emailed questions
Last updated: 10th June 2003
I am often asked questions, and I thought I would open a webpage for some of them - they might be of interest. If you have a question, you can email me on: wizardwheeze at jasperfforde dot com (email address is in this form to foil spam address trawlers!) and I will attempt to answer it.

The questions are listed below but if you want to read the full monty straight through, click here
7:Question from the Barnes and Noble University course on Something Rotten, October 2004: What is all this about Neanderthals?.

6: Jean-Claude Vantroyen of 'Le Soir' asks: "Jane Eyre and Martin Chuzzlewit are not well know by the Frenchspeaking readers. Do you mind the loss of complicity outside Great-Britain? Or, next time, will Thursday go into French novels, like Flaubert's Madame Bovary or Hugo' Les Miserables?"

1: Caroline Godsell asks the 'mauve bedroom' question.

2: Becky and Sarah, outraged Gone with the Wind fans, ask me to clear up a few Tara problems.

3: Laura wants to know the story behind the term: "mad as pants".

4: Daniell526 asks about wombats.

5: 'Talpianna'asks me to explain about 'Leigh Delamere.'

8: Question from the Barnes and Noble University course on Something Rotten, October 2004: Tell us about Cindy.

Cindy Stoker began life as a minor character, turned into a homicidal maniac and ended up saving Thursday's life at the cost of her own.

The rise and fall of Cindy was meteoric, really. I introduced her as a love interest for Spike in Lost in a Good Book where Spike couldn't bring himself to tell Cindy his then girlfriend about how he hunted vampires and werewolves for a living - and I then hinted that Cindy was some kind of hitwoman, which is a sort of joke in itself as she was small and ditsy and didn't look as though she could even lift a gun, let alone kill anyone.

There are a lot of characters in Something Rotten who were alluded to in previous books and were allowed an outing, and all three of them (St Zvlkx, Cindy and Millon De Floss) turned out quite satisfactorily although Cindy was probably my favourite as she exhibits, like Hamlet, a whole range of very contradictory character traits. She is a working mother, a loving wife, someone who has to deal with the problems of self-employment and the difficulties of getting a reliable printing firm. What saves Cindy is her realisation late on that what she does is wrong, and finds the small amount of compassion within her to know that the long incarcerated life she can see in front of her is of marginal value when she has the chance to save Thursday's life at the cost of her own - like Spike she exhibits an unusual human trait - an ambivilence over self-death, something that is so counter to our existence that it still has a lot of power, four hundred years after Hamlet's own self-searching on the subject in the 'To be or not to be' speech.

Since Thursday is constantly bathed in jeopardy it would seem obvious that Cindy should be the hitwoman contracted to kill her. Being an assassin in Thursday's world seems not to be any big deal - If you wanted an assassin you'd look in the yellow pages under 'A' for assassin, or 'H' for hitman. Cindy's problem with the spelling of her 'handle' and the perennial question over whether she 'did the number' on Samuel Pring are really there to demonstrate perhaps how easily one can become immune to horrors - Cindy's profession is relatively commonplace, so instead of people being shocked about her work, they instead ask mundane questions over spelling and her work record - which for me is a mild comment on moral relativism.

9: Question from the Barnes and Noble University course on Something Rotten, October 2004: Do you have any comments on Thursday's two year break in the Bookworld?

This was for two main reasons. Firstly, I realised that if book three would run into book four without a time gap (like the other three run into one another) then I would either have to have another book in which Thursday is pregnant or to have her give birth, or to have her with a new-born baby, none of which really suited the story I was trying to tell. Friday is important to Thursday but still only part of the canvas, a bit like Pickwick, and I had to have him old enough to be out of the way for large sections so the main action could take place. Anyone who has had children will know how much of a full-time job they are!

Secondly, I wanted Thursday to have a good reason to come back into her real world and 'work fatigue' seemed the best way to do it. Despite all the wonders of living inside books, she still preferred the reality of home - it gave her good reason to want to avoid Jurisfiction's continued work, and redouble her efforts to deal with the evils of the real world without trying to escape as she did at the end of book two. After all, she did say she was going to rest and take it easy with Friday until she was well enough to get Landen back, and she is, I think, not one to give up too readily!

Two years too long to reactulaise her husband? Perhaps, but Thursday does play the long game, Landen is alive and well in her memories, and there is a lot to do at Jurisfiction - the adventure that came to be known as 'The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco', for one thing!


7: Question from the Barnes and Noble University course on Something Rotten, October 2004: What is all this about Neanderthals?

