Many Happy Returns

Author Cornelia Funke writes her stories in German. They are then translated into English.
Author Cornelia Funke writes her stories in German. They are then translated into English. (By Stuart Ramson -- Scholastic Via Associated Press)
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

In Cornelia Funke's world an orphan boy can befriend a dragon, a father can need his daughter's help to battle evil, and motherless brothers can live with street children in a movie theater in Venice, Italy.

In Funke's world everything is possible -- if only you dare to read.

"Dragon Rider" . . . "The Thief Lord" . . . "Inkheart" . . . "Inkspell."

Her books have dramatically different plots, characters and settings. But all celebrate the power of working together. "I don't believe in the lonely hero," Funke says. "I strongly believe that there's a collaboration of several people and creatures who can help you get through a situation. Sometimes I'm surprised myself by who gets together in my books."

Funke, 47, was born in Germany and now lives in California with her family. ("My name is pronounced FOON-ka, but I don't mind when people call me funky.") She spoke to KidsPost's Tracy Grant about her favorite characters, how "Inkheart" became a trilogy and the power of the happy ending.

When you wrote "Inkheart," it was meant to be a stand-alone book. How did it become a trilogy?

"I planned it as one story and wanted it to be closed with the last page. Then, on the third rewrite, I realized that I wanted to know more [about these characters]. So after I finished, I gave myself two weeks to write down some ideas [for a sequel]. The ideas came in a flood, and that's when I realized it would be three books."

The end of "Inkspell" leaves readers hanging a bit, but Farid promises a happy ending. What can you tell us about the third book?

"I'm very deep into it. I've written more than 400 pages. It will probably be called 'Inkdeath,' and I hope to be finished by the end of next year." (The book would be published in late 2007.) "I know quite a lot about what happens. Despite the title, it won't be as dark as "Inkspell." I promise that. Farid will keep his promise. I can't do bad endings."

Have you thought about writing a sequel to "Dragon Rider"?

"So many children ask me that question. I'm really thinking about it because they are all so passionate about that book. I'll try."

Do you write in German or English?

"I write in German. I've practiced this language for 47 years. I will never be a master in any other language. Anthea Bell, an old lady with cats, does the translation. She's amazing, and her translations are very, very true to my language."

Do you have favorite characters in your books?

"In 'Dragon Rider' it's Twigleg and in 'Thief Lord' it's Prosper, but with 'Inkheart' and 'Inkspell' it changes. I can't say. Some days Elinor is my favorite character; other days it's Fenoglio or Dustfinger."

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