Literaturschock: Before we start: Is there any question you are never asked, but you wish people would ask you?

Jasper Fforde: Yes there is. I would really like someone to ask me: 'Hey jasp, love your books. Can I pay off your mortgage and buuy you a Hawker Hurricane?'

Literaturschock: Jasper, if you look in the mirror and into your own soul, what would you see?

Jasper Fforde: An eight-year-old trying to be noticed. (this reply is true of everyone, almost without exception)

Literaturschock: When you're not writing, what are your favourite ways to relax and have fun?

Jasper Fforde: I have a pilot's licence and when the day is fine there is nothing quite so sporting as taking the 1937 DeHavillandd biplane for a flight above the green fields, rivers and mountains of Wales, the engine burbling healthily, the wind blowing a delicate symphony through the bracing wires. Flying - it's the reason birds sing.

Literaturschock: If you would have a time machine like H.G. Wells' to which time(s) and place(s) you would travel and what would you you do there?

Jasper Fforde: Ah! the 'Time Tourist' conjecture. Well, in no particular order: Being with Howard Carter as he opened the tomb of Tutankhamen (1922, Valley of the Kings); The signing of the Magna Carta (Runymede, 1215); Paganini performing a concert; The first flight of the Wright Brothers, (Kittyhawk, 1903); the return of the first Mars manned mission, (Sea of Tranquillity Spaceport, 2062); watching a meteor hit the earth 72 million years ago; observing Michaelangelo paint the ceiling of the Cistine chapel in the Vatican; Mozart conducting the premier of 'The Magic Flute'; being a passenger on the first Zeppelin round-the-world flight; listening to Edgar Allen Poe reciting 'The Raven', (Baltimore, 1846); attending the Schneider Trophy races, (The Solent, UK, 1932); opening night of Hamlet, (Globe Theatre, 1601); the signing of the Eurasia/Americas/AfroMidEast/Oceania peace accord, (Istanbul, 2351); seeing James Stewart perform 'Harvey' live, (Broadway,1954); the construction of Chartres Cathedral, (Chartres, France, 1272); The independence celebrations on Io, 3217; listening to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysberg address; The lighting of the world's first industrial Fusion reactor, (Bern, 2027); witnessing Martin Luther King's 'I have a Dream' speech; watching the Beatles live at the cavern; Mahatma Winston Smith al Wazeed's historic speech to the citizens of the World State at Europolis in 3419; the launching of Brunel's giant steamship 'The Great Eastern' (London, 1851); the list goes on and on...

Literaturschock: What do you think is the most difficult and the easiest thing about writing?

Jasper Fforde: The most difficult things about writing are the folowing: Sitting in front of a typewriter or computer screen and knowing that the rubbish staring back at you will be vaguely usable after a month's solid work; thinking up a really good idea only to find it's already been used to death after you've published; avoiding wasting time looking on eBay for things you really don't need; dealing with producers who want to option your work but can't take NO for an answer; wanting to answer every email and go to every requested appearance but knowing I can't physically do it; the realisation post-publication that there was a way to improve the book after all; the fact that you have to stop tinkering eventually and hand it over to your publishers; that I will never write anything as funny as 'Three men in a boat', nor as powerful as 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' or as original as 'Alice in Wonderland' or as beautiful as 'The Little Prince'; that try as you might the copyeditor will always find glaring errors no matter how hard you try and that the book will never be perfect, nor even close.

The most easy and enjoyable things about writng are as follows: You can write anywhere you want; the only limit to your book is the power of your own imagination; that you are carrying on a tradition of storytelling that is even older than the oldest profession; you are your own boss; you work from home; you have time to search eBay for all those things you found you needed after all: you can watch movies in the daytime and write it down to research: you can act really weird and no-one seems to mind; you get to meet other more talented writers and speak to them on a one-to-one; you can entertain people; you get to travel; no fixed work hours; you get to play god in your own books; if you don't like someone you can lampoon them in the next novel; best of all, you are doing something you really enjoy.

Literaturschock: You've been compared to Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Monty Python. Have any of these people influenced your writing and sense of the absurd?

