Fantastic Fantasy by Cornelia Funke | Scholastic

Fantastic Fantasy by Cornelia Funke

  • The Ink-Trilogy
  • Ghost Hunters
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Chat Transcript

Photo of Cornelia Funke

What gave you the idea of writing Dragon Rider?
I always wanted to ride a dragon myself, so I decided to do this for a year in my imagination. And my editor later on told me that the dragon I drew for the illustrations in the book look exactly like my dog!

How did you become an author?
Because I was bored as an illustrator. I decided to write my own stories so I could draw the pictures I wanted to draw.

What is your favorite book that you have written?

When you were growing up, what were your favorite books to read?
Tom Sawyer , Books of Narnia, a German book called Jim Button and Lucas the Steam Engine Driver

Did you model any of the characters in all of your books after anyone specific?
Bo in Thief Lord is modeled after my son, Victor after British actor Bob Hoskins, Mo in Inkheart after Brendan Fraser.

What gave you the idea from Inkheart about people coming out of books?
Every reader knows about the feeling that characters in books seem more real than real people. So I was surprised to hear that there were no stories about people coming out of books.

Any news on the Inkheart movie? My friends and I want to play Meggie.
Meggie will be the last one to be cast, as children are changing so fast. At the moment, I have meetings with the scriptwriter in New York, and we hope to shoot the movie next summer in Northern Italy.

Do you write every day?

Our students would like to know why you chose Venice for The Thief Lord. Do you have a special connection to it?
First, I had the idea for the story there. Second, there are so many magical places in books that you can't go to, like Hogwarts and Middle Earth, so I wanted to set a story in a place where children can actually go. And they did, because they read the book.

When you start to write a story, do you know what will happen at the end?
No, I don't want to know because I would get bored on the way.

How do you know when you are done writing a book? Evan, Age 12, Arkansas
I have no explanation for that. I simply just know!

How long does it take you to write a book? Josh, Age 8, Arizona
For a book like Inkheart, I need between a year and a year and a half.

Are you going to write a sequel to Inkheart?
I just finished the sequel, and at the moment it is called Inkblood and will be published in October of next year.

Where are you from? How has your homeland influenced your writings?
I am from Germany. I always thought it hadn't influenced me very much, but I heard from many people from England that many motives from German fairytales are to be found in my books.

Are you interested in writing anything other than fantasy?
I did a series in Germany, that's "real"— no fairies or dwarves — but I prefer to write fantasy.

Are you going to sell the rights of Thief Lord to a movie producer?
They are shooting The Thief Lord in Venice at the moment. It will probably be in movie theaters next fall.

Who do you think was a better villain: Nettlebrand or Capricorn?

What do you say to people who think your books are too sad or too scary?
They are wrong.

Do you like writing?
I'm addicted to it.

Do you ever get frustrated with your writing?

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? What else did you like to do when you were a kid?
Oh no, I wanted to be an astronaut. But then I found out that I would have to go to military training, and I didn't like that idea. And I think that one plan for the future is enough.

Do you think there are people in the world who are like Capricorn?
Yes, I'm sure. Too many.

What is Inkblood about?
I won't give away many things, but Dustfinger will return into the book. And many of my characters will follow — some because they want to, others because they are made to. You will meet Fenoglio again, and a new reader, Orpheus, nobles and bandits, fairies and glass people.

In the book Inkheart, Fenoglio says that the book is called Inkheart because of the villain whose heart was as black as ink. Where did you get that idea?
I knew from the beginning that the book would be called Inkheart. And the explanation just came up when I wrote the story.

Our 6th graders would like to know how old you were when you started writing.
Very old — 28.

We would like to know if you will be touring soon — if so, will you be coming to the Northwest?
I will come to California but sadly, this year, just for two days. But I will be in the Northwest next year for quite a while.

Are you going to write a sequel to any of your other books?
There will be a third part of Inkheart. And I plan to write a sequel to Dragon Rider.

What kind of family did you grow up in? Did they tell stories too?
My grandmother told stories; she was very good at that. And my father always took me to the library. We were both book addicts.

Do you write in German and then it is translated into English for publication in the US? Do you get to approve the translation?
I write in German, yes. And I always read the English translation and always have conversations with my translator, for example about the names. I always have to approve it.

