I couldn’t resist the ‘Ff’s. I bet some authors would get fed up of people doing that, but I think Jasper Fforde a) wouldn’t mind because he will know that I love his books, and that is what matters, and b) does it himself on his website …
Jasper was on day two of his book tour promoting his latest - One of Our Thursdays is Missing, the fifth Thursday Next novel. He talked to a packed St Nicholas church in Abingdon complete with pneumatic drills and grinders digging up the road outside doing nighttime repairs, (the sort of quirky coincidence that might happen in one of his books we thought). But despite the background noise, he kept the audience thoroughly entertained with a largely off-the-cuff talk involving much hilarity, and it was lovely to see an author positively encourage questions from the audience, rather than dread them.
He took us through his writing experience and how it took ten years and several books to get published. His third, The Eyre Affair was his breakthrough book, and then it took a whisper campaign with a larger number of proof copies than usual with a ’Don’t ask, read it’ tag by the publisher to raise awareness as Fforde’s books tend to defy easy description. He calls this the ‘Jasper Fforde Role-playing Game’ – try to describe one and it’s nigh-on impossible.
He told us how The Big Over Easy was the first book he wrote – a satirical whodunnit about the apparent suicide of Humpty Dumpty; but it wasn’t published until 2005, after the first few Thursday Next books. When he looked it over then, he could see why it didn’t get published the first time and engaged on a re-write. So he urged new writers to use the rejections and keep practising and learning how to be worth publishing. In fact he was full of great tips for aspiring authors, and urged people to be their own worst critics.
Talking about how he writes he said, self-deprecatingly, that he just wrote and figured out how he wrote them later. However, he did admit to setting himself ‘narrative dares’ thinking of some wild and wacky themes and challenging himself to write them. When asked about where the name Thursday Next came from, he told us he wished he’d known it truly was a phrase in Romeo and Juliet, but actually it was something his mother tends to say rather than next Thursday.
Moving on to Shades of Grey, newly out in paperback, he said that this was a departure for him – no hiding behind existing characters. It’s been more of a slow burner saleswise than his previous works because of that it seems, but actually it’s my favourite because of its originality, (review coming very soon as I read it last week). He had this idea for a dystopian world where everything is governed by visual shades of colour, and how he could change the rules of engagement in society. Volume II in this trilogy is due out in 2013.
He’s also been delighted with the success of The Last Dragonslayer, which I reviewed here. He liked the idea of insane wizards and magic that fizzes and phuts. Although written more with a teen audience in mind, it’s being read by many adults too. A sequel will be coming next year.
The queue for signing was long, but worth it. He was such a nice guy. We chatted briefly, and he posed for a picture, and stamped my books with his own custom stampers (Civic Duty – have you done yours? in Shades of Grey, and a Council of Genres Reading Visa for the new book) – How Ffab is that! Oh, and he gave out postcards too.
With three Thursday Next books plus the Nursery Crimes pair in my TBR, I’m looking forward to a long reading relationship with Jasper. If you’ve read any of his books, do go and see him if he comes round your way, you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t read Fforde and fancy some zany metafiction – Oh ‘Don’t ask, read it!’ The Eyre Affair is a good place to start, or Shades of Grey if you prefer dystopian fare.
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To buy books from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
One of Our Thursdays is Missing (Thursday Next series vol 5)
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next) (Thursday Next series, vol 1)
Shades of Grey
The Last Dragonslayer
The Big Over Easy (Nursery Crime Adventures 1)