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Lost in a Good Book
Special Features:
'Making of' Wordamentary

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  Being asked for number two.
  How to try and make a sequel not seem like one.
  Light bulbs and other ideas.
  Eradications and other time travelling paradoxes.
  Making it hard to get into fiction.
  Transmitting odd concepts to the reader.
  'Intellectual thought a boy band? How do you figure that?'
  A subplot for all seasons.
  Neanderthal Nation.
  Watch out! Mammoth migrating!
  Jeopardy from Dream Topping.
  Remembering Aornis Hades
  Cardenio lost and found.
  Spike and the SEBs
  The Gravitube. Possible in theory.
  Jurisfiction: Let's be careful out there....
  The Cheshire Cat
  Miss Havisham
  Kafka's The Trial.
  Harold Pinter story
Being asked for number two. Publisher's don't want one book - they want a series. When Hodder and Penguin agreed to publish The Eyre Affair, they specified that there should be a second book, as yet without title, to be published the following year. When you are offered a contract after ten years of effort it is yes to anything, despite me not having the slightest idea what the second book might be about, or even a title. I submitted The Eyre Affair to Hodder in December 2000 for publication in July 2001, and then set out to write a follow-up to a book that was originally expected to be a stand-alone.

How to try and make a sequel not seem like one. I don't like the idea of recapping everything when writing a sequel - in an ideal world I would just carry on the story from where the first one ended. Sadly, as your parents will insist on saying, the world is neither fair nor ideal, and book two had to attract new readers to the saga as well as sate the old ones. So the first chapter, the 'Adrian Lush Show' was my way of running over what had happened in book one without a huge amount of infodumping and explanations. The story doesn't really begin until chapter two.

Light bulbs and other ideas. There was an idea in TN-1 that I had liked so much that I felt I could never leave out: The arrival of Mrs Nakajima (misspelt Nakijima in the UK version. Oops.). As you recall, she turns up in TN1 actually inside the novel Jane Eyre, taking a tourist on a tour of Thornfield Hall. This got me to thinking in that 'ideas begat ideas' way that I do, that perhaps other people can travel inside books, perhaps without the need of the narrative-clumsy Prose Portal? And what about a policing agency within fiction that keeps the narrative 'on the rails' so to speak? The idea for Jurisfiction was thus born; all we needed was to give Thursday a good reason for being there.

Eradications and other time travelling paradoxes. Thursday's father was eradicated seventeen years ago, 'eradication' being a term the Chronoguard use to describe someone who has been scrubbed from the herenow by an assassination many, many years ago. Considering Lost in a Good Book begins about two weeks after The Eyre Affair, much that has happened is already fresh and unresolved. Goliath want Jack Schitt out of The Raven and eradicates Landen when he was two. Since I tend to deal with paradoxes by ignoring them, there is a slightly odd scene where Landen's Mum and Dad don't know who Thursday is, but once convinced, want to know how Landen would have turned out. In Thursday's world, being eradicated is not common but it's not unheard of - Thursday's mum presides over Eradications Anonymous, a self-help group for the confused individual who holds complete or even partial feelings over someone they once thought were close to but don't actually exist. I thought this was a fun idea, and since old Thurs has a husband whom she loves and thus endless man-problems of the choice/rejection type (yawn) are taken away, I must create new emotional jeopardy within her. This seemed a good way - her husband has been murdered but he hasn't, and this leads on to various other points that trouble her: Is she pregnant with his child, or is it Miles Hawke's? Confusion and doubt are good. It drives the story forward.

Making it hard to get into fiction. It would be too easy to have Thursday use the prose portal again, so I thought Mycroft and Polly should be removed from the scene although not too soon as I generally like to write a Bond-type Q-scene with Mycroft, and he's a good way of getting odd ideas across to the reader. So they are both packed off into fiction on retirement, his absence making a convenient blocking device to ensure Thursday has to travel all the way to Osaka to find a way of getting into fiction - not, you might think, the easiest thing in the world.

Transmitting odd concepts to the reader. I greatly enjoy what I refer to as 'Parlour semi-physics', and entropic failure belongs firmly in the category - a sort of physics that sounds sort of okay in concept but is either impossible or plain ridiculous in reality. Coincidences, sadly, are not due to a failure of the second law of thermodynamics, fun though that might be. Still, it's a nice concept and all that silliness about gas cramping itself back up into the box is actually not so silly at all - a glass jumping from fragments on the floor to a complete one on the table is not physically impossible - it's just that we'd have to wait an awful long time to witness it - more time, in fact, than the universe possesses.