Will you appear in any of the films of your books?
I don't think so. Interesting idea.

Who was your hero as a child?
I don't remember having any heroes.

What is your favorite food?
Potato Au Gratin

Do you have kids?
Yes, two. My daughter, Anna, is almost 15, and my son, Ben, is almost 10.

What is your favorite book that you did not write?
The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Are you like any of your characters in Inkheart?
I think there are parts of me in Meggie, in Eleanor, and in Dustfinger. And hopefully not in Capricorn.

Were did you go to school?
In a very boring little town in Germany.

Our 5th graders wonder if you read any of your own books.
Well I have to read from them in many readings, and sometimes I do the audiotapes in Germany.

What is the third book in the Inkheart trilogy called?
It will probably be called Inkdeath — but I think my publishers don't like that title.

Do you let your kids read your books before anyone else?
Yes, I do.

Glass people? Can you tell us more about them?
Oh yes. Fenoglio has a glass man in the Ink World who holds his quill, has to clean it, sharpen it, and help him while he is writing. He is called Rosenquartz, and he is slightly pink.

Do you read aloud?
I love to read aloud. I read all of my manuscripts aloud before I give them to my publisher — but luckily I can't do it like Mo!

Why is Inkheart your favorite book you've written?
I think it is my best writing so far, and all of my passions for books is in there. Though I have to admit, I do love some of my other books also, very much!

Where do you write your stories? Around your house, or do you have a specific place that you like to write in?
I have a writing chamber stuffed with things children send me and lots of dragons because I collect them, and I look out into the woods from there. But I can write anywhere, and one of my favorite places for writing is a small table, in a small house in Malibu. I didn't want to offend the New Yorkers, of course.

What is your favorite idea that a publisher has turned down?
None of my books were turned down.

When you read a book by another author, does it inspire you to write a book of your own?
Oh, I think every author is inspired by all of the books that she reads.

Do people recognize you in person?
Oh, sometimes.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing books? Tina, Age 11, Florida
I like to visit my horse, have a walk with my dog. I love to read, I love to watch movies, and I love to be with my children.

Do you believe in ghosts or fairies or other things like that?
I would love to, but I haven't met them so far.

Which book was harder to write: Thief Lord, Inkheart, or Dragon Rider? Jackie, Age 11, Illinois
The Thief Lord , by far.

Do you ever write a book and then want to change it later? Amy, Age 10, Missouri
I never wanted to change the plots, but sometimes you want to change certain sentences, expressions, tiny details.

When you where little, did you read as much as Meggie?
Yes, I think so.

Have you always been interested in mythical creatures?
Yes, as far as I remember, yes.

Who is your favorite character of all of your books? Eddy, Age 10, Virginia
That's a very hard choice, Eddy. But if you want me to do it, it's Twigleg from Dragon Rider.

How do you decide where your books should take place?
I chose places where I would like to spend a year in my imagination and where I would like to do research.

Are kids the same wherever you go? Emma, Age 11, Texas
Yes and no.

What music do you like?
My son always says I like very weird music. I like a composer called Henry Purcell, and I love to listen to Neil Young.

Do you play video games? Jorge, North Carolina
No, I get very bored by that.

Which is your favorite mythical creature from Inkheart?
There are not so many mythical creatures from Inkheart. My favorite mythical creature from all of my books is the Dragon, from Dragon Rider. But if I had to choose from Inkheart, it would be the Fire Elves; they appear in the second part.

Do kids like the ones in The Thief Lord really exist in Venice?
I don't know, but I guess children like that exist in every city.

When in the day is your favorite time to write? When do you get the best ideas?
Since I have children and have to get up early, I mostly write in the morning and then sometimes do rewrites in the evening.

If you could take a character out a book, whom would you take out? (If you could send them back too, of course.)
Of course, the Dragon.

Do you like to travel? Abby, Age 7, Illinois
Yes, I love to. But once upon a time, I hated to travel.

Who is your favorite character in The Thief Lord?
Prosper and Victor

What is your favorite genre to read? Jacki D., Michigan
I don't like to eat the same dish every day, so I read very different things.

Do you have any pets?
I have two Iceland horses, a very hairy dog called Looney, and a guinea pig.

Are there going to be movies for any of your other books?
Yes, there are going to be movies from The ThiefLord, Inkheart, Dragon Rider, and the series published in Germany called The Wild Chicks.

