will be published, but it’s growing vigorously, because at last I’ve got time to concentrate on it. Dæmons? Yes, everyone has one. Dust? It’s a metaphor. But I’m going to say a lot more about it in The Book of Dust.


Question:

dear mr pullman, I admire your work very much and I am just wondering do you make up your characters in his dark materials or did they remind you of people? and I would also like to know do you beleive in what you write about dark matter in your books? I have done a lot of research about it but I am srill a little bit confused thank you for your time Mikayla (13)

Asked on 09/06/2012 00:24:34

Answer:

The characters I write about aren’t based on anyone in particular. They just come to me. As for dark matter, I tried to make everything I say about it as true as I could. It’s a fascinating and mysterious subject – so is dark energy, which had hardly been discovered when I began to write His Dark Materials. I hope to be dealing with it – a little bit, anyway – in The Book of Dust.


Question:

Dear Mr. Pullman, I am a 7th grade teacher in Wisconsin. I just finished reading the His Dark Materials trilogy. I have NEVER been so deeply affected by a book, specifically the ending. I have been crying about it for 3 days! Will and Lyra’s decision and the bittersweet moments between them truly speak to the power humanity. What is more important to you: Having a reader experience something so emotional or making them question their beliefs or world view. Thank you for this book. Ross, Madison, WI USA

Asked on 01/06/2012 01:03:17

Answer:

Thank you, Ross. What pleases me most is when both things happen – when people are moved both emotionally and intellectually. It’s like making an audience laugh and cry at the same time – nothing is more satisfying, and nothing is harder to do.


Question:

Dear Phillip I am doing a comparison of the books Northern Lights and The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ. What inspiration did you have for both books and what kind of styles did you use for the two of them. Yours Sincerly Lawrence

Asked on 16/04/2012 11:01:53

Answer:

For Northern Lights, I told the story to find out whay happened after Lyra got trapped in the Retiring Room and overheard things she wasn’t supposed to. For The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, I already knew the story, of course, so I wanted to tell it from a different angle.


Question:

What is truth?

Asked on 09/04/2012 18:04:19

Answer:

If you’re asking a novelist to provide an answer for such a profound philosophical problem, you’re asking the wrong person.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, Please can you push for a remake of the Northern Lights film. I personally feel that the HDM trilogy could become the greatest film trilogy ever made if it was put in the right hands. The current writers and producers of the Doctor Who series (Stephen Moffat et. al.) would be fantastic at envisioning your work. What is your opinion on this? Thanks, Matt

Asked on 09/04/2012 00:38:26

Answer:

I agree with your opinion about Stephen Moffat and co, but they are fundamentally TV people rather than cinema people. But that raises the interesting question: would HDM< be better as a long TV series? Maybe it would.


Question:

I’m a budding author trying to find a way to get publishers to look at my work. My question is, how did you manage to get your first book published?

Asked on 04/04/2012 04:39:04

Answer:

I suppose I was just lucky. You have to be talented, and you have to work hard, but you have to be lucky too. No two of those qualities are any good without the third one, but the only one you can do anything about is the hard work. So – work hard, and good luck. (I’m assuming you’re already talented).


Question:

Will Lyra and Will ever meet again, and does will ever fix the knife, and what exactly are Specters?

Asked on 04/04/2012 01:54:43

Answer:

I don’t know about Lyra and Will, but I very much doubt it. As for Specters, they were a way of talking about certain mental states such as depression and self-hatred.


Question:

Have you ever wrote a book or had an idea for a book inspired by your dreams. I meant dreams when you are sleeping. :) Another thing, have you ever been in a lucid dream? Which can be very great idea to create a fantasy world.

Asked on 27/03/2012 19:42:14

Answer:

I’ve only been inspired by a dream on a very few occasions, and nothing very much came of it. And I do occasionally have lucid dreams, but I seem to lose all sense of taste and structure and proportion when I’m in that state. I’ve never managed to make one into a coherent story.


Question:

Do you have any idea when the book of dust will be finished? how far along are you? HUGE HUGE fan! -Jack Stephenson

Asked on 25/03/2012 07:13:26

Answer:

It’ll be finished when I write the words THE END. But seriously, I am well into it now and I can see the structure of the whole thing, which was difficult for me to see for a long time.


Question:

On one of the book covers for the subtle knife, there is a picture of a leopard. Is there any reason for this? Or is there just a random leopard?

Asked on 22/03/2012 00:14:06

Answer:

Nothing is random. I expect one of the children’s daemons was temporarily in the form of a leopard.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, You are a genius, a legend. I am 13 and deeply admire your ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and look forward to read your future works. Can you please recommend some books to read. Thank you, Amogh

Asked on 21/03/2012 19:06:37

Answer:

Thank you very much. It’s hard to recommend books without knowing anything about what you’ve read so far and what your reading tastes are, but one book that never fails is Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.


Question:

Do you have other hobbies except writing?

Asked on 18/03/2012 16:36:54

Answer:

Yes, I like making things out of wood. I’ve just had a new workshop built, and I expect to be spending quite a lot of non-writing time in there in the future.


Question:

How did you start to write books?

Asked on 18/03/2012 16:35:22

Answer:

There was never a time in my whole life when I wasn’t telling stories of one kind or another. I gradually came to realise the need to be disciplined for a long period if I wanted to finish a novel.


Question:

How many books have you written?

Asked on 18/03/2012 16:33:40

Answer:

Over twenty. I can’t count exactly because they move about. They’re like the stones in the Rollright Circle in Oxfordshire. If you go round one way counting there are 42, if you go round the other there are 43. Or 41. Or more. Or fewer.


Question:

In The Subtle Knife chapter 4 it descibes the golden compass working as moving to different levels which change the meaning of the symbols. I am working on my own non-fiction book about just such a system so I was a bit shocked to see the idea so plainly put down on paper. I got my idea from Hofstadter book GEB that he published in 1979. Was you inspiration from the same stem or any other? James Conway Seattle conwayjames3@hotmail.com

Asked on 16/03/2012 12:22:12

Answer:

Sometimes writers come up with the same idea quite independently, as I’m sure has happened in this case. I expect we read the same books at some point, or else we were thinking about the same problems.


Question:

What are 3 fun facts about yourself?

Asked on 13/03/2012 21:45:13

Answer:

There are no fun facts about me. All the facts about me are grim, sombre and full of foreboding.


Question:

Dear Phillip, do you think that the west will look back on the Catholic Church the same way we look back ashamed on racism and slavery? I think the church is bonkers!

Asked on 04/03/2012 17:58:45

Answer:

Yes, it’s quite possible. I’m not sure that bonkers is quite the right word, though. The church does what all organisations naturally try to do, which is to preserve themselves. Their own preservation and growth becomes more important than the things they were set up to do, which in this case was to preserve the teachings of Jesus. They do preserve them, but with the unspoken understanding that they won’t try to carry them out. If they took them seriously, the whole church would fall apart in a generation. Naturally they won’t do that.


Question:

What was your first published novel? Maple class Bridlewood Primary School Swindon

Asked on 22/02/2012 10:25:20

Answer:

Do you know, I’ve forgotten? It wasn’t very good. Perhaps that’s why I’ve forgotten it.


Question:

Hi phil, Im 14 and like writing. Im writing a book at the moment and am pretty determined to finish it regardless of publishment success. Just thought i’d ask, what type of planner are you; rigourous detailer or a kind of write as it goes guy? I settled in between.

Asked on 20/02/2012 23:27:43

Answer:

I don’t plan too hard. I did that once and the book died before I even got started. You have to find out what kind of writer you are, and the only way you can do that is by writing a great deal – and reading too. Reading is very important. Read lots.


Question:

Why have the BBC not made a dramatization of the Tiger in the Well. Its such a shame as the first two were so good. Do they have any plans to do so? Majella N. Ireland

Asked on 11/02/2012 20:31:44

Answer:

We had a disagreement about the script. Actually we had disagreements about the way they’d done the second story too. I think it was a great pity, because in some ways TV was the natural medium for the Sally stories.


Question:

Have you been influenced by any children’s books? I’m thinking perhaps of Swallows and Amazons or Tom’s Midnight Garden.

Asked on 10/02/2012 11:47:52

Answer:

I love both those books, and I think we’re influenced by everything we love in one way or another. Other influences wre the Moomin books by Tove Jansson, a French children’s novel called A Hundred Thousand Francs, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books and Kim, The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, Superman and Batman comics … Everything I read, in fact.


Question:

In the end of the “Amber Spyglass” in “His Dark Materials” Lyra says that they needed to build the republic of heaven, and im wondering how she and Pan will do that, if they will meet Will again and how that will hapen, so my question is, will you write another novel about this. I, and im sure many others, will read this.

Asked on 27/07/2011 00:37:33

Answer:

I hope some of your questions will be answered in “TheBook of Dust”, which will be published when it’s finished, and not a day sooner.


Question:

Is Lee Scoresby from His Dark Materials based on or inspired by Willem Barentsz the Dutch Navigator by any chance? I was just stumbling around on wikipedia and noticed such similarities between the two.

Asked on 26/07/2011 13:32:51

Answer:

No. I took the Scoresby part of his name from the Arctic explorer William Scoresby, and the Lee from Lee Van Cleef the actor.


Question:

Estimado Señor Pullman, soy de Argentina. He leido los tres libros de La Materia Oscura, y ahora me interesa su nueva publicación ”The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ”. Quisiera saber cómo adquirirla ya que estoy de acuerdo en que nadie puede prohibirnos qué leer ni obligarnos en qué creer. Desde ya muchas gracias. Saludos. Patricia

Asked on 25/07/2011 04:43:43

Answer:

Thank you, Patricia. I hope you can find a copy of the Jesus book. I know it’s been published in Spanish, but I don’t know whether it’s available in Argentina. Good luck with your search.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, We met at Bangor University last time you came. I am about to embark on a fan-fic project based on some aspects of the universe you have created for HDM. I have no intention of making a profit from the material, but I would like to make it available online for free when it is finished. Would that be a problem? I could send you or your representatives a copy for your approval when it’s done prior to its distribution, and you would be duly credited for the inspiration, along with other sources. I hope this doesn’t offend you! Very best wishes, -Isamar

Asked on 23/07/2011 17:41:39

Answer:

Hello, and thanks. You don’t need to show me your work unless you plan to publish it, and you don’t need to show it to me then either, because I wouldn’t let you. Fan-fiction is one of the things that the internet has made possible. I neither read it nor seek to prevent it.


