A GeekMom Award for Jasper Fforde!

Close shot of Jasper Fforde
Author Jasper Fforde, 2006/7. Picture credit: Mari Fforde.

Is Jasper Fforde a geek? That’s still undecided (read his answer below). But he’s undoubtedly a mom !

Wait a minute, Jasper Fforde’s a man, how can he be a mum?
Well, he deserves to be. If there was such things as GeekMom Awards, he’d get one for sure.

For now, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, which means we’re actually going to get a new Thursday, as the 6th issue of her adventures will be released on Marc, 8 (or February, 21 if you are British, lucky you!)

As part of this happy occasion, Jasper Fforde agreed to an interview with GeekMom.

As you’ll notice, he’s able to give smart answers even to silly questions (and I cut the silliest one… even if I have to recommend again the wonderful Entroposcope: any Geek Family should have one).

GeekMom : We’d like to thank you heartily in the name of every geek mom ! We were recently regretting the lack of strong mother characters in books we love, mothers who love their children, and care for them, but still had their own issues. And Thursday Next was the first name we came up with (on a very, very short list). Do you feel the same lack? Did you plan to make Thursday a mom from the beginning? And if not, did you consider to stop writing about her since she became a wife and mother? And if (still) not, did her motherhood change your vision of the character?

Jasper Fforde: Mothers, like teachers and librarians, are overlooked in fiction. It needn’t be so, but I can understand why: the sometimes dreary travails of motherhood just don’t make for very exciting reading. It needn’t be thus, as it is the writer’s job to be able to make drama out of anything.

One of the central tenets I tend to write by is ‘always choose the less worn path’.

It’s a simple statement and one that would have thought was fairly obvious, and embraced by many – but you might be mistaken. The well-worn path is well worn for a very good reason. If you have a strong female protagonist, the obvious route to deal with the personal side of her character (always important, like comedy relief, to get away from the main action for a breather ) is to introduce vast  quantities of unsuitable boyfriends, and have the loneliness and solitude as one of the facets that drives their character along. This happens a lot, and my reaction to this was, no, let’s have Thursday as a total one-guy gal, who finally kicks in with the love of her life in her mid-thirties and is with him from then on.

The question then remains is to how do we pepper her life with interest now she is in a stable and mutually respectful relationship? Infidelity? Too mundane. How about having Landen not just killed but eradicated by time travelling blackmailers attempting to get Thursday to do something she doesn’t want to do? Perfect. TN2 is essentially a book about a woman trying to get her husband back, and failing. It adds a level to her character that I really enjoy, and also set the tone for how we deal with Thursday and family throughout the series, and what sort of a guy Landen is – a rock, essentially, who understands and appreciates that his function is to support a wholly remarkable woman with no ego, no fuss, and no complaints.

The same ‘less trodden path’ deal came into being when the children arrived, too. They are kind of unusual, but it doesn’t stop Thursday being Thursday, nor Landen being Landen, and since I have many children of my own, it wasn’t a subject I was going to shy away with – I was just going to add my own way of looking at it. One of the themes in TN5 was ‘How can I engineer a plot device so that a teenager can save the world by doing nothing?’ There are many, many teenagers out there who think they can and are doing precisely that, and equally, a lot of parents who long for the day when the hairy object in bedroom three can once again talk. I wove this in with the plot, and it worked very well. She can do what she does and be a mother, and the two get very well.

Did her motherhood change her character? Not really. She was always very passionate about stuff, and now she had an extra dimension to be passionate about. I think you’d have to be very, very stupid to threaten Thursday’s children or husband – Goliath stay well away for that reason.

GeekMom: You seem to like science, incredible gadgets, use Star Wars parodic lines, feature a Lorem Ipsum’s speaking baby… and I don’t even talk about the amount of various references in your books.
So, do you consider a geek yourself? Are your books designed for geek readers?

Jasper Fforde: I’m interested in everything, as humans are fascinating creatures, with almost no end to their creativity, ingenuity, and stupidity. So I love all Stuff.

