Friday, September 22, 2023

Q&A with John Connolly


Photo by Mark Condren


John Connolly is the author of the new novel The Land of Lost Things, a sequel to his novel The Book of Lost Things. His other books include the Charlie Parker thrillers. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.


Q: Why did you decide to write this follow-up to The Book of Lost Things, and how would you describe the relationship between the two novels?


A: During lockdown, I made a run at a movie adaptation for The Book of Lost Things, which only served to demonstrate that a movie couldn't be made; the book isn't long, but there's a lot in it.


That, I suppose, made me want to return to the universe of that book, but as a very different person from the man in his 30s who wrote the original.


TBOLT is a very personal book for me, as I put much of myself into David. It's a book about childhood and adolescence, whereas this is a book about parenthood, and to some degree the worries of middle age, when we become parents to our own parents while also being parents to our children.


Had I returned to the world of these books before I'd changed, I'd simply have repeated myself. This way, it remains personal and different.


As for the relationship between them, they share characters, and a sensibility, but you don't have to have read the first to embrace the second, although the experience will be different if you have.


Q: How did you create your characters Ceres and Phoebe?


A: I don't know how to answer that question, sorry. It implies a kind of methodical process, but for me – as someone who doesn't plan books – characters are discovered through the act of writing, and I discover more with each new draft.


All I can say is that there's a lot of me in Ceres, but then there's a lot of me in all the characters, good or bad.


Q: What do you think the novel says about the power of storytelling?


A: If the first book was about the power of fairy tales, this one looks more to folklore, and the persistence of myths. They remain ways to understand the world, and our place in it.


But the novel is also about the way stories can enable us to escape for a time into them, even though we can never really escape because we bring all of our experiences to everything we read. As someone once said of going away to "find yourself", wherever you go, there you are. 


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I never know, and I wouldn't want to write a novel if I was aware in advance of anything more than a scene or two. It just wouldn't interest me. For me, writing is a slow, organic process, and my experience of writing the first draft is similar to the reader's later experience of reading the finished book. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I've just delivered next year's Parker book, have another in early draft form, and I'm trying to finish the final year of a Ph.D. God forbid I should have idle hands...


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I don't bite.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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