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Interview: Vivian French

July 1st, 2008 (05:43 am)
thirsty

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The Robe of Skulls, Vivian French's newest book for children, includes a lonely young girl, a villainess, a troll, a werewoman, crones, and many young royals. Some are turned into frogs, some go on quests, and some are up to no good - and somewhere along the way, all of their paths cross. When my path crossed with Vivian's, we spoke of good books, classic fairy tales, and funny bones.

At the start of your story, poor little Gracie Gillypot is punished for being pleasant! Have you ever gotten in trouble for being happy? (I have, and it was a truly odd experience.)

I'm not sure about getting into trouble for being happy, but I've got thrown out of several libraries for laughing too loudly - AND out of a bookstore! (I was reading Susan Juby's book, "Alice, I Think." Have you read it? It's HILARIOUS!)

Yes, and I agree! It's quite funny. I like that series.

And when I was at college I once had a terrible fit of the giggles during a very serious seminar. The tutor read an extract from a novel: 'She sighed deeply, dropped her eyes, and sank to the floor' and I thought it was hysterically funny ... but nobody else did. They gave me disapproving looks, and tut tutted. I suspect I had a shallow and frivolous nature as a student ... and I'm not sure I've improved a lot since.

When you're feeling low, how do you turn that frown upside down?

I'm inclined to find a lot of things funny. If I'm feeling low I stamp about a lot and sigh heavily so my husband notices and feels sorry for me, but it never works. He just asks me if I'm too hot, and that makes me laugh ...

Lady Lamorna and Cruella de Vil have some commonalities, with their penchants for evil and unusual clothing. (Luckily, Lamorna's robe isn't fashioned out of real skulls.)

I suspect she wouldn't have minded much if the crones HAD used real skulls!

Who are your favorite villains from classic fantasy and/or fairy tales?

I think one of my favorite villains is Long John Silver in Treasure island, although I was scared stiff of Blind Pugh. The tap! tap! tap! of his stick used to haunt my dreams. That's not a fantasy or fairy tale, though ... hmm. Maybe Fungus the Bogeyman?

Which of your characters was the most fun to transform?

Probably the young royals. I liked making Prince Vincent a frog - I think he enjoyed the experience too - once it was over.

You didn't intend on Marlon becoming such a featured character. How did he manage to elbow - er, wing his way into the story?

It's so strange the way characters take over. I think he was very useful; he could fly about, and report on action happening all over the five kingdoms ... none of the human characters could move so swiftly and easily.

Gracie is declared a Trueheart. Who - in your life, or personal heroes - do you consider to be courageous?

Oh, goodness. I really admire the quiet heroes. There are people dealing with serious illness, or difficult children, or ailing parents all around us, and they don't complain that their lives are restricted and very very hard - they just get on with it. They have huge courage, and dignity as well ...

What's coming next to Fracture? Tell us about the sequel!

Aha! They won't be coming to Fracture. The next story is set in Wadingburn. My brand new website will be up and running very soon, and you can read the first chapter there!

What are your ten all-time favorite books?

That's like asking me for my top ten meals - it varies from day to day and hour to hour. If I was on a desert island I'd DEFINITELY want William Goldman's The Princess Bride. What else? Hmmmmmmm .... here are a few of the vast collection I'd also have to take.

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Patricia MacLachlan)
ALL of Charles Dickens' books (except for The Pickwick Papers)
I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith)
Alice, I Think (Susan Juby) and all the other Alice books
Middlemarch (George Elliot)
Holes (Louis Sachar)
Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)
Crusade (Elizabeth Laird)
Mortal Engines (Philip Reeve)

Visit Vivian's website.