Question:

I first discovered the HDM series many years ago and have recently begun to reread them. I am sure you’ve answered this question somewhere, at some time or another, and it is probably a very tired cliche, but I am always interested to know: Where did you come up with the idea for the series, more specifically The Golden Compass (yes, I have the American copy)? I’ve been searching your website, and I am sorry if you’ve covered this, but the backstory to any story is always the most important question, in my opinion. Anything can trigger a story; a quote, a phrase, a dream, an event. Writing has always been a great hobby of mine, ever since I could pick up a pen or use a keyboard, and now that I am getting to be an adult it is my hope that one day I may actually publish something.

Asked on 22/07/2011 00:17:41

Answer:

Where did I find the idea? I just thought of it, as Charles Dickens said when he was asked how he came up with one of his most popular characters, Mr Pickwick: “I just thought of him.” If you want to know how to do that, you sit at your desk and you stay there.


Question:

Hi Philip! My name is Ruby, I’m thriteen years old and I live in New Zealand. Since I first read your His Dark Materials series I have always been facsinated with the idea of Daemons. I love all of your work but this idea has facsinated me the most. I have read that the idea just came to you, but I can’t help noticing that it’s very similar to one of Carl Jung’s famos philisophy. Jung believed that getting in touch with your animus/anima (which is what he called it) was the route to getting in touch with your unconscious self. He called the animus/anima the “Soul Image” of the person. I have tried doing this myself and found my Daemon, who I project with my imagination. I have had him sucessfully for about a month now, and have found that he is very helpful when making choices, or is encouraging me in difficult situations. He may just be my imagination but he is as real as anything to me and I think that it is very healthy to have a Daemon. What are your views on this? Do you have a Daemon? Do you believe in this Philosophy?

Asked on 20/07/2011 03:55:04

Answer:

Thank you, Ruby. I’m sure there is something of Jung in my work, but I didn’t put it there deliberately. I bet there’s something of Freud too, and I daresay there’s something of Karl Marx. In fact there’s probably something of everyone I’ve read. All our ideas are probably made up of bits of other people’s. By the way, you don’t have to say that your daemon is just your imagination. Your imagination is very powerful and important. I’m glad you’re becoming acquainted with it.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman I went to Westminster College, Oxford where you tutored me on the art of writing. I am the Literacy Coordinator at The James Oglethorpe Primary School in Upminster, Essex and would love you to raise the profile of writing with our boys to thus help to raise standards. How would I get you to visit and how much would it cost?

Asked on 19/07/2011 10:52:41

Answer:

Hello, and it’s nice to hear from you. I’m glad my ex-students are staying out of prison. I’m afraid I don’t do school visits any more: they are too tiring, and they take too much of my time. I’m getting old, and I have to spend all the time I can writing. Good luck – I’m sure you’ll find someone.


Question:

Hi Philip, Not a question but a thank you! I am sure you get lots of these!! More good Karma coming your way ;) My husband is a Deputy Head and teaches in a high socially deprived area of Nottingham, he has been striving to increase reading and writing skills for many years and has recently introduced a very successful reading program to the school. This has made a huge improvement in the reading and writing skills of the children, however when working with his group he still felt he needed to motivate the children to not only read but to enjoy and love books. I gave him Clockwork, to read to them. The result was incredible, the children were hanging off his every word and the improvement in their own writing was fantastic. They have begged him for more and he is happy to oblige! The result of Read Write (reading program) and their new found love of books has been a fantastic turnaround in the children’s SATs results, giving them not only a short term fix but a change which will alter their lives forever. What we thought would be the end is now only the start and we want to extend this passion for books to the whole of the school and to the local community. We are currently applying for grants to start a large school and community project. The result of the project will be the school corridor filled with quotes from the children’s, teachers and members of the communities favourite books. Especially a quote from Clockwork! I just thought it only right that you should at least get a nice warm fuzzy feeling from all of this, so I wanted to pass this on. I am aware you are so very busy, but it would be an honour if you could select a quote from one of your books for us to use. Thank you so very much for all the enjoyment and pleasure your books have brought me, and thank you for inspiring those children. Wishing you all the best Faye Barker fashmore@sky.com

Asked on 12/07/2011 14:30:48

Answer:

Thank you very much. I’m glad to hear about children anywhere learning to read. If you want a quotation for your walls, what about this, from I Was A Rat! :

The world outside was a difficult place, but toasted cheese and love and craftsmanship would do to keep them safe.

Question:

Is it possible to purchase a signed copy of your books? My youngest daughter is named Lyra and I wanted to get her a signed copy of Golden Compass/Northern lights to give to her when she is a bit older.

Asked on 06/07/2011 21:57:05

Answer:

Nice to hear about a real Lyra! I can’t send signed books by post, I’m afraid the best thing to do is look out for when I’m next doing a signing and come along.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman When writing your books did you ever think of future stories for the characters before you even began to write about the first adventure? For example: when writing the Dark Materials trilogy did you ever get ideas about the stories and settings of Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North? I love to write but sometimes I get ideas for more stories about the characters I’m creating. Mostly set in their futures. Even though I havn’t properly begun to write the first adventure. I don’t know if this is normal but I would be grateful if you can answer these questions. Carren (aged 17)

Asked on 04/07/2011 12:45:58

Answer:

No, I don’t think I did. The later stories came later, to fill some gaps or because I saw some other adventures they could have. While I was writing His Dark Materials I had no idea what was going to happen next, never mind later.


Question:

There are a rather large number of stories written by yours fan based on the His Dark Materials trilogy, many focusing on the idea of Daemons, others expanding on Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter, and many more looking at the later stories of Will and Lyra. Many writers feel uncomfortable at the idea of others writing about their characters, but how does this make you feel? And would you ever be inclined to read one of these stories, to see someone else’s take on your marvellous multiverse? His Dark Materials is probably my favourite read. It made me dream of becoming a storyteller like yourself, and eventually pushed me towards writing my own stories. I can’t thank you enough.

Asked on 03/07/2011 13:20:39

Answer:

Thank you. I know about fan fiction, but I’ve never wanted to read any of it. It’s a compliment, I suppose, so I should be grateful for that.


Question:

Dear Mr. Pullman Getting as many compliments for your writing as you do, I imagine one might eventually be led to think that the compliments (or at the very least reactions) are obligatory just because you´re popular. I assure you, though, that mine is everything but obligatory, and I don´t believe many others are, either. You just happen to be as awesome as everyone says (so to summarize, I love your stories!) Now, as for the question – I´ve noticed that your stories have a certain way of making the characters seem real, but that the process appears to work differently in your shorter stories than from the same thing in HDM – in HDM, we get to know Lyra, Will and all the other characters through their actions and elaborate descriptions, creating, in my opinion, an ever-changing picture of ever-changing characters. Whereas in your shorter stories, the process of getting to know characters seems much faster, as we connect with them in the much fewer pages than in HDM. In, say, Clockwork, we get the backstory of most characters pretty much served on a silver platter, and that works perfectly for that particular story. The thing is, I don´t believe it would work as well for a character in HDM. My question is, basically – have you noticed any such thing yourself? Do you agree or disagree with me? And, lastly, do you have anything to add or elaborate on about this? Many thanks, a sincere fan with much yet to be told. =)

Asked on 03/07/2011 13:17:41

Answer:

That’s a very perceptive point, and I agree with you completely. I’ve often thought the same thing myself. In fairy tales (mine included) characters need to be flat rather than round, if you see what I mean. They’re more like masks than people. It would be quite wrong to find a deep or complicated character, with a lot of interesting psychology, in a fairy tale, just as it would be wrong to find a simple a character as the Scarecrow in a novel. They’re different kinds of story, and they need different kinds of characters.


Question:

Will Dark Materials be available on Kindle soon? Many thanks Ian Dallaway

Asked on 30/06/2011 13:18:20

Answer:

It will eventually, once I’ve agreed with the publishers on a fair royalty. We’re still talking about it.

It will eventually, once I’ve agreed with the publishers on a fair royalty. We’re still talking about it.


Question:

Could you please kindly tell me who did the cover art for the Hebrew editions of His Dark Materials series? They are stunning, and I’ve looked everywhere for them, but to no avail. Thank you!

Asked on 20/06/2011 06:43:01

Answer:

I’m sorry, I can’t help you at all with this. I have no idea.


Question:

Hello, Mr. Pullman. Is this really you? I am a young writer who hopes to publish a novel someday but in the meantime does a lot of fanfiction. Anyway, I really enjoyed your His Dark Materials books, my favorite being the first one, Northern Lights/The Golden Compass. I loved Lyra and Pan, and the idea of armoured bears was brilliant. I understand, Mr. Pullman, that you do not like religion and while I understand and most certianly respect your view point, I must say your passionate hatred of the Narnia books by Mr. C.S. Lewis (another writer who I must confess I deeply admire in addition to you and your works) both puzzles and disturbs me greatly. Surely a writer as good and well-read as yourself must understand that good characters and beautiful stories can come out of writers who’s ideas and lifestyles we as readers do not always completely agree with as a general idea, but we can still admire the work as a piece of fine literary art. So, I don’t understand why you should ‘down talk’ a book series as well-written as Narnia just because you don’t agree with the writer’s viewpoint. Much as I loved your books, I must admit I did not ALWAYS agree with yours, but I admired the story your wonderful trilogy told regardless. Also, I have noticed a great deal of, forgive me if this offends you, similarities between Narnia and his dark materials. So if you hate the Narnia books so much, why make your own story one so like it? I’m not trying to be rude or make much of a point, just honestly curious, Sir. Oh, and I know you are probably asked this A LOT, but when will the book of Dust be released? Best wishes, Lucy PS: How did you get published? Was it hard? I want to be published too and am not sure how. Did you need to get an agent before any companys would consider signing you on?

Asked on 30/05/2011 04:06:05

Answer:

Oh dear: C.S. Lewis (again). I haven’t raised this topic for years: I think that every time I’ve said anything about him, it’s been because someone has asked me. To start with, I’m not in the least bothered about his lifestyle. My dislike of the Narnia books is founded on the cruelty, the misogyny, the racism, and the sheer moral dishonesty of them. Imagine a child reader whose mother happens to be very ill with cancer (and there must be some younger readers in that awful position). Now imagine letting that young reader think that in some mysterious way their mother’s life depends on their being good. Is there anything more wicked that a grown man could say to a child? If your mother dies, it’ll be your fault? But that’s exactly what The Magician’s Nephew says. I don’t have to point to anything else: that alone would make the Narnia books as bad as poison, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, about your own writing. The only way to get published, I’m afraid, is to write a good book. An agent will help you find a publisher, and a publisher will help publicise your book and with luck turn it into a bestseller; but it all starts with the book. And that comes back to you. No-one else can write it – only you. Good luck!

Question:

Dear Mr Pullman we were just wondering which book was the most enjoyable to write?

Asked on 16/05/2011 14:00:52

Answer:

Difficult question to answer. But I think I had more fun with The Scarecrow and His Servant than any other.