The interesting thing about the Neanderthals was that I had a blank slate to work from. You can learn pretty much all there is to know about Neanderthals in less than an hour. At idea inception, Neanderthals were simply low grade morons (a bit like the D4 cretins in "Brave New World") employed or trained to do menial tasks such as operating lifts. In an early draft of "Lost in a Good Book" the scene in the Skyrail took place in an elevator with a Neanderthal strapped with explosives demanding that the Lift be taken to Cologne - yet having no conception of the fact that lifts only go up and down. 9/11 happened a month after I wrote the scene and all of a sudden suicide bombers and hijackings didn't really seem terribly amusing, so I went back to the drawing board and made the Neanderthals "differently intelligenced". Here was a concept that I like to play with. Humans, I think we can safely assume, are hard-wired to survive in a hostile environment and will do whatever they can to achieve this - yet cannot see much further than a four year crop rotation (we're talking generalisations here; you and I both know warm and sharing people who would be eminently better at running the world than the twits in charge - but they're not. The aggressive ones crawl to the top)

So what if Neanderthals were differently wired? A human with genuine ideas of the common goal? A human who has no concept of 'I'? Who sees no reason to lie as they have no purpose for subterfuge? Would these humans survive in conjunction with us? Not for a moment. The questions the Neanderthals ask and what Stig observes is of an outsider looking into the human race - "If you actually need a government, you are flawed beyond redemption"

The other point about Neanderthals is about "specism". This planet is almost exclusively the preserve of the human, with limited special domestic rights given almost exclusively to other mammals. Kind of a little "Mammals Only Club" - if you're not cute, smart or furry, out you go. Dolphins good, sharks bad, seals fun, tuna in cans. The Neanderthals have less rights than a mouse but can actually talk and are human-like. When is a human a human and when does it have rights? When it can talk? Koko the gorilla can talk as can a recently trained parrot - ever thought it odd that the average dog can understand ten words and a lot of body language, but the average human can only understand a few dog words? It's all questions about relative values; of where we place ourselves on this planet and in relationship to the other creatures. I have a special affection for Stig and the rest of the Neanderthals. No need for personal aggrandisement. Everything they do is done by a team. To these people Marx might have some relevance but they would dismiss him as a fool pointing out the obvious to them and laugh their small grunty coughs with the idea that a Human might be trained to act like a Neanderthal. There is a turn of Phrase that Neanderthals use which is mostly facial twitches but means, in essence: If you w ant to be like a human you have set your sights way too low!

1: Caroline Godsell of Worcester, UK, writes:

Hi! Following catching your entertaining talk at the Hay Festival of Literature, I re-read the first two books in the wrong order. I am now confused, wondering if you can shed light on the following.

In 'Lost in a Good Book' Thursday's father asks her to make sure her mother doesn't paint their bedroom mauve. By mentioning this Thursday puts the idea into her mother's head and Mrs Next therefore paints it mauve. I have no problems with this simple process in the time continuum. However I was unsettled to read that when Thursday returns to her family home in 'The Eyre Affair' that it is casually thrown in that her mother has painted the bedroom mauve and her father was unhappy about it.

Is this just an innocent co-incidence, or have I stumbled across something which is too mind scrabbingly tricky for a History teacher like myself to comprehend?

Please let me know, my husband thinks I am sad enough to even spot this, let alone write to you about it.

Kind regards,
Caroline Godsell,

Dear Caroline,

Well, the 'Mauve Bedroom' problem is something that the Chronoguard have to deal with every day. Don't forget that to a time-travelling knight-errant like Thursday 's Dad, cause does not necessarily precede effect. In this case, effect happened first, closely followed by cause. As Colonel Next often tells his daughter: 'Don't even begin to try and understand it, Sweetpea!'

More seriously, this is a classic time-travelling paradox, used by physicists to try and refute the possibility of time travel. It's more usually referred to as the 'grandfather' paradox. Say you invented a time machine, went back in time and murdered your own grandfather. Where would this leave you? Would you be allowed to kill your grandfather as he had to survive to have you? (The gun would jam, a goat would nudge your elbow, etc, etc) or would you start a different timeline where you killed your grandfather but you yourself belonged to a (non dead grandfather) timeline? People have written acres of paperwork about this and all it does is make one's head fall apart like a chocolate orange.

What I was trying to do was ignore the paradoxes and fool with the accepted grammar of timetravel. Colonel Next was eradicated by a timely knock on the door during the night of his conception - but Thursday and her brothers are still alive - but with no father. He just ceased to exist and Mrs Next is very embarrassed and has to tell everyone that it was the result of 'youthful indiscretions'.

It is playing around with these conventions that I find such fun in the books.

All best

And incidentally, the colour 'mauve' or 'light purple' features a lot in my books. I don't know why.

2: Becky and Sarah, outraged Gone with the Wind fans, have this to say:

Greetings and Salutations!

