Our very own Toppsta reviewer, Valentine (age 12), created some brilliant interview questions for Jessica Townsend after reading Wundersmith, her highly-anticipated sequel to Nevermoor. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you come up with the character Jupiter?
Jupiter North is, I think, sort of the ideal mix of wise mentor, eccentric uncle, big brother, father figure and mischievous pal. When Morrigan first meets him, he offers to whisk her away to a secret world she’s never heard of, and so he had to be someone who was immediately and entirely trustworthy, and also someone who’s just lots of fun, someone Morrigan and the reader would want to spend time with. For that reason, I gave him the qualities I think most people would like to have, either in themselves or in a parent or guardian – he is silly and funny, but he also is very intelligent and discerning. He lives an incredibly adventurous life, but much of it is a mystery. He is multitalented and highly respected in several different fields. But most of all he is loyal, caring, protective and loving of Morrigan and the people he considers family. (Plus, he has a fabulous head of ginger hair and superb fashion sense.)
How often do you write?
It depends. When I’m on deadline, I write every single day for all of the hours that I’m not sleeping. When I’m not on an immediate deadline, I try to be more disciplined and consistent about it – writing for anywhere from three to eight hours a day. (Although a lot of that time isn’t actual ‘writing’ time, so much as ‘staring at my laptop and thinking’ time… which is also an important part of the writing process!)
How long does it take to write a book?
I mean… how long is a piece of string? It took me ten years to write Nevermoor, from the very first kernel of the idea to the end of my third draft. But much of that time was spent plotting and daydreaming. On the flipside, it took me a little over a year to write Wundersmith. I have some author friends who can write a book in six weeks or even less! I don’t think I’d be able to do that, but everybody works differently.
What were your favourite books when you were little?
So many! My favourite book as a child is also my favourite book now as an adult – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I also loved the Tomorrow, When the War Began series by Australian author John Marsden, The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin, and classics like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Matilda, Charlotte’s Web and Seven Little Australians.
How did you come up with the setting Nevermoor?
A lot of the city of Nevermoor was inspired by my travels overseas and my favourite cities. There is an awful lot of London in Nevermoor, and I think the books have a very British sensibility. The transport system of the Wunderground was directly inspired by the London Underground, which transport millions of people on hundreds of kilometres of underground train tracks across the city every single day and is, to me, a modern miracle of public transport. But there are also elements of Marrakech in the Nevermoor Bazaar, and there is a district in Nevermoor that was very much inspired by Venice (we’ll see more of it in the fourth book).
If you could add in a character what would he/she be like?
I add in lots of characters all the time, so that’s a tricky question to answer because I have so many already in my head, ready to be introduced in upcoming books! My favourite new characters that were introduced in Wundersmith are Ms Dearborn and Mrs Murgatroyd, the Scholar Mistresses, who are quite fearsomely awful and lots of fun to write.
What is your favourite genre to read?
I like to read lots of different genres. I love reading middle grade books because I think there is so much scope for imagination there and so much wonderful, rich, complex writing. But I also love YA, adult fantasy and mystery, literary fiction, and really interesting non-fiction. If I absolutely had to pick just one genre in general, it would be fantasy.
If you could go to any place in Wundersmith where would you go?
Definitely the Nevermoor Bazaar! Imagine a sprawling, many-layered market festival with every kind of spectacle and stall you could possibly imagine. In just one night you can enjoy a flamenco lesson, an outdoor tea party, a unicorn equestrian event, a sideshow carnival, a rousing debate, a dog show and a ride on a ghost train. You can visit the fish market, the cheese market, the bird market, the flower market, Sweet Street… I could go on forever.
Who is your favourite character in the books?
That’s such a difficult question to answer. I can only narrow it down to three: Fenestra the Magnificat, Cadence Blackburn and Morrigan Crow herself. (But I also really love Jupiter! And Hawthorne! And Jack and Martha and Frank the vampire dwarf and Miss Cheery! See, I told you this was hard.)
If you were ever stuck when writing the book, what would help you to continue?
There are lots of things that help in different ways. It sometimes helps to talk through whatever it is that I’m stuck on, usually either with my editor or my sister. Sometimes they suggest a way to unstick the plot, but sometimes it just helps to talk it through out loud to someone I trust, and that process can help me come up with the solution myself. It can also help to just have a change of scenery – either to take a break and go for a walk, or to pack up my laptop and go write somewhere else – usually a library or cafe. Sometimes it helps to just give up for the day and start again tomorrow with a fresh, rested brain. But more often than not, the thing that helps the most is to remind myself that it’s supposed to be fun! I started writing these books purely for my own enjoyment, and it’s important to remember that when it starts feeling too much like work.