Question:

Hi Philip, Hope you’re having a creative and productive day! I’m writing because I’m going to be in Oxford this summer for the Oxford Creative Writing Summer School. (I’ll actually be staying at your alma mater, Exeter College!) I adore your books and consider you to be one of my main inspirations as a writer. I wonder if you would be at all willing to meet me for tea and a chat during the time that I’m there to discuss your writing and your career? It would be such an honour. Please let me know. My email address is yael.tischler@gmail.com. Have a fantastic day, Yael

Asked on 15/05/2011 14:52:56

Answer:

I’m glad you’re having a good time in Oxford, Yael. I can’t meet up, I’m afraid, because there simply isn’t enough time. Good luck with your work.


Question:

what was your childhood like ?

Asked on 25/04/2011 09:51:13

Answer:

It seemed to go on for ever while I was living it, but to have passed in a flash now that I look back. One day I’ll write my memoirs, and then you can read all about it.


Question:

Do you sometimes wish that your other works got as much praise as HDM, do you feel that everything is a little bit left behind?

Asked on 20/04/2011 16:08:41

Answer:

I’ve been very lucky in the attention I’ve had. I wouldn’t dream of saying that readers haven’t paid enough attention to this or that book or series. I often feel (and often say, when asked about it) that we have no right to expect any audience at all.

Question:

In an interview c1989/1990 You are quoted as saying:”You usn’t make things too cosy for children. This is true of any serious writer, I suppose You must give a sense of the moral complexity of the world.” Please do you know or recall the periodical/newspaper in which this interview was published? There is an article by Peter Hoy on R.S.Thomas in the same publication Thank you

Asked on 18/04/2011 11:03:26

Answer:

I’m afraid I can’t help  you. Since I’ve been asked similar questions many times, I’ve tended to give  similar answers. It might be anywhere.


Question:

Dear Mr. Pullman, Do you have some sort of abnormal fear of monkeys? In The Tiger in the Well, Ah Ling had an evil monkey, and His Dark Materials has the golden monkey. I can’t help but notice a theme. Thank you, Daisy.

Asked on 17/01/2011 22:01:10

Answer:

You know, you may be right. I can tell you where it began: in a story called “Green Tea”, by the great writer of ghost stories Sheridan Le Fanu. I read it when I was about ten years old and it scared me to death.


Question:

Dear Mr. Pullman, You might be tired of hearing this or reading this as it is the case, but I love your stories and the style in which you write them. I also enjoy writing, although I am not good at it. When I am done writing a story I can’t help but notice that it echoes the work of great writers and am not sure what to do in order to prevent that to me, it seems unavoidable. I wonder if that happens to you, do you ever feel the voice of another writer creeping into you work? And if that happens, what do you do? Thank you, Shahrazad your fan from Arabia :)

Asked on 17/01/2011 12:31:28

Answer:

That’s an interesting question. Every writer has to begin by imitating writers they admire. That’s a perfectly natural process, and in fact it’s something I advise students to do when they’re starting out. You can only find your own voice by trying all sorts of other. I remember when I was writing my very first novel, over forty years ago, I happened to read a novel by Ernest Hemingway in the middle of it, and my style changed at once and became Hemingway-esque for several pages. I thought it was a terrible thing to happen but I see now that I was finding out what my own voice felt like. Just keep telling stories, and your own voice will emerge in time.


Question:

Dear Philip I am a budding writer and you have inspired me so much I recently came across a problem whereby people thought my work was too dark for children. How do you feel I should address this issue, should I change my style to please them or should I stick with my true voice?? Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it Danielle Wrayton

Asked on 16/01/2011 14:53:44

Answer:

I think you should stick with what you really want to write. Never mind about the audience. Write what’s in your mind and your heart, and it will find its own audience.


Question:

Is there any chance for a comic books version of the trilogy HDM? That would be cheaper than any movie production. Thanks, all the best, Cinzia (Italy)

Asked on 15/01/2011 14:13:45

Answer:

You’re right, it would be cheaper. And I’m certainly open to the idea, because I love comics and I think they can tell stories almost better than any other medium. I’ve looked at a couple of proposals, but I haven’t felt that the right artist has appeared yet. When they do, I’d be delighted to talk about it.


Question:

hello its Shadowclaw again! im 13 and in trhe 7th grade! I told my Language Arts teacher that i am writing a book and said i was too young to be publishing books… whats your opinion about me writing and publishing a book?

Asked on 14/01/2011 00:56:58

Answer:

I think you should write whatever you like. If you can get someone to publish it, well and good.


Question:

did you ever read anything by Gilles Deleuze? your multiverse with “Dust” sweeping all through it, and the way different people interpret it, or to use Deleuzean terms, “reduce” it to actual “opinions”, reminds me of the French philosopher.

Asked on 12/01/2011 08:37:22

Answer:

No, I never did. His name is one of those that make me nervous, like Lacan and Derrida and Althusser. What you say is interesting, so maybe I’ll try and read Monsieur Deleuze.


Question:

As an English teacher, I share your concerns about how dissecting a novel can spoil the experience of reading for children. Having always been an avid reader myself, and still a reader of children’s fiction, I always try to help children find books which will interest them individually, without any pressure to finish if they don’t like them. However, when studying a novel – as we have to do! – I struggle to think of activities which, as you say, are “worthwhile in themselves”. I know that you, too, used to teach. Did you ever find a satisfactory way to solve this dilemma? Sarah, Chichester

Asked on 11/01/2011 22:29:06

Answer:

Thanks for this question. When I taught it was so long ago that the National Curriculum and SATs and league tables were unheard of. We had the freedom to teach in any way we thought would work. Consequently, my experience is no use here. All I can advise you to do is do your best to find imaginative ways of engaging your students in the world of the book … Though as I write that, I realise that they’ll be tested on various things about the books, and what makes for an imaginative engagement won’t help them pass the test, because the test is looking for different things. Maybe the best thing to do is vote the scoundrels out. The root of the problem is the insane fundamentalism of the market that has infected all our governments since 1979.


Question:

Hi Philip. I am studying an MA Education module in Children’s Literature and in discussing theories of reading, my tutor mentioned hearing you say in a radio interview that when writing, you set out intentionally to change people’s minds i.e. with an ideology. From reading your interviews in the past, I had the impression that, while you had strong opinions about organised religion, you wrote for the sake of a good story. Would you mind settling the issue? Sarah, West Sussex

Asked on 11/01/2011 22:07:57

Answer:

I think your tutor’s got the wrong end of the stick. I think that it’s a bad idea to write for some political or ideological purpose. It makes for dull stories. At the same time, we do have strong opinions, whether religious, or political, or artistic, or whatever, and if we write with all our strength, we can’t help our work reflecting that. After all, we’re citizens as well as writers. I think the attempt to live outside society and social questions altogether, as if our work were an ivory tower, is doomed to failure. We should stand where our feet are and write about what we can see.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman, I am a French Student in English Literature at the University of La Sorbonne in Paris. Our teacher asked us to read Northern Lights and we have been discussing it in the past few weeks. Today,someone pointed out that there are differences in your text in Chapter 23 between the UK and US edition. In the US edition, the death of Roger is explained by your description of what Lord Asriel does to Roger. While in the UK edition it is very hard to say what happened and certainly not in detail. Could you tell me why is there such a difference and if there are other differences in the books depending on what edition you get? Thank you.

Asked on 04/01/2011 16:53:30

Answer:

To be honest, I’ve forgotten why this change was made. My guess is that the US editor didn’t quite understand what was happening, so asked me to expand it a little. These things happen!


Question:

Hello, i love your books (all of them) and specifically like His Dark Materials. i have two questions for you, 1. I’v read in interviews and other writings that you liked and grew up with comics and I wondered if you had ever considered having his Dark Materials made into one or if anyone has already offered? 2. Do you read and enjoy other books like His Dark Materials that deal with religion in the way yours do, such as Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett? Thanks, Everett

Asked on 17/12/2010 01:16:48

Answer:

Thanks, Everett. Yes, your guess is a good one: I love comics, and I have considered at least three proposals to turn HDM into a graphic novel. I haven’t said yes yet because I wasn’t happy with some aspect of what was being suggested – the length, or the writer, or the artist, or something else. If the right combination of writer (because I haven’t got time to do it myself) and artist comes along, backed by a publisher who will give the project enough space, then I’d be delighted to say yes. As for the second part of your question – yes, I enjoy the work both of Pratchett and Gaiman. Admirable writers, both of them.


Question:

Hi, I’m a very old lady and love your books! I was not surprised when Hollywood appeared unwilling to produce the second two books in your trilogy. I would love to see films of the entire work made, but I would like to see the films be uncompromisingly true to the spirit of the books—truer, I’m sure, than Hollywood would want. Here’s an idea for you: are you familiar with the work of Hayao Miyazaki? He is one of my favorite directors and animators of all time, and much of the work he does is in many ways similar to yours (iconoclastic, taking great liberties with time/period, epic scale, featuring brave/passionate young girl heroines, etc.). Working with him would simultaneously liberate you from Hollywood, America/Canadian/British unions/stars/producers/churches, and commercialism while opening up a world of new visual possibilities—think of Spirited Away! It would be a dream come true to have the two of you work together. What do you think?

Asked on 15/12/2010 21:31:39

Answer:

Hi to you. Yes, I love Miyazaki too, partly because he resolutely insists on drawing the old-fashioned way and has no truck with computer generated imagery. CGI is all very well, but in the end audiences don’t believe in it: they know it’s just pixels. That’s why I loved the recent film ‘The Illusionist’ by Sylvain Chomet. If you haven’t seen it, do try and find it. Its lovely painstakingly hand-drawn frames are ravishing, and because all of us at some point in our lives have tried to draw something, we all know how difficult it is to do it well; so we’re more moved and amazed by what we can see are real drawings than we are by the most vivid CGI. As for freedom from all the Hollywood/ etc forces you mention, that would be fine by me. The trouble is that they are the ones with all the money. Every film is the result of a deep struggle between the film-makers and the money people. Every great film happens when the film-makers win.


Question:

Hi Can I use the idea of dæmons in a story, or do you have the rights to it? Kind regards Alex

Asked on 14/12/2010 16:25:49

Answer:

Go ahead, and good luck.


