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Meet the Author: Brian Jacques


Brian Jacques
    
Brian Jacques (pronounced "jakes") was born in Liverpool, England. When he was 10 years old he wrote a story for school that was so well-written his teacher didn't believe he had written it. After he finished school Brian worked as a merchant seaman. He eventually returned to Liverpool and worked in a variety of jobs. While he was working as a truck driver delivering milk to the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind he wrote Redwall for the students there. Brian's childhood English teacher showed Redwall to a publisher without his knowledge and started Brian's writing career. Brian still lives in Liverpool as do his two grown sons, Marc and David.



Q&A with Brian Jacques

Q: Was there a definitive moment in your life when you realized that writing fiction would be both a rewarding and lucrative venture?

A: As a young boy I had no burning desire to become an author. I wanted to be a sailor, and I was when I began working. However, I was always a good writer, though I had no formal education. I always wrote poems, songs, short stories, and observations on most things in general. So wasn't I lucky that one day somebody chanced to read a tale of mine called Redwall, which I had created for blind children at a school in my hometown of Liverpool. This good person showed my work to a publisher who decided to put it in print. I repeat…Wasn't I lucky! I've never looked back since. What a great spot of good fortune, to do what you enjoy most doing, for a living. Sometimes I wake up and pinch myself, just to make sure it is all real, and I am who I am!

Q: Your Redwall books are so creative and imaginative. Where do you get your inspiration for them?

A: As to what inspired me to write Redwall, and its subsequent novels. I previously said that Redwall was written by me as a story to be read aloud for the children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool. I visualized something that would excite and grip young minds, just like the books I had enjoyed as a young boy. I wanted something timeless, which would not date. "Once upon a time, long ago and far away, in an old summer woodland, beneath a blue forgotten sky…"and I continued from there, picturing adventures in rustic locations, which I had never experienced as a lad, growing up in an industrial city seaport. The more I wrote the deeper into that magical world I went. I still go there each year, it is my escape from present day living, a wonderful journey into imagination.

Q: You've written a few books with a human as one of the main characters. What inspired the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman series?

A: Tales of the sea, that mighty water, which encircles our world. Unfathomable in places, filled with mystery, legend, and danger. I've always lived close to the sea, and am still fascinated by it; I've been a sailor too. I chose the story of the Flying Dutchman, one of the great sea riddles. Now, picture the heroes, not as villainous Vanderdecken and his wicked crew, but as a boy, and his dog. The only two innocents aboard that accursed vessel. The curse that was lifted from them by the Angel, and its subsequent cost. To roam the seas and lands forever. What a yarn! For those who go down to the sea in ships. Yes! Yes!

Q: You mainly write for children or young adults, do you ever see yourself writing any books for adults?

A: I would like to write adult literature, but my publishers recoil with horror at the idea. 'No no!' they cry. 'You are our children's author; you must continue to write for children.' So I write for children of all ages, from eight to eighty. I have many adult readers. What a sad place the world would be if in our grown up hearts we could not carry a little bit of childhood within us? Who knows, perhaps one day I'll write a very old book, for very ancient people.

Q: If you were giving a fledging author some advice, what would it be?

A: Here is my advice to aspiring authors. Note, I never said writers. Poets, reporters, lyricists, feature columnists. Writing has many branches, but being an author is a rather special one, it is a talent. Everyone has a talent of some sort, art, math, science, drama, dance, or music. Do you want to know how to become an author? I'll tell you my secret; it's a single line, read it and think deeply about the meaning. If you can see it, then you can be an author. It's a simple little phrase…Learn to paint pictures with words! That's how I've always written, and it's served me well. That's the best advice I can give anybody.

Q: Do you have a favorite book or author? What kinds of books do you read for enjoyment?

A: My own reading tastes, probably like yours, have grown up with me. From Wind in the Willows, and Treasure Island, to Homer's wonderful Iliad and Odyssey. As I matured I began to favor P.G. Woodhouse, for his humorous parodies on English life, and Damon Runyon, for his wonderous use of fractured American, with his tales of the big city. Nowadays I don't get a lot of time to read seriously, so I'll continue with any book which intrigues me after its first page. However, knowing that reading is the key to all knowledge, I try to read as much as I can. Just like you should my friends.

Music is one of my great loves; I don't understand how folk could live without it! Any type of good music fascinates me. Classical instrumental, folk, opera, or international music, mariachi, fado, gamelan, even well composed pop. I came from a family of folk singers, and made my living as a folksinger for many years. Poetry too, is the music of words, smooth as a millpond, jagged as rocky mountain peaks, sad as fallen leaves, or joyous as a smiling child. It's all music, in one form or another.

Q: What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?

A: That he is a magnificent Cook, who can deal with pastas, curries, stews, and chillies, whilst singing an Italian opera aria in a fine tenor voice. Ask Teddy, he's my little West Highland white terrier dog, who takes me for a walk every day, providing I behave myself. Or ask Hannah (aged ten) my Granddaughter. We're a duo you know. She's the Amazing Hannah, and I'm the Famous Doctor Grandad. Liverpool University granted me the honour of making me a Doctor, I'm also an Honorary Fellow of John Moores University in Liverpool. Bet you didn't know that!

Q: Well, as I've told you, literature, music, family, and friends are my main passions. However, passion is a rather powerful and evocative term, so let me see… I have a passionate attachment to my hometown, Liverpool. I was born and bred there, being reared in a working class Irish Catholic family, on the fringes of the ports docklands. I love my city, its people, its humour, its history, and its working class rebel defiance against upper class authority. Nostalgia floods my soul when I wander around my old neighbourhood, in the Kirkdale area. The parks, like tiny islands of greenery amidst the inner city, the streets where I lived, played, attended school and church. Most of it has gone now, as are some of my childhood friends. But strolling round amid old ghosts, and scenes of former days, brings me memories, some happy, some sad. Sadness and happiness, perhaps a mingling of both might be described as a form of gentle passion.

A: Well, as I've told you, literature, music, family, and friends are my main passions. However, passion is a rather powerful and evocative term, so let me see… I have a passionate attachment to my hometown, Liverpool. I was born and bred there, being reared in a working class Irish Catholic family, on the fringes of the ports docklands. I love my city, its people, its humour, its history, and its working class rebel defiance against upper class authority. Nostalgia floods my soul when I wander around my old neighbourhood, in the Kirkdale area. The parks, like tiny islands of greenery amidst the inner city, the streets where I lived, played, attended school and church. Most of it has gone now, as are some of my childhood friends. But strolling round amid old ghosts, and scenes of former days, brings me memories, some happy, some sad. Sadness and happiness, perhaps a mingling of both might be described as a form of gentle passion.

Interview Date: 2010

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