Wednesday, May 5, 2010
INTERVIEW: Catherine Fisher - New York Times Bestseller And Award-Winning Welsh Children’s Fantasy Author of “Incarceron”
Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with Catherine Fisher. She was born in Newport Wales and graduated from the University of Wales in 1980. She has worked in teaching archaeology, lecturing creative writing at the University of Glamorgan. She writes full–time specializing in myth and history.
She began her career writing poetry. Her poetry has appeared in leading magazines, newspapers, anthologies, and she has published numerous award-winning novels.
Catherine Fisher is well known for her fantasy novels for children such as The Snow-Walker and Oracle trilogies, and her award-winning poetry collections since the late 1980s.
She won the 'Welsh Arts Council Young Writers' Prize for her volume of poetry Immrama in 1989 and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition. Another award in 1990 to her initial novel, “The Conjuror’s Game”, and was shortlisted for the Smartties Book Prize. Her novel, “The Snow-Walker’s Son” made the shortlist for WH Smith Award in 1993.
In 1995 Ms. Fisher won another award Tir na n'Og Prize for "The Candleman” and was shortlisted for the “Whitebread Children’s” Book Award for the Oracle in 2003. She was involved with BBC Wales History project “Celtic Myths” and wrote the story of “Becoming Merlin” in autumn of 2009.
Her latest novel “Incarceron” is about the two main characters, Finn and Claudia, who are both searching for a means of escape, are very different characters in two parts of a stagnated future world.
She, the Warden's pampered daughter, is trapped in her own form of prison which is a futuristic world constructed to look like a past era. She is about to be married off to a playboy prince for her father's benefit.
He, a young prisoner is an amnesiac boy in the Scum gang, plagued by seizures that give him prophetic visions of an earlier life.
“Incarceron” is a futuristic prison, sealed from view with a mix of high technology. It is everything a fantasy novel should be: exciting, scary, thought-provoking, and imaginative. It's poetically written by Ms. Fisher, well characterized and beautifully paced.
E.I. Would you share some early self-reflection to give us a sense of who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Give your readers three “Good to Know” facts about your first job experience, the inspiration for your writing career, any fun details or anecdotes that would enliven your page. Also tell us about Catherine Fisher today -- the woman behind the bestselling author of more than fourteen fantasy novels.
Catherine Fisher: I was the sort of teenager who is always reading or out walking in the courtyard. I had a feeling I would be a writer but didn’t really know, so I studied English. I had a selection of jobs after college, including working on an archeological dig and as a lab technician. But I was always writing poems and stories and gradually I began to try and get them published.
E.I. What is it about the art form of writing fantasy novels for young adults and children that enchants you, and gives you the enduring passion to continue in such a demanding profession?
Catherine Fisher: My favourite writers were often experts at fantasy. I loved Alan Garner’s novels, especially The Owl Service which is based on Welsh myth, and also Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, and my fellow countryman Arthur Machen, a genius of terror. So when I began to write, magic and strange things came into the books at once. I feel this genre gives me far more scope to explore people and nature and indeed the supernatural than any other.
E.I. Please tell your young readers about your novel “Incarceron.” What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this book?
Catherine Fisher: INCARCERON was sparked by several things - an exhibition of prints by Piranesi called Imaginary Prisons, showing huge and strange buildings where the prisoners were tiny and remote. Also a conversation with someone, and literary sources like Ghormenghast and others. All these things came together and started the book. My favourite aspects were creating the two different worlds - one sunny, open, luxurious, the other dark, enclosed, savage- and the relationships between characters, like Claudia and her father, or Finn and Keiro.
E.I. How do you weave so much suspense and elements of information while writing and creating the characters Claudia and Finn and yet you keep them so fast-paced? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?
Catherine Fisher: Not much is worked out in advance. I tend to work things out as I go, and then I can’t give information away by accident. The only thing I really knew from the very start was the dimensions and whereabouts of the Prison- if you’ve read the book you know what I mean. Everything else evolved. I try to keep the action fast and drop information in discreetly. The chapter heading quotes area great help with this.
E.I. You've created a cast of characters: Giles, Earl Casper, Sapient Gilda, Attia and Keiro so remarkably captivating that your readers definitely clamor for more; how did you decide what level of details your readers will accept? How does your creative process work?
Catherine Fisher: I wanted a disparate group of characters, so that people will be able to identify with at least one. I became interested in several of the characters: Jared in particular grew in importance as the story went on. The Warden was fascinating to write, and Keiro was great fun, as he’s fairly uncomplicated. Finn is a troubled character and he was interesting, as was Claudia. I also had fun with the secondary characters like Gildas and Rix, who you’ll meet in SAPPHIQUE.
E.I. If you were asked to read a chapter from “Incarceron.” is there one that you would personally select to share with your fans? And why?
Catherine Fisher: I often have to read from INCARCERON at schools and so on. I usually choose the part where Claudia breaks into her father’s study. But I think my favourite chapter is 29.
E.I. If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of “Incarceron” who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?
Catherine Fisher: I don’t know much about Hollywood actors so I don’t have a clue. There’s a British actor called “Charles Dance” who would do the Warden very well.
E.I. Ms. Fisher, how many years of research did you do pertaining to create a 17th century manor house and include a totally different world run by computers? How did you overcome these challenges?
Catherine Fisher: I don’t do research really. I just read a lot- history, archeology- and I invent. These are invented worlds and don’t have to be perfectly correct. And I went to school in a 17th century manor house so I know what that’s like.
E.I. And, finally, could you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming book, “Sapphique? What was it that sparked your imagination about this new novel?
Catherine Fisher: SAPPHIQUE leads directly on from INCARCERON. Finn is finding life at Court difficult, he’s worried about Keiro and Claudia is afraid for her father. In the Prison, Keiro and Attia find a magic glove said once to belong to Sapphique- Keiro thinks it will get him out. But the Prison has its own plan. And then the real Giles turns up.....
E.I. Ms. Fisher, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers all over the world?
My writing tips are simple:
Write about what you like.
Believe in yourself
Read your work aloud
Keep things moving
Get inside every character
To learn more about Catherine Fisher, please visit her website
To purchase her books, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Nobles
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 1:25 PM