Question:

Dear Mr Pullman.My daughter is 8 and in year 4 at primary school.Her literacy group is reading Northern Lights at the moment.They are being asked to read a chapter a day and write a 3 line summary of what happens per chapter.For each part of the book they are to write a 1 page summary.Recently my daughter was ill and had to play ‘catch up’ on return to school -missing a play time.My concern is that she doesn’t seem to be enjoying the book -that it’s become a chore.I’ve tried to get this across to her teacher without success.I wondered if you had a view on this that I could share with my daughter and her teacher. Kind Regards Bruce Davidson

Asked on 13/12/2010 06:01:48

Answer:

Dear Bruce – thanks for this question. The situation you describe fills me with rage and despair. I’ve met it before in questions from or on behalf of other children, describing practices in other schools, and I never fail to utter a great howling roaring curse to shake the foundations of the heavens upon whoever thinks this is a good way to introduce a child to a book. It is the best way I know of to induce them to feel that reading is a task to punish slaves with. You’ve made me resolve to do something with my next book for children: I shall write out that curse in full at the front, so that no child will be under any illusion that I wrote the story in order to make them miserable, and that no teacher will think that I approve of this mindless, joyless, witless, purposeless, soul-destroying, book-hating, anti-human, intellectually squalid and educationally savage violation of what should be a joyful and precious thing: the meeting of a child and a book. You don’t tell me your daughter’s name, but please tell Miss Davidson on behalf of every author who ever lived that we apologise to her on behalf of the nincompoops who have come between her and our work. Tell her that our intention is never to punish, but only to enchant. Tell her that I hope with all my heart that she’ll come back to my novel much later, when she feels she’d like to, under no compulsion from anyone, without anyone else knowing or caring, to read or put down as she pleases, and that she has a happier time with it then. I really hope she does. I hope she’ll feel that she could be Lyra’s friend, not Lyra’s critic. And of course the same goes for every other book that the education system has captured and tied up and tortured. Tell her that we are on her side, not on the side of the education system that works like this.

Notice: I haven’t criticised her teacher personally. Maybe that teacher is himself or herself under a compulsion to work like this. If you share this with your daughter’s teacher, I hope you’ll let the Headteacher know as well, and make it clear that my anger is directed through them and mainly at the malevolent system they have to administer. But they are grown-ups; they do have a small bit of responsibility. They shouldn’t get away scot-free. My maxim for education is this: Everything we ask a child to do in school should be something that is inherently worth doing. This is not. A grown-up teacher should see that, and work differently.


Question:

Do you like EastEnders? Or it is just Neighbours that you are a fan of?

Asked on 12/12/2010 10:45:40

Answer:

No, there’s only room for one soap in my life, and it’s Neighbours.


Question:

How do you come up with your character names?

Asked on 12/12/2010 10:42:13

Answer:

I look in the phone book. Seriously. That’s how I found Serafina Pekkala’s name, anyway. As for the others, some of them just came to me, and others I had to make up. But if you have a white bear living in the far north, you’re not going to call him by a name that comes from Spain or Italy or Africa or India, are you?


Question:

Did your grand themes of subverting Milton, dealing with the development of consciousness, undermining religious dogma and praising original sin come first and you (extremely) cleverly fitted a story around it, or did you already have an idea of how you wanted to tell a story about all those things from the beginning? For the record, since 1996, age 7, I’ve thought “His Dark Materials” are as close to perfect as makes little difference, and I still do. Thank you very much!

Asked on 08/12/2010 00:19:50

Answer:

Hello, and thanks. With me the story always comes first. Actually, visual images come even before the story – the image of a balloon drifting high above the Arctic ice, in a sky filled with starlight and the aurora – things like that. Then comes the story. Last of all comes the ‘theme’. I didn’t realise I could deal with this matter of innocence and experience until the story was well under way. Then, of course, I was able to go back and shape the beginning to reinforce the theme, the thing the story was ‘about’. And although the theme comes last of all, it’s very important. I can’t really get going with a story until I know what, at some deep level, it’s ‘about’. Of course, it can get out of hand too, and you can become a little crazy and twist everything to force it to fit your idea of the theme. Maybe I did that a little with this one. So although the theme is very important, the story itself is the most important thing of all; and if the story contradicts what you think is the theme, that ‘s too bad for the theme. Perhaps you’re wrong and it’s really about something else after all.


Question:

Dear Philip. I am a third year Classical Literature and Civilisation student at the University of Birmingham, and am currently writing my dissertation. On being given the opportunity to choose any title for this, I jumped at the chance to write about your books, and chose the question “To what extent has Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ been influenced by Classical Literature and Mythology?”, which not only gave me a fantastic subject matter, but also allowed me to re-read my favourite books and call it ‘uni work’! There are some major points I have been able to find, for example the land of the dead in comparison with Homer’s underworld, and the mention of classical philosophers such as Pliny when describing ‘the Cave’. I was wondering whether you may be able to point me towards any hidden examples I may have missed, or more generally how far you were influenced by the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and their story tellers/philosophers? Thank you for your books. Having read them as a child, as a teenager and now as a young adult, I seem to get something different from them every time. A mark of an incredible story teller! May there be many more to come. Holly, 21, Bristol.

Asked on 01/12/2010 23:15:58

Answer:

Hello, Holly. So you want me to do your dissertation for you, is that it? OK. Let’s start with the ‘cave’: it was Plato, not Pliny. Then there are the epic similes in the description of the fight between the bears. Then there’s the – hang on, what am I doing? I think you’d better write it yourself. If I were to give you one tip, I’d say that you might find just as many places where the book was alluding to Norse or northern myths, or to the Bible. But I was conscious of classical stories, of course: Homer, principally. Good luck!


Question:

In reading your “About” section, I was so happy to learn we haven’t read the last of Sally Lockhart. When will she have another adventure?

Asked on 17/11/2010 23:17:28

Answer:

Hello, and thanks. Sally and her friends are waiting patiently for me to have finished all my current projects so that I can write another adventure for her. The problem is always time and the pressures of other commitments. I wish I could write with both hands, if you see what I mean.


Question:

I am the deputy head teacher and music co-ordinator in a specialist school for dyslexia in Northumberland. Our youngest group of children ( 9-11 years ) have been enjoying your book ” The Firework Maker’s Daughter ” and have been helped to compose a song in response. We would be happy to send you a copy as the children arer most keen that you hear it. Our school e-mail is secretary@nunnykirk.co.uk if you are able to respond.

Asked on 16/11/2010 19:47:17

Answer:

Thank you for this. I think it sounds like a delightful idea and I’d love to hear your pupils’ music. If you could send a CD of the music to my agent, Caradoc King, at A.P.Watt Ltd, 20 John Street, London WC1N 2DR, he will make sure it gets sent on to me.


Question:

Is there a difference between the White Mercedes and The butterfly Tattoo? If not, why did you hange the name and if so, what did you change? Thank you!

Asked on 15/11/2010 19:59:57

Answer:

There are a few very small changes – so small and so few that I can’t even remember them – but the main change was that of the name. And you know what, I can’t even remember why we changed that now.


Question:

Dear Phillip, My name is Dara and I am 10 next week. I am staying with my family in China for 5 months. I don’t have any friends who speak English here and since I have no-one to talk to listening to your books (the Dark Trilogy) on my ipod it feels like I do have someone there who I can talk to, even though you’re not really talking. When you’re listening to stories you feel what Lyra feels. I feel like I like your books more than anyone in the world. I’ve finally got a friend here. Thanks Dara sharonbetee@yahoo.com.au

Asked on 14/11/2010 05:33:22

Answer:

Hello, Dara. It’s good to hear from you. It must be difficult having no-one you can easily talk to. But one day you’ll remember this time and be glad you had it, so it’s really worth sticking to as you’re doing. Anyway, I bet you’re having some wonderful experiences. I’m really happy to think that you feel that Lyra is a friend. That’s what I used to like most about the books I enjoyed – not feeling that I was one of the characters, but feeling that they were my friends and I was in the story with them. Good luck, and keep reading!


Question:

Dear Philip, Did you have anything to do with the writing of certain episodes of the series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”? There are a number of episodes featuring a planet with giant trees, and a lifeform that uses the enormous seed pods falling from these trees as houses. The oil from the pods has a healing effect. Not so remarkable? But these organisms are moving by ROLLING on the paths created by the seed pods! If you weren’t involved I deem it highly unlikely that the writers hadn’t in some way heard of the ‘mulefa’ from your books. If this is the case, would you consider this plagiarism or more of an ode?

Asked on 13/11/2010 07:42:20

Answer:

This is news to me. I knew that Russell T. Davies had ‘borrowed’ the ending of one of his Doctor Who serials from ‘The Amber Spyglass’, because he’s said so, but I didn’t know that my trees and wheels and seed pods had been taken over as well. I’m not too worried about it. I’ve stolen ideas from other people in my time. What goes around, comes around, as they say.


Question:

Why are the last too books of the sally lockhart novels not being made in a bbc movie? As i really enjoyed the films of the first two thanks.

Asked on 11/11/2010 22:56:18

Answer:

Thanks. I liked the first one, but I was less happy with the second. I wasn’t surprised when the series didn’t continue, but I was very disappointed overall; I thought, when the Sally stories had been taken up by the BBC, that they’d found their natural home. Clearly I was wrong.


Question:

Dear Phillip Pullman Ive already sent you a question but after reading through some of the other Q and A I came up with another one. I suppose its more of a comment though. Ive noticed that some of your replies are (please dont take much offence on this!!) well.. rude. THIS SOUNDS TOTTALY MEAN BUT I HAD TO TELL YOU! It doesnt feel very good to insult one of my favorite authors! And this brings me to another point and that is: Do you not like C.S Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia? Because he is also one of my favorite authors and I read somewhere that you tottaly despise him (and his books) and I just couldnt understand why. If this is not true then I apologize but if it is then please explain. From: Prithvi-12 years old(nearly 13)

Asked on 09/11/2010 11:26:52

Answer:

Hello, and thank you. I shall be extremely polite to you. I’m not sure which of my replies are rude – I hope I’m rude all the time. As for C.S. Lewis, I don’t despise him. I think he was an exceptionally gifted critic, and some of his work is well worth reading. What I don’t like is what he did in The Chronicles of Narnia by killing off the children at the end of the story. I thought that was rude, if anything was. It was rude to the reader by saying that these children, whom you’ve read about through seven books and got to like and admire and look up to, are so useless that I’m going to kill them. Why couldn’t he have let them stay in the world and grow up to do all kinds of good with the lessons they’d learned and the experience they’d acquired? I think that was a rotten thing to do, both to his characters and to the readers.


Question:

Dear Philip Please can you tell me how much input you had regarding the illustrations for the alethiometer and also the poster? I am particularly interested in the addition of symbols that do not appear directly in the text of the trilogy. Did you decide on the seven that didn’t because they fitted some of the symbolism within the stories, or because they fitted into classification groups? with regards, Linda

Asked on 03/11/2010 11:54:08

Answer:

The illustration for the alethiometer was the work of David Scutt, but I gave him a full description of what to put in. As for the symbols that aren’t mentioned in the book, that was simply because they never came up in a reading for Lyra.


