Terry Pratchett interview

Terry Pratchett

A shorter version of this interview appears in SFX issue 149.

The theme of Wintersmith seems to be the mistakes adolescents make.
"Well I just extended things on from the first two books featuring Tiffany. I don't know if it's exactly about the mistakes adolescents make, but I know what you mean. I thought it quite nice to start with her making a huge mistake cos, frankly, that's how half the fairytales work: you do something bad, you open the wrong door, you step off the path, you go into the wood when you shouldn't, and bad things happen and you have to work your way out of them. There's one hell of a lot of folklore in Wintersmith but all of it's chopped up and repainted."

Where did Tiffany come from originally?
"God knows. Interviews like this are always about post-facto reasoning. You create stuff and then afterwards you have to work out why it happened like that. But anyone who's written a fantasy book knows that a young protagonist is always useful cos when you're young you're ignorant, and you have to learn. And of course you want the readers to learn as well. And of course if the protagonist is female, in the normal fantasy setting, that puts her at a slight disadvantage compared to the boys, so there's going to be more for her to do. So, from a purely cynical point of view, Tiffany was a very good heroine to have. And, I don't know... I just liked her from the word go."

She's got tough teachers, especially Granny Weatherwax.
"I think Granny moves her around so she's in position to learn the kinds of things she needs to learn. But it was clear to me that in Wintersmith Tiffany was older in many respects than she was in, say, The Wee Free Men and she's almost distressingly level-headed throughout most of the book, but I quite like that - I quite like heroes and heroines who think like we do, you know what I mean? We watch the movies and we start shouting at the screen: 'Don't split up! Don't start looking for the damn cat!' And you just know they're going to do it. Tiffany, generally speaking, tries to work things out."

Tell us a bit about the Nac Mac Feegles
"The Nac Mac Feegles are basically pixies who have seen Braveheart altogether too many times. They go around in a mob and they drink and fight and steal. And they're very, very popular among American kids. Somehow I seem to have crept in under the radar with that and it gets read in schools. I had to promise my American editor that they don't actually swear. Nothing that they actually say - even if we sit there with a book of Gaelic or Glaswegian slang - is actually a swear word. I think kids like it because they're anarchical, that they do what they want and they go where they please and we've all got a soft spot for people like that - except, of course, in real life."

And they've got their own Luggage in Horace the Cheese...
"Horace is just one of those things that turned up. He plays no important part in the plot, but I just liked the idea of a cheese that caught mice."

Tell us about the next book, Making Money.
"It's a direct sequel to Going Postal, involving several of the main characters. If you want a crude shorthand, it's [Going Postal's conman protagonist] Moist Van Lipwig doing for banking what he did for the Post Office. It's something of an ensemble book, there are lots of characters. Despite the fact that it takes place in the oldest bank in Ankh-Morpork, and Moist always thought of banks as being rather dull places, there are very few characters in it who are entirely sane."

Did Making Money come partly out of the research for Going Postal?
"Not really, but it came out of writing Going Postal because I was hinting then about Vetinari wanting the city to go over to paper money. A lot of the book is, if you step back from the fun and games, about: what is money? What is it that makes us believe that this little piece of paper with a picture on it is actually worth a good meal? What would happen if we stopped believing that?"

Tell us about the movie deal.
"I've just signed a movie deal with Sony for The Wee Free Men to be directed by Sam Raimi. That came about because Pamela Pettler [Corpse Bride], the scriptwriter, came across The Wee Free Men, fell in love with it and passed it on to Sam Raimi, who asked Sony to buy it."

Are you hopeful about it? Because you've been burned by Hollywood before...
"Burned... I don't know, but I've had lots of problems and, for example, Truckers is sitting there at DreamWorks, clearly waiting until they've finished Shrek 17 and that is a nuisance, but this time round I think I've got a pretty good deal no matter what happens. I've got some confidence this movie will go ahead and, if it doesn't, I'll be able to console myself by falling backwards onto the pile of money.

"One of the things that happened at the recent Discworld con was the guys from The Mob [the production company making Hogfather for Sky One] brought along a pretty-well finished trailer for Hogfather and that got a standing ovation. People were jumping up and down and crying and stuff. They had a million plastic teeth in four different tooth shapes made to help them fill up the Tooth Fairy's palace. They brought along a bag of them so that everyone in the audience could have a souvenir. So afterwards there was the queue for the teeth. Knowing fans you won't be surprised to know that, within minutes, the jeweller in the dealer room was being presented with teeth and asked to turn them into earrings and pendants."

There will be a full report on the making of Hogfather in a future issue of SFX.