reader Q&A with piers torday
Why did you pick a hare to be the main character? Did you have to thoughtfully whittle it down or did you know you had to write about a hare?
I wanted to use an animal character who was also in The Last Wild, to connect the two stories, but not a main character, as their stories are already told in the other three books. Can you work out where Little Hare appears in The Last Wild?
If you were an animal what animal would you be?
It would have to be a golden eagle, because to have an eagle’s eye view of the world would be the most incredible, beautiful privilege.
Is it different writing about animals instead of human characters?
It is because of course, in reality, no one has ever spoken to an animal in the way we speak to each other, we never know their innermost thoughts. So my animal characters have human personalities, but I work really hard to remember their animal viewpoints (e.g. no or limited knowledge of human life and culture) and their physicality (e.g. how close to the ground are they).
The book is about Little Hare being brave. What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
I wish I was as brave as Little Hare. I am not at all brave! My dog Huxley is braver than me, he seems completely fearless, which is bad news for squirrels and foxes.
Was the map of Dandelion Hill Valley inspired by any places that exist?
Yes, it is completely based on the farm I spent most of my teenage years living on in Northumberland. I can’t tell you exactly where it was, but there were cows, sheep, forests, rivers, fields and perhaps, the odd hare…
What time period is the book set in?
It is set in the future, but the near future, so potentially the next ten or fifteen years.
Did climate change give you the idea for The Terribleness, or was it something else?
It was a mixture of climate change and the Covid pandemic, and let’s face it, they are both two terrible things!
The black silhouette trees bordering the pages remind me of a stage set. Did a career in the theatre inspire your books' unique drawing designs?
That’s very kind and thoughtful of you to suggest, and now you mention it, they do look very theatrical. But I can claim no credit, they are the combined work of the book’s designer, Samuel Perret, and the illustrator, Thomas Flintham. Tom loves using those strong, graphic, silhouette designs so perhaps there is something theatrical in his background but you’d have to ask him! I certainly love them, and perhaps they speak to my theatre side.
Where do you write your books? Is the space messy or tidy? Do you type onto a laptop or just hand write?
I write anywhere, from trains to cafes, but I do most of it in my study at home. I try to keep it tidy but before you know it, there are piles of books and paper everywhere, old coffee cups and pens and notepads - so probably I have to admit to messy, but a comfortable, writerly mess. My handwriting is so atrocious, I do nearly all my writing directly onto the laptop, but do make some notes and doodles by hand.
Are you writing another book now? Do you have any ideas brewing in your head?
There’s always another idea and book brewing, and I can’t say too much at this stage, but the next book might be about trees….