Question:

Hi Philip. I’m from America and love ‘His Dark Materials’. But I saw on your website that because ‘The Golden Compass’-which I thought was wonderful-didn’t do as well as predicted, they are not going to make the other two movies. Do you think there is anything that the public can do to change their minds, and make the movies after all? Thanks, Miranda.

Asked on 29/10/2010 06:07:33

Answer:

This is a tangled and long-drawn-out business, Miranda. As things stand at the moment, it doesn’t look as if there will be any sequels. The fact that many people such as yourself, and many distributors all over the world, would like to see them, doesn’t seem to make much difference. I think the full story will be filmed one day, but maybe it will have to wait a while yet. In the meantime, I am writing other stories …


Question:

Do you ever wish that instead of telling the adventures, you instead physically partake in them? If so, so you ever find yourself urged to set out in search of such?

Asked on 28/10/2010 21:22:56

Answer:

No, never! I don’t like travelling. I am prepared to appreciate the wilderness, as long as I don’t have to go there. As for adventures, I have no energy to spare for those; I have only got enough to sit at home and write all day long.


Question:

Dear Philip! Congrats for the His Dark Materials, I liked it very much, every moment. BUT… :) The sad ending… I was disappointed and angry. And I thinked a lot. I can’t believe its true. They had a choice – and I think they rather choose a short and happy life together anywhere. Lovers rather sacrifice their own life – I know because I almost died once. Am I wrong? Wishing you all the bests, Tom from Hungary

Asked on 12/10/2010 22:45:06

Answer:

Thank you, Tom. Will you believe it if I told you that I was disappointed and angry too? Well, sad anyway. There’s not much you can do if a story wants to develop in a particular way. And I think that if I had given in to my sentimental feelings and let it end happily, it would not have been nearly so successful.


Question:

Hello, Mr. Pullman. First, I’d like to say that I am big fan of your HDM trilogy. I feel that there’s a certain exotic beauty and sophistication to it that’s missing in so much fantasy literature. But anyway, I am curious as to what Ms. Coulter’s golden monkey daemon’s name is and why is it never named in the books.

Asked on 10/10/2010 10:00:42

Answer:

He hasn’t got a name for the simple reason that I could never think of one.


Question:

Where does the word Alethiometer come from and why? George.

Asked on 06/10/2010 19:30:59

Answer:

I made it up from the Greek words for “truth” and “measure.”

 


Question:

Philip, I was wondering, do you write whatever mood you are in? Do you think that if you are in a terribly bad mood your style is compromised? If you do write in every mood, how do you keep your writing consistent? Becci, in kent xxx

Asked on 26/09/2010 00:23:34

Answer:

My mood has nothing to do – or shouldn’t have anything to do – with how I write. You should be able to write just as well when you’re not inspired, for instance, as when you are. That’s the aim, anyway. If you let your moods dominate you you’ll never get anything done, whether it’s writing a novel or putting up a shelf. You say to yourself “OK, I’m feeling awful, but here I am in the book again. What should happen next?


Question:

Hi, I love your illustrations – they remind me of books designed and published a century ago, really stimulating for the imagination while one reads. Could you describe how you draw?

Asked on 22/09/2010 11:34:54

Answer:

 

Thanks. When I did those little chapter-heading drawings I drew on Bristol board, first drawing a square 6 centimetres on each side. That kept the picture small, but it was going to be reproduced even smaller, so I tried to keep the image bold and clear. In some cases I didn’t succeed. You learn with every piece of work you do.


Question:

Dear Philip, in the book when a person’s spirit animal gets touched or attacked the person experiences immense pain. is this a metaphor or significant to how people treat each other in real life? For example the thinis that people can do to one another such as saying or doing things.

Asked on 10/09/2010 13:23:04

Answer:

Yes, I reckon you could read it like that. But the dæmon is not just a metaphor for that kind of thing. It has other significances too, which might emerge in later books – if I have time to write them!


Question:

What influenced your views on Christianity and were you nervous to publish your “His Dark Materials” trilogy because of the criticism you were going to face?-Samantha H.

Asked on 09/09/2010 20:55:28

Answer:

It was simply reading history that influenced my views on Christianity – but reading today’s news made me realise that it wasn’t only Christianity that behaved in a barbarous and appalling fashion. It’s religion in general, or to be absolutely accurate, religion when it gets its hands on the levers of political power. Religion when practised privately and modestly hurts no-one, and many of us can point to individual examples of people we know or have heard about whose good and useful work in the world was inspired by religion. But religion plus politics is always, always dangerous.


Question:

Hi Philip. I love your work and you stand as one of my inspirations when I write. I am working on a character novel at the moment, where the story revolves around a freindship that develops between a young boy and his ‘imaginary friend’. Aside from the character’s own conflicts, I was wondering whether to include an evil character. ‘a baddie’. Do you think such a character is necessary in every book or do you think circumstance and inner turmoil create enough interest.

Asked on 08/09/2010 20:52:40

Answer:

This isn’t an easy question to answer in the abstract, because I don’t know how your characters are developing anyway, nor how skilful a writer you are. I’d say be guided by the story itself. There’s no rule about including evil characters or leaving them out, but they are great fun to write about, there’s no doubt about that. I should see what drama and conflict arises from the characters you have already – many good stories have involved only a very small cast.


Question:

Hi Philip- I’ve often heard that, while writing the truly moving death scenes in which readers cry, writers often have to write with the same sort of catharsis- crying and such. Lee Scoresby’s death reduces me to tears everytime I read it; it is, quite plainly, the most moving death in a book I have ever, EVER read. I’m just wondering, as you can probably tell by now, did you cry or feel highly emotional while writing it in the Subtle Knife? Thanks for your time, and writing!

Asked on 25/08/2010 13:45:21

Answer:

 

You’re not wrong. When I write a funny line I laugh, and when I write a sad scene I cry.  It was very hard to read Lee’s death when I was narrating the audiobook, as you can imagine.


Question:

what is a good book you have read recently and would recommend?

Asked on 12/07/2010 15:26:49

Answer:

 

I’ve recently become a fan of Lee Child. I enjoy thrillers, and I picked up the first of his Jack Reacher books, “Killing Floor”, without any great expectations. But Child writes so clearly and plots so well, and his character Reacher is so interesting, that I’m well on the way to finishing all fifteen or so that he’s published. There are a couple that don’t work so well, but the standard is generally very high. They grip and they don’t let go.


Question:

Hi Philip, Due to a decent stint of unemployment I generally find myself faffing about on the internet all day. I came across the name of an arctic explorer called William Edward Parry and was wondering if he bears any relation to a certain Will Parry? Or should I turn off the computer and get out of the house more? – Sara.

Asked on 02/07/2010 20:30:03

Answer:

Yes, I think you probably should. But thanks for the question anyway. There were some names I stole – Scoresby for one – but I didn’t know about this Parry. When I named Will I tried to find a common British name. Sorry about the unemployment, by the way. I hope you find a good job soon. But don’t try looking things up on the office computer.


Question:

Your thoughts are full of wonderful lessons about what it is to be human, and what it is not. I wonder if most of the wisdom flys above the heads of your young readers. These things we can only know by trial, much as we would like to share our revelations they are bound to be understood only through experience, time and reflection. I am glad to be reading this wonderful adventure, for the first time, in my 60th year. Did you write this story for yourself? What moved you to write this? Emma msky231@tidewater.net

Asked on 21/06/2010 03:49:58

Answer:

Thank you for your comments. I wanted to write it for myself first of all, and I thought at first that there might only be a dozen readers. But I didn’t care about that. I knew they would be the best readers in the world.


Question:

Hi I was wondering if there were any plans to adapt The Tiger In The Well and The Tin Princess into TV dramas? I really enjoyed the two BBC adaptations in 2006/2007 and I love the books.

Asked on 08/05/2010 22:22:28

Answer:

 

I’m afraid not. I was sorry that the series came to a halt, because I think that TV is Sally’s natural home – far more than the big screen. However, there were things that didn’t work. Some of the casting was very eccentric, to put it mildly, and I thought the directing of the second episode in particular was not as good as it should have been. Basically, the thing was never done with any great conviction in the first place.


Question:

Did you have to pitch your Dark Materials Trilogy or did you have enough of a track record that you simply called your agent and tell her you had a great idea for a trilogy? If you did have to pitch The Golden Compass, in what genre did you say it would be?

Asked on 04/05/2010 01:13:44

Answer:

It was my publisher, actually, not y agent, and we had lunch one day and I said I’d like to write a big fantasy based on the story of ‘Paradise Lost’. That was all I said about it. He said ‘Fine, go ahead,’ and so I did. As for genre, I don’t think about it. It doesn’t help me as a writer to know what genre I’m working in. genre is a thin for booksellers and librarians to worry about, not for the writer.


Question:

Hello, i am such a big fan of His Dark Materials series! this might sound dramatic, but i really do see and feel the things you describe about, so i want to thank you firstly for filling my head with such wonderful pictures. and next, i want to ask you if you’d ever considered about writing a book on Marisa Coulter and Lord Asriel alone? The times before Lyra was born? About how ambitious they both were and what they were working on? Shocking to admit, but Mrs Coulter is my fav character tho she’s the villain, and i really want to read more about her, please do consider it! Thanks Natalie-from HongKong

Asked on 24/04/2010 15:38:12

Answer:

Thank you, Natalie. There are many episodes from the story – I mean around the story – that I could write. I’ve already done one such thing in “Once Upon a Time in the North”, which tells of how Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnision met for the first time, and I’m sure there will be more.


Question:

What newspaper do you read?

Asked on 19/04/2010 19:59:30

Answer:

Like most people, I read papers that generally reflect my own views, so I read the Guardian and the Observer. But I also read the Spectator every week, which I disagree with about practically everything, because I think it does me good to have my adrenaline level raised from time to time.


Question:

Dear Philip Pullman, I would like to ask where your ideas came from for the Dark Materials trilogy. I could have tried writing stories but can never come up with very good ideas. Adrian

Asked on 18/04/2010 19:59:04

Answer:

Hello, Adrian. Your question is one that a lot of people ask, and I think it’s the wrong question, actually, because I bet you have the most wonderful ideas for stories, only you don’t recognise them as that. Do you never daydream? Of course you do. Ideas are not the problem. The problem is finding the time and the determination to write a whole book.


Question:

Do you feel a sense of responsiblity when writing for young people? Do you keep within personal guidelines, as well as the pbvious ones, I mean. Regards, Sue

Asked on 11/04/2010 01:01:04

Answer:

I feel a responsibility when writing anything for anyone. I’ve written about the writer’s responsibility before, actually; you can find what I said about it in the OTHER WRITING section of this website, under Essays and Articles, in a piece for the Guardian on Saturday 28 December 2002.


