Here’s how their conversations went…
Freddie: When writing Blood Red Snow White, was it Arthur Ransom that interested you, or was it the state of Russia at the time?
Marcus Sedgwick: I’d always loved Arthur Ransome’s books as a child – when it transpired that he’d led such an incredible double life in Russia during the Revolution the desire to write about it was too great to ignore – I’ve also always loved Russian history and folk tales and in fact one of my favourite books as a child was Ransome’s retellings of Russian fairy tales.
Freddie: Do you set many of your books in Eastern Europe because you like the culture in that part of the world?
Marcus Sedgwick: I’ve only set one or two books in Eastern Europe but yes I do love the area, as well as Scandinavia where another of my books, Revolver, is set.
Freddie: Which authors, adult and teen, have given the most inspiration, drive etc?
Marcus Sedgwick: Here are some of them: Susan Cooper, Peter Dickinson, Arthur Ransome, Edgar Allan Poe, Mervyn Peake, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway.
Freddie: Which is your favourite character from all the books that you’ve written?
Marcus Sedgwick: That’s probably an impossible question, so I’m going to cheat slightly and say it’s the protagonist of my next book, which isn’t out till October. Her name is Laureth. If I had to choose a character from an existing book, I’d say Ferelith in White Crow.
Freddie: What do you think of the debate that “teenage” books (like yours, The Book Thief, Noughts and Crosses, Hunger Games etc.) should be put with adult books and authors? Do you write your books with a teenage audience in mind or do you simply write without trying to gear books towards young adults?
Marcus Sedgwick: Well, that’s a BIG subject. The fact of the matter is that books have to be put somewhere, in one department of the bookshop or another (sometimes they’re in more than one place). Even if you’re shopping online, the book has to be categorised in some way. This might sound like I’m avoiding the question, but as an author you just tend to write the book you want to write, (mostly) in the way you want to. Between you and your readers are the wonderful people who put your books and those readers together – these people include publishers/booksellers/librarians and many others. I know that I have many adults read my books, possibly as many as the young people who do, and I am very happy if ANYONE wants to read my books… Therefore, I think the process of how the books get to who they do is important, but not as important as the result – ie, a (hopefully) happy reader. So I don’t worry too much about what my books are called, as long as people can find them.
Freddie: And, do you think that the age of the characters is the reason that they aren’t? Or do you think that adult and teenage books are totally different.
Marcus Sedgwick: No, I don’t. I think it’s a huge mistake to say that books for children have children in and books for adults have adults in (and no children). There are many counter examples. I find it amazing when people make such claims – do they not think about their own reading experience as a child/teenager/adult? Most people I speak to like just one sort of book – ie good ones – and don’t worry too much about whether they’re reading about a protagonist who happens to be the same age as them. Or gender or race or class or in fact any other category. So , no, I don’t think books for adults and teens are particularly different, or at least, they’re not as different as some people would like to make out, and sometimes the difference is very hard to spot at all.
Freddie: What is your favourite novel?
Marcus Sedgwick: That’s too hard a question to ask a book lover! I don’t have just one. I get asked that question a lot (unsurprisingly), so what I do is always give a different answer. Today I’m going to say The Winter Book by Tove Jansson.
Freddie: Finally, when are you coming to my school?
Marcus Sedgwick: I don’t know where you go to school but I’m always happy to accept invitations 🙂