Cornelia Funke is the author of the best selling Dragon Rider series. We are pleased to share with you a recent Q&A about her latest in the series and of her other projects.
Did you do any specific research for this new story in the Dragon Rider series?
Yes, this book made me realize once more how very ignorant I am (and I guess that’s true for most of us) on so many topics concerning the natural world. Now I have many many books on the sea and its inhabitants and learned a lot. But sadly I was unable to turn myself into a Selkie and learn the way my heroes do.
Are there any key themes in The Aurelia Curse that you think are important for children to read about?
For children…hmm, I always hesitate when I get that question. The older I get the more I think that it is my generation that failed our children. We once set out to make this world better and look at what we leave behind for them! No, the themes in The Aurelia Curse are themes I think about a lot and of course that reflects in the story. But I hope it is still first of all a story, but set in this world we all live in. Of course, I would be thrilled if some children decide to protect the ocean after they read the book – even better if they convince their parents to do the same!
The Aurelia Curse is the first book in the Dragon Rider series that you have written straight into English. How did that affect the process of writing for you? Did it present any particular challenges?
I wrote The Glass of Lead and Gold in English and the adaptation of Pan’s Labyrinth as a novel in English. And I had written several short stories and Angel Heart, a text I wrote for Classical musicians in English, that Jeremy Irons recorded. When he didn’t complain I thought to myself: well, I guess I can write in English now as well I very much love to write in English, as it is a more playful language than German and especially weighty themes can be dealt with much more easily and without getting pompous, a danger one meets easily in my native tongue.
Where did you write the book?
I wrote it where it is set: in Malibu, on the wild west coast of the Northern part of the Americas. I don’t often set a book where I live, and maybe this decision foreshadowed that I would move away and back to Europe. But I will still own land here in the mountains that I intend to keep wild. It is the land where my heroes camp and get attacked by a petrifying monster. Each time I am up there I am sure it sleeps in the ground. And Mary and Alfonso, two characters in the story are real friends of mine, whom I changed only a bit for the story. Alfonso taught me to hold and appreciate a snake and Mary taught me that one can make pancakes from wild buckwheat
Were there any places that inspired the story? Have you visited them? Or do you plan to visit them?
Yes! The first scene in New Zealand probably gives away how much I love those islands and how deeply moved I was by them. Then there is of course always Scotland, as the dragons come from there and I always have the dream to one day have a house there (maybe near the Mainstreet Trading Company, one of my favorite bookstores and Hawaii, where 500 children chanted in Hawaiian for me and I heard the sea in their voices. The longer I write books the more I try to honor my readers all over the world and the enchantment I felt meeting them and the places they live in. When I write a story I always feel like travelling with all my readers to a new adventure.
Where do you call home?
I will soon call an old house near Volterra, Italy my home, but I feel by now at home in many places in the world: Hamburg, London, Scotland, Venice, Wellington and …Malibu My farm in Malibu was always just parky wild, as it has Avocado trees (rainforest creatures) and many other immigrants. I planted many native plants, especially oak, but the land I keep really wild is a 10 acres property in the mountains that has never been built on. I hope I can buy more wild land in the future, in Germany, Italy and wherever else I will go, as undeveloped land is what we so badly need to hand over a livable world to our children.
Outside of writing, what are your favourite ways to be creative?
Planting knitting and felting and of course illustrating and painting
Are you currently involved in creative writing with new/young writers?
I just published a wonderful book in Germany illustrated by one of my young artists in residence, Annette, Querkus and the Wild words, which tells the story of a famous female German poet. I also plan to work on a book with Ayesha Gamiet, a magical UK illustrator in the tradition of Islamic book illumination. We have so many ideas what to do together that it will be hard to decide on one. She will come to Fraggina, my new home in autumn to work there with me. There will be another young painter Helena Park who’ll come from Devon and I am very excited about a collaboration with the Salisbury Cathedral on a writing competition for female storytellers, whose winners will visit me in Italy as well. Then there will be ten Latin American writers, illustrators and musicians, two writers from Russia, 6 illustrators from Hamburg and a Spanish friend Raul Garcia will bring his animation students from Singapure. My old house will be humming. Sadly, no dragons or brownies so far!
You are involved with women’s and children’s rights, with environment protection and biodiversity conservation. Are there any particular projects or organisations you are currently working with or plan to work with to help with these issues?
I worked and will continue to work with several American foundations, amongst them the Sierra Club, the Go Campaign and the Book Truck. But I can’t wait to now find organizations in Europe and the UK to develop projects and collaborations with.
What other projects are you involved with at the moment and what are you writing now?
I am currently working on THE GREEN KINGDOM a book about a girl who one day finds 10 letters a blind girl wrote to her sister 50 years ago, each letter talking about a plant she encountered travelling with her father, who was a British botanist. I work on this with the help of an ethno botanist, Tammi Hartung, and I am having so much fun with Dandelion and Nettle, but also Bamboo and Jasmine.
DRAGON RIDER: The Aurelia Curse (Book 3) by Cornelia Funke is out now in paperback £7.99
Find out more corneliafunke.com/en and chickenhousebooks.com