Jasper Fforde is the author of 12 genre-bending fantasy novels, including the bestselling Thursday Next series. The latest entry, “The Woman Who Died a Lot,” is out this week. Fforde spoke by phone from his home in Wales, just before a month-long U.S. book tour.
Your new novel opens with Detective Thursday, now in her 50s, recovering from a car accident and unable to slug it out with the bad guys the way she used to. That seems grimly realistic for a fanciful character who can enter classic novels and rewrite their endings.
It’s going against the rather ludicrous notion that our action heroes — like James Bond and Bourne — have these fights and fall out of cars and airplanes and motorcycles and then just sort of brush themselves off and walk away. I thought, “Well, no, she’s been in a car accident, and it’s going to be quite painful.” The last book took place all in the BookWorld, and I thought, “I’m going to have this one take place all in the real world.” It is really a domestic potboiler about dealing with issues that her teenage children have. It’s just that, because it’s a Thursday Next book, the issues are mildly unusual, to say the least.
What’s left for Thursday’s time-traveling son, Friday?
The time-travel thread that involved Thursday’s father and her son was really killed off two books ago. And then I got to thinking, “I wonder, once you’ve killed off this plot, if there aren’t some sort of echoes that can still have some dramatic interest.” It also really says to me what I enjoy about writing in the fantasy genre: Only in fantasy could Friday know that his life is going to turn out really badly and can’t do anything about it. What do you do about something like that? I think that’s just one of the hugely enjoyable things about working in that genre.
You now have three series going. Which one do you plan to tackle next?
Do you enjoy seeing more authors play with genre the way you do?
Someone said to me that I was the grandfather of mash-up, which I’m not sure is true at all. But it is interesting to note that there are now murder stories taking place in Pemberley in the “Pride & Prejudice” world, which I don’t think would have been done before. Terry Pratchett now has a book called “Dodger,” which is presumably the character from Dickens. And there are all sorts looking at these characters and saying, “Well, yeah, why can’t we play with them? Why can’t we reinvent them? Why can’t we reimagine them?” And I think maybe there’s a little bit there from me.
Despite your former career in film, there are no movies of your books.
No, not yet. It would be nice to get back to the film industry — my first love, after all. I’m trying to put together a script for “The Last Dragonslayer,” which will be quite nice. A producer said to me, “We like this idea, and we’d like to see how you’d like it done.” And I said, “Well, just give me a couple of months, and I’ll see if I can come up with a screenplay to it.” And that was about a year ago, and they’re still waiting, and I’m still writing.
Zipp regularly reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post.