If you could go into one of your books, which one would you go into?

What are your horses and guinea pig named?
My horses are called Jarpur and Snegla. The guinea pig's name is Midget.

What is The Wild Chicks about? Will it ever be published in America?
The Wild Chicks are a girls’ gang — a rather nice gang who fight a boy gang called the Pigmys. And yes, it will be published in America, but we have not yet decided when.

Is there any pressure on you to write books all the time? Kristine H., Michigan
Not at all. I just love to do it.

How do you think of character names?
I always think a lot about that. I have dictionaries for names; I look at plant name dictionaries, insect names, things like that. And sometimes the telephone book — it's a good trick. That one always works!

Do your kids help you come up with ideas?
Yes, they often do. They sometimes correct me; they sometimes ask me to strengthen certain motives in the story. Once my son asked me to get rid of a certain sentence because he thought it to be very sentimental.

Who is your favorite actor?
My favorite actor — Brendan Fraser.

Would you ever consider writing a movie script?
No, it takes a lot of time to write a movie script. So I prefer to be a novel writer.

How many books are you going to write?
I will try to write books until I drop dead.

Do you travel to schools?
I wish I had more time to visit schools. Sometimes I do when I am on a promotion tour. But as I live in Germany, I don't have time very often.

Do you like America or Germany better? From, Bridget and Jasmine
This is a dangerous question. But I have to admit that sometimes I prefer America.

Which of your books do your kids like the best?
My boy loves The Wild Chicks and The Ghost Hunters. My daughter loves the Inkheart books.

Why do you write children's books instead of adult books?
Because I love children as an audience. I never want to lose them. And the adults are allowed to read the books as well.

Do you ever do the illustrations?
Yes, for all the three novels published in America, I did the illustrations. Only the covers were done by somebody else. You can look at the German covers on my website at

Do kids in America like your books as much as German children do?
I get the feeling they do.

What is your favorite movie?
Gods and Monsters . And if I have to pick a children's movie, Toy Story 2.

When did you learn to speak English?
Every German child learns to speak English in school

Is The Ghost Hunters published in English?
Not yet.

Where did you get the idea to put a quote from another book in the beginning if each chapter in Inkheart?
It is done in other books like Watership Down, and I always loved that. And it is good for Inkheart to have the voices of other books there.

Do you have any other friends that write? Taylor R., Michigan
Oh, of course I know quite a few other writers, and of course some of them are friends of mine.

Do you have any say on what happens with the films?
Yes, I am very much involved in that. I am for example, a producer on Inkheart, and I was involved in the casting of The Thief Lord.

Do you think you will ever do an adult novel?
I hope not, because that would mean I lose the children.

What do you do when you get writer's block?
I never have.

If you could be someone in your books, who would it be?
Oh, gosh. Maybe I would like to be Meggie. And maybe I would like to be the Dragon.

What book do you think will make the best movie?
I have no answer to that. I hope they will all turn into good movies, but I know this is just a hope.

Have you been to Venice recently?
Yes, I was there two weeks ago. And I will probably go to the movie shooting in another two weeks.

Where in Germany do you live? Sarah C.
I live in Hamburg; that's in the north. And I live on the outskirts of town. It looks like countryside.

What is your next book?
Inkdeath, and then I’m planning a ghost set in Salisbury, England

Is there going to be a sequel to Dragon Rider?
I very much hope so.

Will you ever name characters after your kids?
I sometimes do. I just did a picture book called The Wildest Brother on Earth, and you will find both of my children in there.

Had you met Brendan Fraser before writing Inkheart?
No, I met him afterwards. And I find out he's exactly like Mo

Do you consider yourself famous?
I think so. I get used to the idea.

What tips would you have to kids who want to be writers?
Read, read, read.

Do you ever wish you lived somewhere else?
Yes, I always imagined living in other places.

Do you know if adults ever read your books?
Yes, they do it more and more.

Do you ever cry at the end of movies and books? I cried for joy when Meggie found her mother in Inkheart.
Yes, absolutely. I'm terrible with this. My children make fun of me for it. Everything gets to me. I'm very sentimental.

I am sorry, I have to say goodbye now. And thank you so much for all of the brilliant questions. It was fun to chat with you.