'Intellectual thought a boy band? How do you figure that?' I like this analogy, and I believe it to be true. Much of the way we think now is because it is the way we thought yesterday, last week and last year. Scott Westerfeld, an American author I met last year in Brisbane, summed it up by saying that the greatest contribution a scientist could make to human understanding was by dying and taking outdated dogma with them. I heard this after I wrote the book, but it certainly rings true. Unconsciously we take ideas from our elders and pass them on; it takes a giant like Einstein, Copernicus or Newton to set ideas upon their heads and change the way we think. The thing is, when will be the next great revolution in human thought? It's impossible to predict. Perhaps next week, perhaps in a thousand years. What Colonel Next is trying to explain to his daughter is that there is another way of looking at things; that we will not always think this way. Perhaps violence and confrontation is not how humans are meant to be - just an outdated mode of thought from the days of a hostile environment. It's a nice thought, anyway.

A subplot for all seasons. I like subplots a lot, and it probably shows. In fact, you could say that Lost in a Good Book consists only of subplots - a month in the life of a literary detective. The actual plot I have decided, is the love interest between Spike and Cindy - all the rest are just subplots.

Neanderthal Nation. Ah yes, Neanderthals! They were an obvious choice to bring back after the dodo subplot of book one, but what form they could take, I wasn't sure. They are an extinct offshoot of man, cousins rather than descendants, and were socially cohesive, had developed tools, and may have buried their dead using some form of ceremony. It would seem likely that they could talk, although tests on their skulls has indicated a possibility that the double 'ee' and double 'oo' sounds would have been hard. 'A knee boot full of Beetroot' might have turned out 'A kna buh fll behtra'. This is conjection, of course - we'll never know for sure, which makes my job a lot easier as I can make up what I want. I started out by making them complete thickos, unable, in first draft, to conceive how you couldn't hijack an elevator in Swindon and order it to go to department store in Augsberg. A suicide bomber in draft one became, post-september 11th, the more sensitive and tragic reluctant extinctee you can see on the page now. Since it seems likely that neanderthals were ousted from the planet by modern man, I chose to make them unnagressive yet highly intelligent. But a different form of intelligence. They had no word for 'I' and live in a perfect social order, needing no government. 'Your race was doomed,' says Stiggins in book four, 'when you declared a need for government.' Arguments of racism regarding the Neanderthals are entirely unfounded - the Neanderthal is a different species. I have always wondered why we worry about dolphins dying in the tuna nets, but not the tunas dying in the tuna nets. Seems the planet is a little cosy mammals only club sometimes. If you're not cuddly and furry or can do tricks with a ball, forget it, buster.

Watch out! Mammoth migrating! As well as neanderthals we have mammoths, which were going to be mastodons because the word sounded funnier, although less people knew what they were, so mammoths it was. Brought back to life for no adequately explained reason yet hinting at a greater respect for animals in Thursday's world, I thought that they would migrate much as they did when they were alive - hence the stray mammoth in Thursday's mum's garden.

Jeopardy from Dream Topping. Dream Topping is one of those puddings (I thought this was Miracle Whip in the States but it has since been pointed out to me by both Meghan Swanson and Diana Keng that it is infact Cool Whip as Miracle Whip is more like mayonnaise.) that you crave as a child but are never given on the wholly unreasonable grounds that it is not 'proper food'. Tinned puff pastry Fray Bentos pies fall into the category, along with meals of beans and fish fingers and nothing else. I wanted Dream Topping to engulf the world a bit like the Martian's food in War of the Worlds and had to introduce Nanotechnology to achieve it.

Nanotechnology is a fascinating subject and the problem as described in TN2 is one that has often been mooted : if you can get a Nanomachine to replicate itself and build iron, say, from iron ore, how do you tell it to stop? This seemed a good reason to bring in Colonel Next and along with him, an explanation of time travel and what it actually means to be a serving timecop - in this instance, mostly boring and racked with trade union disputes. Note that time terminology is littered with river or ocean navigational terms. I liked making bold claims about time, especially the notion that you can never go back in time - just wait for it to come round again. In my description a series of rapid flashes means that you have sped up so fast that the big bang, expansion of the universe and then big crunch happen as quickly as a handclap. And this is only when Thursday can see it happening - to get round to the start again you have to go many times faster than that. Colonel Next's analogy of time travel being like a roundabout - just a very large one with a lot more exits - is something of an understatement.

