‘‘Clariel has been in the works since 1998, just building up in the queue of books to be written. When I was writing Lirael, I made a note about one of the characters and that was the beginning of Clariel. It’s been lurking there, just waiting. I only work things out as I need them, typically. People often ask me, ‘So you left it for years.’ No, it’s always been in my head. But I did have to go back and reread the earlier books. I don’t like going back and rereading my work, but you have to some­times. In the Keys to the Kingdom books I had to consistently reread the old ones as I was writing the new ones and I had to do that for Clariel as well. I had forgotten useful details but also discovered things I’d set up, so that was quite good. I laid the groundwork without being aware I was laying the groundwork, years ago. Also because I’d written the books long enough ago, I could reread them without feeling I wanted to rewrite them – I’m never going to do that. I don’t believe that’s a good idea. Most of the time I was reading the old books and thinking, ‘Wow, I forgot I put that in there, it’s absolutely ideal.’ Even when I’m in the middle of writing a book I often find I’ll get to a point where I think, ‘I’ve got to set this up’ only to realize, ‘Oh, I have already set it up.’ I’m not saying my subconscious writes my books, though that would be cool – I could just go away, and have a Jekyll and Hyde thing. My alter ego who writes. That would be creepy, actually. Auto-written in the night by my other self. Why am I so tired? That’s a horror story in itself. That’s a Stephen King story. (He’s probably already written it, and I just haven’t read it.) Generally speaking, it’s interesting how your subconscious, if you’re working on something, does work out a lot of the things you need, and you put them in without knowing you’ll need them later on.”

‘‘We’ve come close to a Sabriel film a few times. It’s like a lot of things in the movie busi­ness, where it’s potentially exciting, things almost happen, and then fall apart. It came incredibly close twice, and the second time, the contracts were all done, the lawyers had been through ev­erything, and money had been spent. There were a lot of different parties involved. Everything was ready to go, massive paperwork waiting to be signed, when a question was raised about some of the funding for the film. Some of it was going to come from a tax break in Australia, and one of the producers had been one of the people who’d helped design that tax break, and he said we’d get it for sure, but another lawyer said, ‘I don’t think you’ll get it.’ It was like a house of cards. The card representing 20 million dollars got taken out, and the whole thing collapsed, just as we were ready to sign.

‘‘We did have at least one meeting with a to­tally ludicrous question: ‘Could we set Sabriel in contemporary America and could she be a kindergarten teacher?’ Why not just write your own story, why do you want to talk about buying my book? That’s typical of Hollywood as well. Everyone has stories about that, where they buy books for what’s good in them and then remove all of that, and you don’t even recognize the film.

“The reality is mostly films or TV don’t happen, and as an author it’s good not to be too invested emotionally or economically. The only thing you can control is your fiction, so focus on that. Write the next book, and write the next story.”


“I think the reason New Adult exists is because there’s so much YA, publishers need some other means of separation. People reading it are prob­ably mostly 18 to 40, though like anything, it’s difficult to generalise. The publishers are just try­ing to create a niche for particular kinds of books. Categories are always about how you sell the books. It’s not really about what’s in the books, or who they’re for. Like the age-band thing in the UK. They wanted to have an age range displayed on every children’s book. Many people were against that, and rightly so, because children will look at that and think, ‘This is 9-12, and I’m 13, so I shouldn’t read it.’ Or, ‘I’ve got to stop reading this thing that I love because it says on the spine it’s not for me.’ Adults and parents and gatekeep­ers would say, ‘I can’t buy this book because it’s only for 9-12 year olds.’ It’s very prescriptive, and they wanted it on every book. People are influ­enced by categories. The whole young adult cat­egorization exists, to a degree, because the core demographic for YA seems to be roughly 16-35, and those people would not go into a children’s section to buy books. The publishers had to sepa­rate them out to make it easy for adults, so they wouldn’t feel peculiar. I’ll happily go into a chil­dren’s aisle to buy books – it never bothered me. But I know many people, particularly those who don’t have children themselves, for whom going into a children’s section is anathema, like they don’t belong there. That’s still a problem.”

‘‘I rarely teach workshops but I do every now and then. I think a lot of writing fiction is instinct, which you can’t teach. I agree with whoever said, ‘You can’t be taught how to write, but you can learn.’ When I do teach a workshop, a lot of it is trying to help people ask the questions that will allow them to work out how they should write, which could well be not like how anybody else goes about it. I also believe that writing is a craft and an art. You can teach the craft, and you can get better at it. The art side of it is the more amor­phous, difficult thing that involves natural talent and inborn imagination. But if you can make yourself better at the craft, you are increasing the chances that it will somehow mesh with your imagination, your talent side and improve the art aspect as well. If you haven’t got much of the talent, but you become a good craftsperson, that might be enough. It’s like making a chair. You can learn to make a chair, and with practice, per­haps even a really lovely chair. But without the natural talent, you won’t be able to make a beau­tiful chair that last hundreds of years and people instinctively respond to as a work of art.

‘‘My favorite book is always the one I haven’t written yet. Because they’re always much more amazing in my head. Which is true of all writ­ers, I think. The unwritten books really are much more incredible. I’m proud of my books, you know, but they never capture what’s in my head completely. I always think, maybe next time I’ll get closer. Of course, you never do, but it keeps you going.’’