More recently, I’ve got into the Stuff of Stuff, which is far more interesting than just Stuff. I like Apple computers, but the whole background to Apple is equally amazing. Yes, Gaudi was an astonishing architect, but who were the people who had the foresight and vision to commission his work? The Stuff of Stuff.

The books are designed primarily for me. A writer should always write about what interests them. If they didn’t, I think they would come out all forced and a bit faux. If people didn’t share my mildly odd view of the world, then I’d still be a writer writing stuff, just unpublished.

GeekMom: As I’m also a literature teacher: when will I be able to come with groups of students into the BookWorld? Will they be allowed to follow Jurisfiction‘s affairs for a day? Which device could I use if I don’t want a Goliath one?

Jasper Fforde: I think we enter the Bookworld whenever we read a book. I’m not sure Jurisfiction much care for having Outlanders visit, nor for letting Outlanders know they exist. Many ‘SuperReaders’ try to hack their way into Text Grand Central, but few succeed – the surroundings are painted in soporific paint, so any hackers that do try to get in, immediately nod off.

GeekMom: More seriously: do you think that our world is becoming like Thursday’s RealWorld in First Among Sequels? With more reality-shows and less reading, and a shortening Now? Or are you more optimistic and think that we are saved from this danger and our Now is growing again?  (subliminate question behind this one: can we Geek Moms save the world by trying to lengthen our children’s Now?)

Jasper Fforde: Thankfully, reality shows seem to be on the wane, but don’t forget that we are changing into our own parents, and tutting at things that our parents used to tut to us about, so whinges we may have about how rubbish things are today might simply be because that’s what happens when you start getting older, and objectivity is not as clear cut as it should be.

Mind you, our kids aren’t objective either. Perhaps there is a moment, eight minutes in length sometime around one’s 27th birthday when you finally get it, and everything is truthful and clear cut. But then someone cuts the queue in front of you and you get all self-righteous, and the moment’s gone. Yes, I think attention spans should be longer, and rather than trying to decrease our tragically short window humans seem to find themselves in – about four years, it seems – we should attempt to broaden it. Sadly, I don’t think we’re wired that way.

It’s evolution’s little joke: Eye-popping intelligence, but almost no wisdom. The world needs a few more grown-ups in positions of power, to be honest.

Should we try and instill a longer Now in our kids? Of course. But they probably won’t like it. If there is a clash between popular culture and a parent’s waggy finger, guess who’s going to win. My view on this whole deal is to introduce your kids to good and worthy stuff when you still have any control, then wave the white flag during the dark teenage years. You’ll be surprised how much stuff bubbles to the surface later on.

GeekMom: How is it to tour the USA for a writer? Does it involve a lot of sex, drugs, and experimental writing?

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde, books on a bookshelf falling on a tiny female character
Thursday Next 6th book, American edition cover

Jasper Fforde: Great fun, actually, as all tours are. Meeting people, and hearing which parts of my books appealed to them is of especial interest. It also allows me a period of guilt-free non-writing, as I rarely have a moment to myself on tour, and believe me, guilt-free procrastination is very hard to come by. Two books a year is a stretch, so I have to write all day most days. Doesn’t work that way, but I feel I’ve wasted a day if I haven’t got something down.

Tours are very frenetic. If my only view of the States was from my book tours, I would be able to say categorically that 95% of America was Airports, Bookstores, Cabs, Hotels, Starbucks and trying to find somewhere that can do laundry in under eighteen hours.

To be continued… with GeekMom’s review of One of our Thursdays Is Missing. For now, you may pre-order your own copy !

You may also compete to win the two millionth copy of his book, a ‘C’ format UK 1st edition of Shades of Grey, signed by Jasper Fforde, by entering the TN6 Sleuthing competition. Questions will be posted up there on the 1st March 2011.

Is Jasper Fforde coming somewhere close to you? Check the dates of the UK and USA/Canada Tours.

The GeekMom blog is captained by Natania Barron, Corrina Lawson, and Jenny Williams, and supported by a brilliant team of writers. Since launching in 2010, we’ve created a robust community of writers, readers, and media geeks, dedicated to the vision of creating a smart, savvy, social online experience for geek parents everywhere.