Remembering Aornis Hades My daughter Rosie suggested that Hades should have a younger sister, and I am very thankful to her that she did. It's always good to have a few villains hell-bent on revenge kicking around. Aornis' work as a mnemonomorph (a word not coined until book 3) allowed me to explore a few of the odder things about memory. When Landen and Thursday are walking around in her memory, everything is there but not to any huge detail - the other guests in the remembered winchester tea rooms being vague and indistinct -mnemonic wallpaper with no detail. If you want to make a memory more real you just clothe it with things that you do remember. I liked the idea that Aornis could cloak herself in your memory, and in book three I will go into some of her more insidious memory bending tricks. How she manipulates coincidences, I have no idea - I just think it's fun.

Cardenio lost and found. Cardenio is the famous 'lost play' of Shakespeare's although if it was one he did with Fletcher, it probably wasn't his best. I had to fill a bit of a hole from the last book as to how many plays Colonel Next took back with him to the actor Shakespeare (see the end of TN-1) but I could use the problem to try and explain why there were so many recurrent themes in his plays.

Spike and the SEBs The arrival of Spike usually means we've got to the middle of the book and it's time for the interval. Most intervals are ice-cream in the lobby but with Spike its somewhere dark and fetid with the undead clamouring at your elbow. The Eyre Affair had Spike dealing with vampires and werewolves, so now it is the turn of zombies. The undead are very real in Thursday's world, but more a nuisance than anything else. You might hit one with your car at night but insurance generally covers it. If you contain them then all is well. Spike and Thursday's trip into the abandoned church to force out the Supreme Evil Being was great fun to write, especially so as Spike tends to regard his work as annoying, but routine. Incidentally, I named him Spike before I knew about Spike from Buffy; I tend not to watch much TV and Spike was Spike in 1995 - and so he stayed. Sadly not so for Cordelia Flakk who was originally named Virginia Kreeper, a name already bagsied, apparently, by JK Rowling. I changed it. Cordelia to make her quite upper crust, and Flakk, which was the name for anti-aircraft fire in WW2.

The Gravitube. Possible in theory. This idea is not at all new - people were talking about it over a hundred years ago, and although no-one has seriously suggested boring all the way through the earth, an overmantle tunnel from London to Berlin was proposed. If it was dead straight and frictionless, it would have worked - the trip would have taken a little over forty minutes and by using only the force of gravity. The problem, of course, is getting rid of friction - and a dead straight tunnel. As the chapter stands I treat gravitube just the same as low budget air travel, only with a few negative G foibles that are the Gravitube's own. Originally the chapter looked a lot like exposition, so I merged the journey with an earlier chapter describing Akrid Snell and Thursday's conversation. The merging kept up the pace and his the exposition very nicely - I especially liked the know-it-all passenger who finally can't help it any more and blurts out his favourite conspiracy theory.

Jurisfiction 'Let's be careful out there...' The hunt to get into fiction without a prose portal is central to the book, and in many ways describing the world of Jurisfiction is creating a world within a world. Jurisfiction is a policing agency inside fiction, which allows me to have them trying to put right all the problems that are thrown up by continuity errors left in by the authors. I treat books as if they were real worlds, each distinct from another, their inhabitants real people with their own problems, usually relating to the character they are forced to play. The rollcall scene at Jurisfiction is reminiscent of the excellent and ground-breaking 'Hill Street Blues' and rightly so - this way I can get a lot of gags across without having Thursday and co trotting all over the bookworld. The trip in to Great Expectations to deal with the Magwich/great iron problem also allows me to explain all about grammasites, an invention of which I am particularly fond.

The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland I always had a soft spot for and had no problem assimilating into the story. He knows everything that has happened and everything, it seems, that is about to happen. I often wonder whether book people and Colonel Next do their work in linear time for Thursday's benefit or that is just the only way she can see it. Certainly a book person, if able to travel backwards and forwards in their own novel would see effect before cause but it doesn't seem to confuse them.