Question:

Can I ask if there is any particular reason why Lyras world is set in the Steampunk genre, and if you were aware of that at the time you were writing it? (Are you aware of it now?) I ask because the Northern Lights book is steep in Steampunk elements, leaving me to think that you must have known about the genre prior to writing it. What is it about the “not quite Victorian” and “Victorian” world that appeals to you so much, as it is present in many of your books.

Asked on 07/04/2010 16:41:58

Answer:

 

I wasn’t aware of the word steampunk before I published  Northern Lights. It’s a good and useful word for critics and booksellers and librarians, who have to work out which shelf to put the book on, but not necessarily for writers. I don’t think about genre at all when I write. Get the story down as clearly as you can and never mind what shelf it’ll go on. And some of what I write is set in Victorian times because there’s such a lot of visual and literary material from that period, and because the spoken language then wasn’t so different from ours today as to need to be like a translation.


Question:

What is the name of Mis Coulter`s demon? Is there a reason that you didn’t mention it? It would be niece to hear your answer because I am doing a project about the nothern lights in my school.

Asked on 23/03/2010 09:47:56

Answer:

Good question. I didn’t give him a name because I couldn’t think of one. Perhaps you also noticed that he never speaks, or if he does it’s only the briefest word. He was so creepy I didn’t want to think about him very much.


Question:

Hi philip, i was woundering is there going to be a book after the amber spyglass. if so would something like somebody finds will’s broken subtle knife and fixs it and causes havoc and will and lyra have to stop it, happen? Or where somebody else makes a similar knife that doesn’t make spectres and will gets this knife and makes an opening to lyra’s world. Shaun-bacon

Asked on 19/09/2009 14:18:46

Answer:

Thanks for that suggestion, Shaun. I”ll think about it.


Question:

Is there any advice you could give to a 14 year old aspiring writer? What would be the best way to start out?

Asked on 19/09/2009 12:57:13

Answer:

If you look through all the questions I”ve answered on this website, you”ll find plenty of advice for aspiring writers. The advice I”d give you here is to look at that before asking for more.


Question:

Hi Philip, do you know if the subtle knife is going to be made into a film like northen lights was???? Shaun

Asked on 19/09/2009 10:16:33

Answer:

All I can tell you at the moment is that discussions are going on. As soon as there is any definite news, you”ll hear it on the website first.


Question:

In your dark material trilogy there is a man who has the same gender deamon as himself is there a specific reason for this? J Vale

Asked on 18/09/2009 22:00:13

Answer:

Yes. The reason is carelessness. I wasn”t thinking. It happens!


Question:

I would like to know if you have any negative views on islam or the koran,and if you have would you make them public as you do your negative views on christianity. Andrew Cunningham

Asked on 09/09/2009 09:49:58

Answer:

This question has come up several times, usually in the form of an insult. Yours doesn”t, for which I thank you. I do not write about Islam for the simple reason that it”s not where I come from, whereas Christianity is. I know nothing about Islam; I have never read the Koran; I am not interested in it. Christianity, on the other hand, is in the nerves of my brain and the fibres of my heart. It is what made me. The Bible and the Book of Common Prayer formed the contours of my mind. When I criticise the Christian church, I know what I”m talking about. If I set about criticising every other religion, I would be behaving like a jackass. However, in general terms, my criticisms of Christianity could be extended to all other religions, thus: it”s not so much the content of religion, bizarre and ridiculous as a lot of it is, that is the danger: it”s what religion does when it gets hold of political power. THAT”S where the problem lies. As I”ve always said.

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Question:

Mr Pullman, first off, congratulations in your success with these novels. I have read them and they are simply amazing. My question to you is, I have seen many places reporting about your “book of dust” and “green book”. But what I wanted to know, are they really planned to be published, and when can we expect them. Thank You and again Congratulations!

Asked on 31/08/2009 08:15:51

Answer:

Yes, both are planned, but I can”t tell you when they”ll be finished. I don”t work like that. My books have to grow organically and not according to a schedule.


Question:

You mentioned somewhere in the Q&A section that you hadn’t seen any evidence for the existance of God. I was wondering, what would it take to convince you that he exists?

Asked on 28/08/2009 09:49:39

Answer:

Well, how long have we both got? I”m coming to think that ”evidence” is the wrong word to apply in this case. Apart from the simple-minded and the outright liars, most believers have no ”evidence” either. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence, after all. Jesus himself says something to the point, but i can”t remember where. Well, it would take a total revolution in my way of thinking to convince me that God existed. Some people – St Paul is an obvious example – came to believe through an overwhelming emotional experience. I remain to be overwhelmed. I hope that if i was I”d be honest enough to say so.


Question:

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?

Asked on 23/08/2009 21:41:03

Answer:

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.


Question:

Why do you make such a (commendable) effort to reply to the emails and letters you receive from fans? I have written to you twice, once as a young teen, once as an adult. You replied both times, and this surprised and delighted me. Is there a specific reason that you make such an effort to respond to correspondence? Kind regards, Vicky

Asked on 14/08/2009 19:46:05

Answer:

Thank you for that.  I can”t reply to all of them, and I feel guilty about the ones I have to ignore. It”s the way i was brought up, I suppose. I should probably update this website more often too. But one can only do so much.


Question:

Dear Philip, I am a Big fan of your Sally Lockhart Quartet, I noticed there aren’t many questions about this particular book. But my question was how come you decided for Fred to die?

Asked on 17/07/2009 13:42:04

Answer:

Good question!  I think I wanted Sally to develop in a different direction than she”d have been able to if Fred had lived. Ruthless? Probably. But I”m glad you are a fan of the Sally books. I certainly intend to do more stories about her and her friends.


Question:

Hi, since hearing about “The Book of Dust” I have re-read all five books based on His Dark Materials. I have become quite obsessed with finding out any information at all about the Book of Dust, so I was wondering if you could tell me how big the book will actually be? Bigger than one of the books of the trilogy or two, or all three? Thanks.

Asked on 13/07/2009 10:04:59

Answer:

The Book of Dust is growing slowly, but surely. I”ve had to interrupt it several times to do things that other people have asked me to do – maybe I”m too obliging – and I”m impatient to get back to it. It will be a single novel, not a trilogy. But if I tell you too much, the book will fly out of my head and not come back. I sometimes wish I could get back to the state of affairs before the first book was published, and no-one was interested at all. But that would be ungrateful for all the attention the trilogy has had since then,and I don”t mean that.


Question:

I now often wonder what animals the daemons of people I know would be. Do you, too? Do you know what your daemon would be? Thank you for your writing.

Asked on 05/07/2009 20:42:07

Answer:

I think I”ve said somewhere else that the way to find out what your daemon is is to ask your friends to write down what THEY think it is – but not to sign the piece of paper. You may be in for a nasty surprise!


Question:

How does it feel knowing that almost every one who read The Amber Spyglass cried their hearts out? I just re-read it for the fifth time and I’m still sobbing (literally sobbing and it was literally the fifth time). I’m not asking like “o are you proud” or “why did you do that”, but how does it feel knowing your story touched people’s hearts like that.

Asked on 30/06/2009 07:44:50

Answer:

Thanks. It feels strange, but gratifying. You can never predict how people will react to your work; I”m just very pleased to know that so many people have enjoyed it.


Question:

Hi Philip. i wanted to know what do you think of the changes that they made to the Golden Compass in order to make it a happy ending? Personally i believe they should have kept the original ending.

Asked on 04/05/2009 21:51:12

Answer:

Hello. They were making changes of all kinds, large and small, right up to the last minute – and that”s the way you make films. Some of the changes were based on the assumption that the sequels would be made swiftly after the first film, which turned out not to be the case. That”s the way it goes.


Question:

My daughter-in-law got an audio book by you, called “Once Upon a Time in the North”, which is about how the bear lost his armor. She also said that she saw it in book form at Wal-Mart, but didn’t have the money to buy it at that time, and can’t find it now. She says it’s a novella, or very short book. Is this a separate book from the trilogy, or just an exerpt? Or is this even yours? She lives in another state, in a very small town. We don’t have the same book stores, and all the stores I’ve inquired at say I’m crazy. What is “Once Upon a Time in the North” ?

Asked on 01/05/2009 20:40:05

Answer:

Yes, this is one of my books all right. It was published in 2008, and you should be able to get it through any bookstore.


Question:

Hi, Mr. Pullman, I really loved the movie The Golden Compass, and I want to read all of your books now, but my parents think that it is against God and is anti-Christian. I know that you’re busy, but could you tell me if you wrote it with the intention of killing God at the end? And did you really write it to where the true God dies? Thank you so much for your time.

Asked on 21/04/2009 19:53:48

Answer:

What I’d like to know is – have your parents actually read the books, or have they just heard about them? Plenty of people have told plenty of lies about my work. The best advice i can give you is to read His Dark Materials with an open mind, and decide what you yourself think.


Question:

Pourquoi avez-vous fait une fn triste pour “Le miroir d’ambre” ?

Asked on 19/04/2009 10:08:15

Answer:

C”etait la seule fin qui etait possible. C”est triste, oui, mais c”etait necessaire.


Question:

As I understand, Mr. Pullman occasionally engages in book signing tours though out the UK. Will there be one soon? How can I find out more about them?

Asked on 19/04/2009 09:34:03

Answer:

I do occasionally do a signing tour, but only if I have a new book out. I haven”t this year, so I won”t be touring for a while yet. There will be information here on the website when i do.


Question:

Do you do any research before you write a book?

Asked on 18/04/2009 14:44:45

Answer:

It depends on the sort of book I think it”s going to be. A long complex book with a precise realistic setting will demand a lot of research, but a fairy tale such as “The Firework-Maker”s Daughter” will not.


Question:

hello. I am writing my dissertation on His Dark Materials, allegory and myth. I am wonderring what you think your story is, allegory or myth? I have my own thoughts on this but I would love to know your opinion Thanks, Hana Karlasen

Asked on 16/04/2009 16:36:17

Answer:

Well, I think it”s a novel. In other words I don”t think it works like allegory, because allegory has to rely on a precise one-to-one relationship between story-element and meaning. A novel is more democratic: the meaning is not dictated or determined by the author, but is something that emerges in the space between the story and the reader”s mind. Myth is a different matter. C.S. Lewis would say that a myth is a story that has the same force, the same effect, the same meaning, in whichever form we encounter it: it”s independent of its telling. Again, a novel is something slightly different. A novel might tell a mythical story, but it would not need to be mythical in order to be a novel.


Question:

how long does it normally take for you to answer a question you get? and how many do you get in a week?

Asked on 14/04/2009 14:41:34

Answer:

This site is still very new, and I am still getting the hang of it. It”s too soon to answer accurately.


Question:

Kaisa is a female Finnish name but you use it for a male. Why? Were you aware of this?

