Children’s fiction author, Cornelia Funke, was a guest at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival where she talked about using technology to enhance storytelling.
During the session, she presented the MirrorWorld app — a compendium of living stories that expand on the fantasy world Cornelia created in her Reckless and Fearless novels. The app combines cinema, storybook and interactive elements in 16 different adventures and experiences.
Here she talks about her projects and creating a long lasting career in the publishing industry.
You mentioned that the app cost over $800,000 to make, why did you decide to make it? What was the vision behind it?
I have been through eight movie adaptations of my books by now and only once (with the lowest budget of them all) did the screen show me images that resembled the ones in my head. With the MirrorWorld App, or the Breathing Book as I prefer to call it, I claimed back the images to my stories. I have been exploring MirrorWorld for more than seven years now. I am so passionate about it that I don’t want to compromise or have others find visuals that are not mine. So I decided to finance the visuals myself – something I cannot afford to do in a movie but I could finance the iPad App. Nothing in my whole career has been more satisfying than this collaboration with Mirada. I feel as if I finally found my eyes – therefore I intend to develop similar Breathing Books for Dragonrider and Inkheart with them. I like to call them my Visual Travel Guides to my books and the worlds within them.
What is your stand on linking new technology with storytelling? Is it the new direction for books?
For me it is the opportunity as an illustrator to claim back the images and show my world also visually and not just in words. Many of my publishers don’t even print the pencil drawings I do for my MirrorWorld books, but I am both an illustrator and a writer and for me my worlds are not only made from letters. The new technology gives me the chance to show my readers what I see without having to sell my movie rights and see my flying carpet shrink into a napkin.
I don’t understand though why this should in any way threaten books and stories. For me this new media enhances and supports the reader’s experience. If we want to see Venice we may buy a travel guide to enhance our travel experience, but we still have to travel to Venice! Same with my Breathing Books and my printed books. The App makes travels behind the Mirrors maybe a bit safer and the reader more knowledgeable, but the big journeys still wait on the pages.
How do you maintain such a long and successful career?
How do I maintain my passion for coffee and chocolate? I can’t help it! I can’t stop writing and trying to get better at it. And the older I get the more stories I find and long to tell. In fact, being able to communicate with my readers all over the world through Facebook, Twitter and so on made me even more passionate about my task to be a storyteller for the world.
What do you think about the rise of self-publishing? Is this a good way for emerging writers to go?
I plan to self publish some of my backlist titles to do them in an especially beautiful format. I think it is a very interesting chance to publish the books we want to write without having to listen to marketing arguments and give in to the tailoring so many publishers like to do. But a good partnership with a passionate publisher is still a magical thing. As is the collaboration with librarians and booksellers.
Any advice for those aspiring to have a long writing career like yours?
Be endlessly curious about the world. Be passionately in love with your readers. Write every day. Write by hand. Fill many notebooks with ideas, images, scribbles, leave written footprints for yourself and others. And humbly bow your head in gratitude that you are a storyteller. It is one of the most magical professions in the world. Never think of money first or of the big career, but only about the perfect story. Remember that you are a fisherman for words for all the others who don’t find words to express how enchanting and terrifying an experience it is to be human in this world.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am finishing the illustrations for Heartless, the third book of MirrorWorld (in German it is called The Golden Yarn). I am staring to prepare four, five, and six, just packing with ideas. I will begin writing a second Dragonrider in November. I intend to do several short stories set in LA and another one for the Getty (the first one about its ghosts is already online).
Kristyn M. Levis has been working as a journalist both internationally and locally for over 13 years. Her work has been published in various publications, including The New York Times and Al Jazeera. She’s also an award winning photographer and an avid mummy blogger. Kristyn self-published two children’s picture books in the last three years and is currently working on two Young Adult trilogies. You can see more of her writing and blogging here.