Literaturschock: When did you start writing?

Herbie Brennan: When I was a child, I suppose. I'd wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember and I loved essay assignments at school. I wrote my first book when I was in my early teens, an utterly unreadable experimental novel full of teenage angst called 'Song of Autumn.' I started writing professionally at age 18, as a journalist and had the nerve to send the awful novel to the world's largest literary agency, Curtis Brown Ltd., in London. They declined to handle it, of course, but were kind enough to say they would like to look at anything else I had. I sent them some short stories and they handled my short fiction for a few years before they got tired of waiting for me to write another novel and dumped me.

Literaturschock: Is it easier to write for children or to write for adults?

Herbie Brennan: I don't find much difference between the two. I spent a lot of time working in advertising which taught me the importance of clarity in writing, so I've always tried to simplify constructions and language. But I try to do that in both adult and children's material, so my style doesn't really vary.

Literaturschock: You wrote this great Fairy novels. Which person of the story would you like to be: Henry, Pyrgus, Blue, Mr. Fogarty or possibly Brimstone? And why?

Herbie Brennan: What a great question! I think I'm already a lot like Henry (or at least I was when I was younger) and I'm certainly fond of animals like Pyrgus, although I don't have his adventurous nature. But that's not what you're asking, of course: the question is which character I would like to be. I think, on balance, it would have to be Fogarty. He's interested in a lot of the things I am, like flying saucers, sub-nuclear physics and psychotronics, he takes no nonsense from anybody and I quite like the idea of having a wicked secret in my past like his bank robbing.

Literaturschock: What inspired you to write that story?

Herbie Brennan: An American friend of mine in the toy business called me several years ago and said his company had carried out market research which indicated that the next big thing in toys was going to be fairies. They were planning to bring out a line of fairy figures with butterfly wings and he wanted me to write some booklets to go with them. I agreed, but then time went by and the project never actually came to anything.

A year or so later when he was in Ireland visiting, I asked about the fairy figures and he told me his company had been diverted onto something else, but added that he was certain the market research was solid and suggested I should write a book about fairies. I told him I had absolutely no interest in anything of that sort.

At that point he said something very odd. He asked if I knew anything about butterflies. I told him I didn't and he suggested I should get myself a book on butterflies because their names would make excellent fantasy characters. So next morning I bought myself a little Guide to Butterflies and Moths and discovered he was absolutely right. The names were fabulous: the Purple Emperor, Brimstone, the Red Admiral, Holly Blue, the Grizzled Skipper, the Painted Lady and so on. Even their Latin names were wonderful: Pyrgus Malvae, Apatura Iris, Cynthia Cardui...

As I read those wonderful names, characters started to come alive in my head and I knew I had to write the book. As a result, all the faeries in it are named after butterflies or moths.

Literaturschock: Why did you choose such a difficult relationship between Henry’s parents?

Herbie Brennan: I didn't. When I write fiction, I have no control at all over the characters. I read somewhere that J. K. Rowling has shoe-boxes full of notes about everything that's going to happen to Harry Potter. I could never do that. I discovered years ago that when I try to plot a book, it never turns out the way I want, so I stopped trying. Now I just give the characters their head and see what happens. This can be a bit hair-raising because I can never tell where a book is going or how it's going to end: writing, for me, is a process of discovery. I can still remember the shock I felt when Henry's father told Henry his mother was a lesbian. I thought: you can't put that in a children's book! But by then it was too late. The characters had gone their own way and there it was down on the page.

Literaturschock: Do you believe in fairies and magicians?

Herbie Brennan: I trained as a magician for nine years, so I suppose I must believe in magic (although it doesn't work the way most people imagine.) Fairies were a bit more difficult until I saw a herd of fairy horses one Hallowe'en night at a megalithic earthwork in Ireland. There were about 25 of them, pure white and only about two feet high. I had a friend with me at the time who also saw them, so that ruled out hallucination. Many years later I found I could see little energy shapes above certain flowers in summer; and teach others to see them too, with a little bit of effort. I'm not sure these fairies are anything like the fairies I write about, though.

Literaturschock: Granted that you meet a fairy, what is the first question you ask her?

Herbie Brennan: 'Where do you come from?'

Literaturschock: A magician comes to you and gives you the chance to change something – just one thing – in your life. What would it be?

Herbie Brennan: I think I'd ask him to put the wish on hold until I really needed it. I live a terribly fortunate life at the moment: lovely wife, two nice daughters, lots of cats; I get to write what I want and lovely people want to interview me in Germany.

Literaturschock: Do you choose your bookcovers on your own – If yes, do they have a special meaning?

Herbie Brennan: No, I don't. Like most writers, my standard contracts often forbid me to have any say over the presentation of the finished book, including the cover. That said, most of my publishers are polite enough to consult me about their cover plans and will usually take on board any changes I might suggest. I loved the German cover for 'Faerie Wars' (it was one of my two absolute favourites for the work, the other being the Japanese cover.) I liked the British cover enormously. I didn't like the American cover particularly, but the publishers said it was very suited to their market and it turned out they were right, so it's probably a very good thing they don't let me choose my own.

Literaturschock: Would you be so kind as to tell us something about the two serialised novels?

Herbie Brennan: 'Faerie Wars' is in many ways Henry's story: a boy who escapes from problems at home into a world that helps him grow up. 'Purple Emperor' is essentially Pyrgus's story: a boy who has to face up to the problems of following in father's footsteps. The third book, provisionally called 'Blue,' is planned as Holly Blue's story and I'll be really interested to find out what that will be. (I rather like Blue.) The fourth, provisionally called 'Dragonfire' will hopefully draw all the stories together and resolve issues like the relationship between Henry and Blue. After that, if anybody still wants to read about the Faerie Realm, I might shuffle sideways and explore the stories of some of the other characters. I have a hankering to write a book about the Boy Brimstone, to try to find out what turned him into the monster he is in old age.

Literaturschock: Thank you so much, Mr. Brennan! I really appreciate your taking the time to let me interview you.

Das Interview wurde von Maria Scherrer für Literaturschock geführt

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