Asked on 12/04/2009 13:43:23

Answer:

There was a writer on the game of chess, a man, who called himself Kaisa. I was thinking of him. It”s perhaps a little unfortunate that it turns out to be a female name in Finland, but it”s too late now.


Question:

At the end of the Amber Spyglass, it seems like you tried very hard to separate Will and Lyra, bringing up and then shooting down all the logical ways they could be together. Is there any specific reason for this?

Asked on 12/04/2009 06:51:42

Answer:

It had to happen. The story wouldn”t have worked otherwise. Cruel, but true.


Question:

Dear Mr. Pullman, When I read for the first time your novel “Northen Lights” I felt deeply moved and overwhelmed whith a torrent of emotions in the scene you first describe the Aurora. Since then, I dream with knowing it. So my question is: Have you seen the Northern Lights, and if you have, how did you feel when you see it for the first time? Jose Vicente Scannone, from Venezuela

Asked on 11/04/2009 23:39:48

Answer:

Thank you for this. As a matter of fact I have never seen the aurora, though i have been several times in places where i was assured it would show up. I had to rely on photographs and other people”s descriptions.


Question:

Dear Philip Pullman, I am a student at the University of Warwick doing a course in creative writing and I absolutely love your books, so I was wondering if you would mind answering a couple of questions for me? We have to write an assignment about an aspect of the writing process that we find interesting or problematical, with reference to authors whose work we know well, and so it would be brilliant if I could have your take on matters.

Asked on 10/04/2009 01:54:18

Answer:

I”m sorry, but I can”t answer very detailed questions about the writing process here. If you look through the interviews that are posted elsewhere on this website, and earlier in these Q & As, you”ll find many of the answers you seek.


Question:

hi, im the same who wrote to you about my school book report..iren Dundas…if you don’t mint, would you be so kind to send the answer to iren_1994@hotmail.com? if you cant, don´t bother with it, just answer here, if you can… -iren dundas

Asked on 07/04/2009 13:04:46

Answer:

I”m afraid that if you want me to write your school report for you, it will cost you five thousand dollars.

 

 


Question:

I would like to read your Isis speech that I have heard so much about from fellow English teachers. However, I can’t find it anywhere on the web. Help!!

Asked on 06/04/2009 04:30:49

Answer:

It”s on my website. You go to OTHER WRITING, and then to THE WORLDS, and then to EDUCATION.


Question:

You probably get tired of answering this, but, do you think Lyra and Will will ever meet again, in a future book? And, if not, does this ever make you sad? (P.S. HDM is very beautiful, for so many reasons).

Asked on 05/04/2009 23:57:29

Answer:

I don”t know if they will or not. Does it make me sad? It did when I was writing it. But the book had to end like that.


Question:

What would you say to kids who want to become PUBLISHED authors?

Asked on 05/04/2009 21:17:37

Answer:

Many people will say that you should write the sort of book that people want to read. I don”t believe that for a moment. I think you should write the sort of book that YOU want to read.


Question:

Hi Philip, A quick question – the Subtle Knife, the way it cuts is excellent as it is described in a realistic manner in the book. Is the idea from the old chinese parable of the butcher that never sharpens his knife?

Asked on 03/04/2009 16:37:17

Answer:

No, I didn’t know that story. Thank you for pointing it out.


Question:

Were you a teacher at “Bishop Kirk” scholl in Oxford, sometime during 1976 to 1978? (I was a student)

Asked on 02/04/2009 22:38:20

Answer:

Yes! I joined Bishop Kirk School in 1976 and taught there for five years. It”s hard to say that i remember you, though, because you don”t tell me your name.


Question:

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

Asked on 02/04/2009 02:31:38

Answer:

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

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


Question:

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 I’m a hopeless pedant so feel free to just tell me to stop worrying about such trivialities. Thanks

Asked on 31/03/2009 15:36:21

Answer:

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.


Question:

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

Asked on 31/03/2009 09:44:06

Answer:

I am a very unsystematic reader of philosophy – 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.


Question:

I’m sure I read an article you wrote about the importance of illustration and how drawings can convey knowledge just as well as writing – where can I find this?

Asked on 31/03/2009 09:42:33

Answer:

I can”t recall saying exactly this, but I have written a number of pieces about the way words and pictures work together. i don”t think they”re on my website, though – I shall have to find them and get them put up there. Thank you for reminding me.


Question:

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

Asked on 31/03/2009 04:49:50

Answer:

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.


Question:

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

Asked on 30/03/2009 04:04:02

Answer:

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 seen no evidence for God, but i do ask the religious questions.


Question:

Mr Pullman, I’m in the process of putting together a website inspired by a wartime propaganda poster … To that end, I’m 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.

Asked on 27/03/2009 07:59:15

Answer:

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.


Question:

When will “The Book of Dust” be finished?

Asked on 25/03/2009 14:26:47

Answer:

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.


Question:

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?

Asked on 23/03/2009 01:12:52

Answer:

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 …


Question:

Where do you get your ideas from?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:12:37

Answer:

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 isn’t polite to be facetious about it. For one thing, people don’t always know you’re 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 isn’t having ideas all the time. I think they are, actually, and they just don’t 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.


Question:

What do you do about writer’s block?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:12:07

Answer:

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 plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?


Question:

Where do you work?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:11:20

Answer:

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 isn’t 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.


Question:

What is your favourite among your books?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:10:44

Answer:

Difficult. I like them all, for various reasons. And I know that each of them is imperfect. I know their flaws better than anyone. There’s nothing you can tell me in criticism of my work that I haven’t already found out for myself. But they each represented the best I could do at the time, and I’m fond of them.


Question:

What is a typical day like for you?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:09:36

Answer:

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 it’s time for lunch, with a break for coffee half way through. If I’m lucky I’ll 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 it’s 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.


Question:

Will there be another book about Lyra and Will?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:08:55

Answer:

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.


Question:

Who is your favourite character to write and why?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:08:20

Answer:

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. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do, and that’s 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.


Question:

Can you give us some insight into what daemons are? Why don’t non-humans have them?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:04:57

Answer:

I was discovering more about daemons all the way through – right up to the very end of THE AMBER SPYGLASS. And I’m sure there are other aspects of them that I haven’t discovered yet. I don’t want to say anything about them which will give away some of the plot of the final book, but I will say that the daemon is that part of you that helps you grow towards wisdom.

I don’t know where the idea of them came from – it just emerged as I was trying to begin the story. I suddenly realised that Lyra had a daemon, and it all grew out of that. Of course, the daemons had to represent something important in the meaning of the story, and not be merely picturesque; otherwise they’d just get in the way. So there is a big difference between the daemons of children and adults, because the story as a whole is about growing up, or innocence and experience.


Question:

What books did you like when you were young?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:03:21

Answer:

Well, for one thing, I liked books I wasn’t supposed to read – books for adults. I didn’t always understand them, but I liked the feeling that I was sharing grown-up things.

 

I also loved comics. There was a comic called the Eagle, which pretty well every British boy and girl of my age used to read. There was a space pilot called Dan Dare and this great enemy the Mekon, who was green, and who had a tiny body and a huge great bald head, and who sat on a little saucer that floated in mid-air. I loved Superman and Batman comics too.

Among the ‘proper’ books I loved, there are some that I still read. One is Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Another is the funniest children’s book ever written, Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding. And there were all the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; and another book I remember was a novel called A Hundred Million Francs, by the French author Paul Berna. It was a good story, about a bunch of children in a dingy suburb of Paris who find a lot of money which has been hidden by some thieves, and all kinds of adventures follow.

The point about that book for me was that on page 34, there was a drawing of some of the kids defying the crooks, and I fell in love with the girl in the drawing. She was a tough-looking, very French sort of character, with a leather jacket and socks rolled down to her ankles and blonde hair and black eyes, and altogether I thought she was the girl for me.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised – in fact, now I think about it, it’s obvious – to find that the girl on page 34 of A Hundred Million Francs is the girl who four decades later turned up in my own book Northern Lights, or The Golden Compass, where she was called Lyra.

One more book: Erich Kästner’s marvellous Emil and the Detectives.

 


Question:

How do you feel about letting people make a film from your books?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:02:42

Answer:

If I didn’t want it to happen, I could always have said no. If I’ve written the story well enough, then a film won’t spoil it; and if the film happens to be good, so much the better.


Question:

His Dark Materials seems to be against organised religion. Do you believe in God?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:02:18

Answer:

I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it’s because he’s ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I’d want nothing to do with them.


Question:

You once said that His Dark Materials is not a fantasy, but stark realism. What did you mean by that?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:01:50

Answer:

That comment got me into trouble with the fantasy people. What I mean by it was roughly this: that the story I was trying to write was about real people, not beings that don’t exist like elves or hobbits. Lyra and Will and the other characters are meant to be human beings like us, and the story is about a universal human experience, namely growing up. The ‘fantasy’ parts of the story were there as a picture of aspects of human nature, not as something alien and strange. For example, readers have told me that the dæmons, which at first seem so utterly fantastic, soon become so familiar and essential a part of each character that they, the readers, feel as if they’ve got a dæmon themselves. And my point is that they have, that we all have. It’s an aspect of our personality that we often overlook, but it’s there. that’s what I mean by realism: I was using the fantastical elements to say something that I thought was true about us and about our lives.


Question:

When did you start writing?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:01:16

Answer:

When I was very young. I used to tell stories to my friends and my younger brother, and then I began to write them down. They weren’t very good.


Question:

Were you encouraged to be creative?

Asked on 06/03/2009 10:00:09

Answer:

No, I was ignored. When anyone took any notice it was to point out what a twit I was, and laugh at me. This was the best possible preparation for the life of a novelist. If you have grown-ups fussing over you and encouraging you and taking an interest, you begin to think you’re important, and furthermore that you need and deserve their attention. After a while you become incapable of working without someone else motivating you. You’re much better off supplying your own energy, and writing in spite of the fact that no-one’s interested, and even learning to put up with other people’s contempt and ridicule. What do they know, anyway?


Question:

What inspires you?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:59:34

Answer:

Three things. (1) Money. I do this for a living. If I don’t write well, I won’t earn enough money to pay the bills. (2) The desire to make some sort of mark on the world – to make my name known. To leave something behind that will last a little longer than I do. (3) The sheer pleasure of craftsmanship: the endlessly absorbing delight of making things – in my case, stories – and of gradually learning more about how they work, and how to make them better.


Question:

When was your first book published?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:55:54

Answer:

It was published when I was 25 years old, and I was very pleased with myself. The book was terrible rubbish, though. I’m not even going to tell you what it was called.


Question:

Who do you write for – children or adults?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:54:58

Answer:

Myself. No-one else. If the story I write turns out to be the sort of thing that children enjoy reading, then well and good. But I don’t write for children: I write books that children read. Some clever adults read them too.