Miss Havisham I tend to take one major book to steal from every novel, and this time it is Dicken's Great Expectations, with Miss Havisham in full bitter and man-hating form as Thursday's mentor. It was too easy to just steal her directly so I added a few embellishments of my own - she likes fast cars, for one thing, and Daphne Farquitt novels for another. But I like the old girl a great deal, in spite of it.

Kafka's The Trial. The existence of jurisfiction made Thursday guilty of a Fiction-infraction herself, a most fortuitous event that allowed me to drag out her trail over three books. I worked on the 1992 movie of 'The Trial' so was at an advantage here; the script was by Harold Pinter on that film and true to form, so I reread the chapter and it all seemed to fit really quite well.

(Harold Pinter story: I met the man himself whilst watching the morning's rushes in Prague, where we were filming. Although I was an irk it is customary and polite to be introduced to VIPs like Pinter, and so I was. I thought I'd try an in-joke. When I was introduced I said: 'Pleased to meet you .... pleased to meet you.' Either he thought I was an upstart or he didn't notice the Pinteresque repeating dialogue, but in any event my pathetic attempts to ingratiate myself using an erudite joke fell flat and that was that. Oh well.)

Recycling other people's ideas To demonstrate my own flagrant use of NarrativeDeviceSwipery go no further than the final denouement in Lost in a Good Book. Tweed and Thursday are trapped in Lord Volescamper's library with two people - one who is fictional and evil, and the other who isn't. Outside, the Questing beast (here portrayed far more evilly than TH White ever did) batters at the steel doors to destroy all before it - Thursday must somehow find out who is fictional, and not be destroyed by the Questing Beast. Well, there are three main narrative devices that the chapter leans on, and I'll point them out in order:

NarrativeDeviceSwipery#1: The idea of a beast outside trying to get in no matter what comes from a 50's MGM remake of The Tempest entitled Forbidden Planet where a 'monster from the Id' is conjured up in Dr Morbius' subconscious will and will use whatever energy is required to stop Leslie Nielson (before he was Frank Drebin) taking Morbius' only daughter back to earth. I liked the idea that this thing would get you, no matter what. Jeopardy, jeopardy.

NarrativeDeviceSwipery#2: So to discover who is fictional, Thursday bounces undedicated dialogue backwards and forwards with Harris Tweed because she guesses that a fictioneer won't know who is talking without the "He said/she said" dialogue flags. This echoes a scene from the film Dirty Harry (Fink/Fink/Riesner/Milius) where Harry Callaghan (Eastwood) is taunting a bank robber about the number of shots he (Harry) has fired. The line in Harry goes something like: "I know what you're thinking, punk, did I fire six shots or only five? Well, in all the excitement I kind of forgot myself - so you're going to have to ask yourself a question: 'do I feel lucky?' ". Classic seventies tough-guy hokum; the Western comes to San Francisco. Well, Thursday's lines are not dissimilar:

    'And do you know, in all the excitement, I kind of forgot myself!'
    There was another crash against the door. A splinter of steel flew off and zipped past my ear. The doors were almost breached; the next blow would bring the abomination within the room.
    'So you're going to have to ask yourselves one simple question: Which one of us is speaking now?'

NarrativeDeviceSwipery#3: The Monkey's Paw. Few people cannot have read this masterful short story by WW Jacob where a sinister monkey's paw has the power to grant three wishes, mirroring a powerful dramatic irony which has been the mainstay of countless tales throughout the ages: 'Don't wish for something too hard, you just might get it!' The characters in this story wish for some money; their son is killed in an industrial accident and they receive the compensation. The mother wishes for her son back, but the father realises that he will be coming back as he was after the accident - horribly mutilated. The son knocks on the front door and the mother fumbles with the bolts to let him in; as the last bolt is pulled and the door swings open, the father finds the monkey's paw and wishes the son away - there is nothing there but 'an icy blast of wind'. And that's pretty much what happens when Thursday reveals who is fictional in TN-2 - as Kaine leaves, the doors are breached - but instead of a pestilential hell-beast there is "....only an icy rush of air entered, bringing with it the lingering smell of death."

I may add to this when I think about it, then again I might not. You might return to this site to read more, but you might not. Sounds like we should do a deal. Here it is: I'll keep writing books, and you keep reading them. Have your people call my people.

Jasper Fforde March 2003