Jasper Fforde: Of the three, most by Monty Python, I think - when the Pythons were strutting their stuff on British TV I was aged teen - a very impressionable age. I already had a pretty absurd sense of humour when Douglas arrived on the scene who was I think 'refreshments' in my late teens. But I haven't read any Pratchett at all, although people tell me we have similar themes running though our books. My sense of the absurd comes from a strange mix of an inquiring mind and a brother with a very odd sense of humour.

Literaturschock: Why did you make Acheron Hades the third most evil person in the world? Why not higher or lower in the rankings of evildom?

Jasper Fforde: What is the fun of having a character who is the most evil man on the planet? It's a cliché. But Acheron being the third points not only to him being a bit crap as an evil genius, but also to a larger world outside the boundaries of the book. Who, given Hades obvious homicidal tendencies, is the first and second? And what do they do to achieve such a ranking? And who keeps the rankings? Do they have a self-help group with people like Blofeld and Moriarty?

Literaturschock: What genre do you see yourself writing in?

Jasper Fforde: What genre am I? I really don't know. I'm not a great one for looking at what everyone else is up to - I read veryy little contemporary literature. If I had stopped to do market research on current reading trends than I don't think 'The Eyre Affair' would have turned out anything like it did. I write what I want to write in the way I choose because it interests me, and also, I hope, anyone who wants to be entertained. Disturbingly, one of the most abundant and wholly useless pieces of advice I received before I were published was: 'Well, Mr Ford (they never could spell my name) perhaps you should look at the best-seller lists and base your writing on that?' Truly the worst advice one can give, but in all fairness most agents and publishers are inundated with material and have to say something. The Cross-genre feel of the book put a huge amount of publishers off (76 rejections) and the précis itself condemned the manuscript to be unread by everyone I approached ­ until my agent, hungry for material, read the whole thing, loved it and sold it to Penguin seven weeks later. In many ways I think it is probably better for me to steer clear of categorising; I just write silly books and hope people enjoy them.

Literaturschock: One of the very funny plot points is the continuing argument over the authorship of Shakespeare's plays - and the resolution of the question is quite funny. What's your opinion on this all- important issue - Did Shakespeare write his own plays?

Jasper Fforde: Yes, of course he did. The whole question about the authorship was just good old-fashioned Intellectual Snobbery. Thhe intellectuals of the 18th and 19th centuries thought the idea of a Warwickshire nobody writing the finest works in the English language an affront to their own educational standards and authority within England, and started hunting around for anyone else (usually educated and titled) who must have done them. In truth, the only person who could write comparably at the time was Kit Marlowe, but he died before most of the plays were written. (Think what Kit might have written, had he lived!) No, I'm afraid it was Shakespeare all the way. In fact, maybe Shakespeare wrote all the works usually attributed to Bacon and the Earl of OxfordŠ

Literaturschock: What is the thing, that makes a book to a very special book for you? What are you currently reading?

Jasper Fforde: A good story well told, obviously. But to make a book special I think you have to grow up with it or to have discovered it at a very early age.

My particular favourite are the two 'Alice' Books by Lewis Carroll. These appealed to my sense of humour when I was about ten and still do - but since I have grown up with them they have a 'factor X' that seperates them from other books; a familiarity that no recently discovered book could ever have. One's formative years, I believe, forge links with people, places, objects, stories and pursuits that last a lifetime. Of all the things that interest me (and many things do) I still have an inordinate fondness for the riches I first discovered in my childhood.

What am I currenty reading? I always have at least four or five books on the go at any one time. I am currently reading or dipping in to: 'The Sceptics Dictionary' edited by Robert Todd Carroll (Mankind's overwhelming capacity for self-delusion is always fascinating) 'Inside the Sky' by William Langewiesche) (an excellent aviation book; I always have at least one of these on the go at any time) 'A short History of almost everything' by Bill Bryson, The Book of the 'Ig Nobel' awards for bad science; 'Flashman at the Charge' by George McDonald Fraser, (excellent fun. I am working my way through the series), 'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde (to make sure there are no continuity errors in book four: 'Something Rotten'.)

Literaturschock: Thank you very much for your time, Jasper! Many greetings from the Black Forest!

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