Question:

How long does it take me to write a book?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:54:32

Answer:

It depends on how long the book is. THE FIREWORK-MAKER’S DAUGHTER took me six weeks, THE AMBER SPYGLASS three years.


Question:

What advice would I give to anyone who wants to write?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:53:51

Answer:

Don’t listen to any advice, that’s what I’d say. Write only what you want to write. Please yourself. YOU are the genius, they’re not. Especially don’t listen to people (such as publishers) who think that you need to write what readers say they want. Readers don’t always know what they want. I don’t know what I want to read until I go into a bookshop and look around at the books other people have written, and the books I enjoy reading most are books I would never in a million years have thought of myself. So the only thing you need to do is forget about pleasing other people, and aim to please yourself alone. That way, you’ll have a chance of writing something that other people WILL want to read, because it’ll take them by surprise. It’s also much more fun writing to please yourself.


Question:

How does it feel to receive a good review or an award?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:17:57

Answer:

I feel pleased to live in a world where there are such good critics.


Question:

And how does it feel to receive a bad review?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:12:36

Answer:

I feel sad to live in a world where there are such poor critics.


Question:

What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:06:41

Answer:

Stubbornness, for a start. Pig-headed obstinacy. The capacity to sit still in front of an empty sheet of paper for hour upon hour and feel that your time is being valuably spent. Then I’d say an interest in the shapes of things. What shape is a story? Is a short story a different shape from a novel? What shape is a joke? Once you become interested in the structure of stories, you’re well on the way.


Question:

What are the good things and the bad things about being a writer?

Asked on 06/03/2009 09:06:08

Answer:

The good things are that you can dress as you like, do whatever you fancy doing and call it essential research, and so on … and that you have work to do which is more absorbing and fascinating and important and fulfilling and enjoyable and lasting than anything else you can imagine. The bad things: unless you’re lucky, you don’t make much money, and it doesn’t come regularly like a salary, so it’s hard to do things like buy a house or bring up a family. Many very fine writers live on pitifully small amounts of money which arrives at irregular intervals. And if your work goes out of fashion, the money stops altogether.


Question:

How far is inspiration a factor in the process of writing?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:04:57

Answer:

Less than non-writers think. If you’re going to make a living at this business – more importantly, if you’re going to write anything that will last – you have to realise that a lot of the time, you’re going to be writing without inspiration. The trick is to write just as well without it as with. Of course, you write less readily and fluently without it; but the interesting thing is to look at the private journals and letters of great writers and see how much of the time they just had to do without inspiration. Conrad, for example, groaned at the desperate emptiness of the pages he faced; and yet he managed to cover them. Amateurs think that if they were inspired all the time, they could be professionals. Professional know that if they relied on inspiration, they’d be amateurs.


Question:

In your article for The Writer’s Handbook in 2000 you suggested that children¹s fiction was patronised by general publishing. Is this still true?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:04:02

Answer:

Not so much. The scene has changed – more, I suspect, because some children’s books have made large amounts of money than because literary editors have suddenly become aware of quality they were somehow unable to see before.


Question:

What, if any advantages for the author are there in having a young readership?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:03:31

Answer:

It forces you not to let the story go out of your mind. If you stop telling a story, they stop reading. Story is very important; it’s the events themselves, as Isaac Bashevis Singer says, that contain the wisdom – not what we say about them.


Question:

At what stage in the writing process do you have your plot fully worked out?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:01:49

Answer:

Just after it’s published, at the point when it’s too late to fix all the problems.


Question:

Where do you go to look for your characters? Are they ever based on people you know?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:01:24

Answer:

I don’t look for them. It feels as if they look for me, and they come fully formed. I seldom if ever have to make conscious adjustments. Mind you (see ‘inspiration’ above) I often have to wait quite a long time.


Question:

You have written several series with recurring characters. Do you set out with that intention and if not, at what stage is it apparent that the characters have the scope to develop over several titles?

Asked on 05/03/2009 17:00:34

Answer:

I become fond of a character and see that there’s another story in them, that’s what usually happens. Besides, if I’ve already made up the background and done the reading and so on, I don’t want to waste that work.


Question:

What were your own favourite books to read as a child?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:41:04

Answer:

Too many to list. Everything I could get hold of.


Question:

Your daily regime of hand-writing three pages every day in the shed at the bottom of your garden is well documented and you have previously stressed the importance of a disciplined approach to writing. Did you manage to stick to a rigorous schedule even before you were able to devote your whole time to writing?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:39:43

Answer:

It was easier then. The work of being a schoolteacher (for instance) is regular and timetabled, and you can build in your writing to the hour or so after midnight or before breakfast or whenever. But when you work full-time, the demands on your attention come flying from every direction and unpredictably, and it’s harder to find that regularity that is so necessary.


Question:

Do you edit and re-write as you go along or do you wait until you have a complete draft?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:37:51

Answer:

Both.


Question:

You have been quoted as saying writers block is ‘lot of howling nonsense.’ But do you have any tricks or tactics to help things along when the words are not coming out as you want them?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:37:22

Answer:

No tricks. I just sit there groaning.


Question:

Do you test out your stories on anyone while you¹re writing them?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:36:13

Answer:

Never. My stories are none of the readers’ business until I have finished them. The idea of asking people what they think is so bizarre as to be inconceivable to me; if these people know how a story should go, why aren’t they writing stories of their own? I am a strong believer in the tyranny, the dictatorship, the absolute authority of the writer. On the other hand, when it comes to reading, the only thing that works is democracy.


Question:

The success of the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Harry Potter books and the re-newed interest in JRR Tolkien has seen fantasy dominate the children¹s market in recent years. Do you think it¹s important for aspiring children¹s writers to keep in mind current trends or should they in fact forget such considerations?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:34:55

Answer:

What they should do is take no notice whatsoever, and write exactly what they want to write. Back in 1996, how many people did we hear saying “We want the first Harry Potter book! We wish someone would write a book about Harry Potter! When is the first Harry Potter book going to come out? We can’t wait!” None, is the answer. It’s silly to ask the public what it wants. The public doesn’t know what it wants until it sees what you can offer. So follow the whole of your nature and write the book that only you can write, and see what happens.


Question:

Did you or your publisher have any inclination of how successful the His Dark Materials trilogy would be when you first came up with the idea?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:34:10

Answer:

Absolutely none. I thought it would be read by about 500 people at most. But it was a book I wanted to write, and David Fickling wanted to publish. See the question and answer above!


Question:

Your books deal with many of life’s big questions? God, the church, good and evil, love? and you are not afraid to challenge your young readers. Is that a conscious aim when you sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper? Do you think children’s writing has a duty to pose difficult questions?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:30:32

Answer:

No. The only duty it has is best expressed in the words of Dr Johnson: “The only aim of writing is to help the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”


Question:

You have run into criticism from certain religious groups who regard you as subversive, with the Catholic Herald describing your work as ‘worthy of the bonfire.’ Do such emotional responses concern or upset you or does it please you to generate strong reactions?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:29:55

Answer:

I’m delighted to have brought such excitement into what must be very dull lives.


Question:

Northern Lights was re-titled The Golden Compass for the American market. Why did this change come about? Do you have a title in mind when you start a story?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:29:04

Answer:

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. The editor who made that change was also responsible for changing “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, which made sense, into “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which didn’t. At the time, I didn’t have enough clout to resist.


Question:

You were a fan of comic books from childhood and your own stories are filled with striking imagery. Do you see your subject matter very visually as you write?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:28:29

Answer:

Yes. I like to make various things clear: where a scene is taking place, what time of day it is, where the light’s coming from, what the weather’s like, who’s present – that sort of thing. Not all of them all the time, but some of them most of the time. It helps the reader to see what you would like them to see.


Question:

Your work has been performed on radio, television and the stage and the film rights to His Dark Materials have been sold. Is it difficult to give up your work to someone else¹s interpretation?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:28:00

Answer:

No. The democracy of reading (see above) means that as soon as a book is published you lose control of how it’s interpreted anyhow, and so you should. To tell someone else how to read your book is to fall into the temptation of fundamentalism. When it comes to performance and film and so on, what you should do, it seems to me, is make sure the people you sell it to know what they’re doing, and then leave them alone. You are better employed writing new books than arguing with people about how to interpret your existing ones.


Question:

Have you had any involvement in casting characters? Do you have preconceived notions of what they should be like?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:27:11

Answer:

I do have ideas, and when it’s useful I make suggestions. But professional theatre or film people know far more actors and have far more knowledge than I have.


Question:

Are there any authors, either working now or in the past, whom you would recommend aspiring writers to read? You have talked in the past of the importance of reading other people so who has particularly influenced you? Should new writers be looking at the work of established authors to establish a set of rules or guidelines?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:26:15

Answer:

Not for rules and guidelines, but for helping to maintain a vision. It was a great help to me in writing HDM to return to Milton and Blake periodically.


Question:

Can aspiring writers learn much from creative writing courses or ‘how-to’ books?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:25:42

Answer:

Goodness knows. I don’t think they would have helped me much. The most useful quality you can have as a writer (given a basic amount of talent) is stubbornness, pig-headedness, call it what you will – the insistence against all the evidence that you will produce something worth reading. I’m not sure you can teach that.


Question:

With publishers aware of the astronomical sales now possible, is this good news for emerging writers or does it generate pressures from publishers to clone a new ‘Lyra and Will’ or ‘Harry Potter’?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:24:59

Answer:

Yes, publishers always want to publish what was a hit last year. Great publishers (like David Fickling) have the courage and vision to back things that might be successful in the future, but about which no-one can be sure.


Question:

Have you consciously set out to create female heroines like Lyra and Sally Lockhart? Have you found any difficulties as a male writer in creating young female characters?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:22:25

Answer:

No. I write almost always in the third person, and I don’t think the narrator is male or female anyway. They’re both, and young and old, and wise and silly, and sceptical and credulous, and innocent and experienced, all at once. Narrators are not even human – they’re sprites. So there are no limits, no areas, or characters, or sexes, or times, where these sprites can’t go. And they fix on what interests them. I wouldn’t dream of deliberately choosing this or that sort of person, for political or social or commercial reasons, to write a book about. If the narrator isn’t interested, the book won’t come alive.


Question:

Have you created any minor characters that you would like to explore in more depth in other stories?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:21:44

Answer:

Yes, many times, and it’s only lack of time that prevents me.


Question:

For somebody looking to get their stories for children published, is there any single piece of advice you would offer them?

Asked on 05/03/2009 16:20:49

Answer:

It’s implicit in the answer above: write exactly what only you can write. Don’t make commercial calculations. Be crazy about it. Insist on the primacy of your own vision. And please, don’t ask me to read your manuscript.