have thought it was a pop concert as a host of excited teens stampeded
through Cheltenham Town Hall in hot pursuit of their hero.
was fan worship Pullman-style! Hundreds
of Philip Pullman fans queued up to meet him when the award-winning
author visited Cheltenham Festival of Literature.
BBC Gloucestershire avoided the scrum and got an exclusive chance
to ask him the questions that fans from as far away as the US and
Canada told us YOU wanted the answers to.
I only thought about 80 people would read them at most. I never
dreamed they would become so popular.
Pullman on the His Dark Materials trilogy
read on to find out more about the amazing imagination of Philip
Pullman and what inspires the award-winning author of the celebrated
His Dark Materials trilogy.
How long did it take you to write the His Dark Materials trilogy,
with all the philosophical and religious problems that Lyra and
her friends run in to?
Morgan Lee Elwell, 14, Richmond, Virginia
Pullman: Seven years from beginning to end. But I didn't plan
it all out in advance - otherwise I would have spent seven years
following a plan and would have gone mad. You have to have the freedom
to let the story go off in unexpected directions. But I did a lot
of re-writing to sort it out afterwards. That's the way I work.
What age group did you write them for? I read them when I was seven
or eight, and I loved them! But my friend, who read The Golden Compass
a few weeks before her tenth birthday, didn't understand it. I couldn't
understand how she could read the ending, and not have to read the
second and third books!
Margaret Lindeman (Your Number 1 Fan), 10, Kingston, New York
I wrote them for the age I was at the time I started the story -
which was a rather tired 43-year-old!
Did you expect the books to be such a success? I have heard that
many people write their books, expecting only a few to be sold,
and they turn out to be a huge thing.
Joss Love, 12, Cheltenham
No, I only thought about 80 people would read them at most. I never
dreamed they would become as popular as they have.
fans eager to meet their hero
Were Lyra or Will based on someone from your own life?
Chloe Simmonds, 11, Greet
Not on particular individuals, but when I was a teacher I taught
a lot of young people of Will and Lyra's age. I wanted to show that
ordinary children, without magical gifts, are capable of achieving
Why did you choose Oxford as the setting?
Peter Lane, 15, Lechlade
Because I'm lazy! I have lived in Oxford and know it well so it
saves on research. And Oxford is also a fascinating place in lots
of different ways, with its academic life, the business world and
its artistic traditions.
Where did you get your inspiration for the His Dark Materials series
Carrieanne French, 12, West Lothian
Pullman wrote a message to Marie in Chinese!
From everything I've ever read! I have always loved stories and
I enjoy poetry too.
Which of your minor characters deserves his or her own novel?
Tom Croft, 13, Reading
Oh, that's a very good question. There are quite a few but the explorer
Lee Scoresby and the bear Iorek Byrnison are old companions by the
time we meet them. It would be interesting to know more about what
happened to them earlier in their lives.
was the winner of our competition for tickets to see Philip Pullman
Do you believe people (from our world) can learn to see their inner
dæmons like Mary Malone did?
Stephanie, 16, Marlboro, New Jersey
There are many places in the world where it is believed people have
a spirit animal, so yes, I think they probably can.
What kind of animal is your daemon?
(Audience member, Cheltenham LitFest)
I have discovered it is probably a bird, one of the crow family
that steals bright things like a jackdaw or a rook or a raven, because
that is what writers do. Whether it's a diamond like Shakespeare
or a bit of tinfoil like EastEnders or Neighbours, we pick up or
steal bits of shiny stuff, ideas, something that sets fire to our
mind and we take it back to our nest and do something with it.
You are the latest in a tradition of Oxford writers for children
like Tolkien and CS Lewis. What do you think of their books?
Emily Davies, 16, Lower Swell
wanted to show that ordinary children, without magical gifts,
are capable of achieving extraordinary things.
I don't like them. What I mean is that Tolkien in particular creates
a fantasy world that is very different from our own and I am more
interested in a world that is closer to our reality. And CS Lewis
hated the physical world and thought there was a better place somewhere
else, like Heaven or Narnia. I don't believe that. We are physical
beings and I think this world is the precious place, and we need
to look after it.
When Pantalaimon and Kirjava eventually die along with Lyra and
Will, will their atoms ever be able to meet with each other now
that the windows between the worlds have been closed?
Kevin Ferenchak, 15, Lake Forest, Illinois
I would like to think so. We'll see, won't we?
When you were growing up, who did you admire most, and why?
Audience member, Cheltenham LitFest
People who did things I wanted to do. And I always wanted to
Are your books available on audio for people who can't read or can't
Carlton Ryan, 11, Swindon
Yes, and they are very good because I every word in the books is
in there - and it's me reading them!
Is there anything you would like to have changed about His Dark
Kay Bergman, Montreal
There's always something that a writer thinks afterward they could
have done better, more emphasis on this, a better way of saying
that. But no, nothing major.
Will you be going to see the production at the National Theatre
Katherine McDonald, 15, Chelmsford
What do you think? Of course I will!
What do you think of the casting for the National Theatre show?
Julia Carter, 15, Tewkesbury
Pullman's new book is a guide to Lyra's world
I think it's fantastic. Lyra will be played by Anna Maxwell Martin,
and when I saw her at the readthrough I was utterly convinced that
she was Lyra - she looks like the Lyra I had in my head and she
is very clever in a streetwise way like Lyra. And Dominic Cooper,
who plays Will, is brilliant. Timothy Dalton, who lots of people
will remember as James Bond, is Lord Asriel and Patricia Hodge,
who is one of my favourite actresses, will play Mrs Coulter. Niamh
Cusack is the witch Serafina Pekkala. I am sure they will bear out
all the hopes I have of it (the production) and I hope yours aswell.
Why did you choose the aurora borealis to play a significant role
in your HDM trilogy?
Joseph Kearins, 14, Northampton
Because it is such a spectacular phenomomen that strikes wonder
into anyone who sees it.
He tells a story that COULD be real - it is his way of describing
it that makes it real. Even when he takes old ideas he puts
a fresh spin on them. It's a brilliant fantasy but utterly believable
because the emotions in different situations are so realistic.
Pullman fan Jo Ganford, 16,
What is your new book about?
Ben Hurley, Oxford
PP: So many people have written to ask me what happens next
and will Lyra see Will again that I wanted to do a kind of stepping
stone from the trilogy to the next novel The Book of Dust, which
Philip is still working on) which is set four years on. I wanted
to know what Lyra was doing in the meantime. It is set in Oxford
- hers, not ours - and is about Lyra coming to understand something
about the city she lives in. It is a bit of a mystery that refers
backward and forwards. You have to work out which references are
What advice would you give to young writers like myself?
Alison Thorpe, 14, Cirencester
Write about what YOU want to. Nobody ever said before Harry Potter
came along, oh, we must have a book about Harry Potter. You know
what you will be able to tell a good story about. So don't let anybody
tell you what you should write about. You know best!
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