Before we go on to a few slight errors we have found in the Gone with the Wind advertisement on the Jurisfiction section of this lovely site, (Click here to see it) we would like to express our appreciation for it, it being the ad, and the site in general, and the books. Actually, especially the books. Most especially the books, the next one of which we are actively waiting for. At any rate, most of the errors are only noticeable to GWTW fanatics such as us. Now then:

Firstly, we have a large and grievous error to make known. Neither in the book nor in the movie did Rhett and Scarlett ever reside together at Tara, for an extended period of time. In fact, in the book, which you by all accounts must be referencing considering the nature of this lovely site, and also that you certainly don't jump into movies; everybody knows that, Rhett never went to Tara at all, although in the movie he did, for some reason known only to the film adaptors, who really had no business changing anything at all, nor inserting random scenes such as this, considering the wonderfulness of the book.

Furthermore, the ad seems to imply that Tara is in Atlanta by stating that one could witness the burning of Atlanta while there. This is, however, not true in the least. Tara is in Clayton County, near Jonesboro, and in order to get to Atlanta from there, one must take a train. However, in reference to the first error, Atlanta is where Scarlett and Rhett reside, both before and after marrying, for significant periods of time, as do many other characters who really have no bearing on the matter.

Also, in an error only a true GWTW freak would notice, no scene in which Atlanta is burnt is actually in the book, nor the movie. The scene commonly referred to as such is in fact the burning of Atlanta's military supplies by Confederate soldiers in order to prevent their seizure. The actual burning of the city is only spoken of, not actually described.

In another exceptionally minor error, the house pictured in the advertisement, although quite similar to that in the movie, was not at all like it was described in the book. On page 48 of a standard 1037 page copy of GWTW, Tara is described as 'a clumsy sprawling building', one that lacks the grandeur of Twelve Oaks, the Wilkes home, while the house pictured certainly clumsy nor lacking in grandeur. Also, the trees are 'old oaks' and an 'avenue of cedars' whereas those pictured seem to be more like pines. Although there are pines on Tara, as is mentioned when Scarlett tries viciously to keep them from reclaiming the fields at Tara, they are not in front.

We would like to say that our purpose for pointing out there errors was not actually to make you fix anything, but rather to prevent confusion and disappointment among those who participate in the character exchange program. I mean, how would you feel if you went all the way to Tara and it wasn't at all like you thought it was going to be, and all you saw was Scarlett throwing herself at Ashley, and didn't even get one glimpse of Rhett?

We thought so.


Becky and Sarah
Resident GWTW Freaks

From: Adrian Munchchausen, Campaign Director at Advertext, the Bookworld's premier advertising agency.

Dear Becky and Sarah,

Thank you for your letter forwarded to us by Mr Fforde, Outlander author. Of course you are entirely correct in all your points regarding the public interface of GWTW, but respectfully point out that we often contract and simplify our copy for maximum advertising potential.

Character Exchange Programme revenue, it must be noted, is important for the profit/loss potential of each individual book. Maintenance grants from the Council of Genres to GWTW are already quite large but certainly not enough to run a book of this stature. Since the principal characters themselves have a vested interest in the healthy maintenance of their home novel, they will very happily conduct tours when off-duty.

But to take your points one by one:

Rhett and Scarlett DO welcome all Character Exchange Programmees to Tara. We made great efforts not to say that Rhett and Scarlett welcomed CEPs to their home, after all, and Scarlett's name alone is not enough of a draw. Rhett is more than happy to make the journey out to Tara to welcome guests when he is off duty - and after some thought, we decided to leave Ashley Wilkes out of the copy completely. Tara, for logistical reasons, is best suited as a base of operations.

The burning of Atlanta did historically happen and since there is much of Mitchell's work within the book that is not readily available to Outlander readers, guests to the book can witness this spectacle, along with many others.

We admit we used artistic license to 'sex' up the picture of Tara. I expect you've been on holiday in the Outland where the hotel you've booked for two weeks turns out to be a muddy hole in the ground. No? Well, some people do.

We are sorry of the advert in question caused any offence - it was designed solely to attract a new class of Bookworld tourist to GWTW as most Character Exchange Holiday Destinations these days are to Cyberpunk, Fantasy or Thriller. We understand that the second chariot race in Ben-Hur has had to be suspended because of lack of funds, so you see the problem and how important advertising is.

I hope this goes towards explaining our motivations when designing posters and devising strategies for advertising campaigns. You can learn more about ADVERTEXT by clicking ADVERTEXT.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Munchausen
Advertext Advertising
(Formerly Munchausen, Pinocchio, Mitty & Mitty)

Via Jasper Fforde.

3: Laura asks: So what's the story behind the term: "mad as pants"?

Well, 'Mad as pants' is one of those sayings that sound really good and I had to use, not knowing its origins or anything. It started, I believe, somewhere around the late eighties or early nineties and I heard it from my sister, who was a student at the time, and she picked it up from university. Where it comes from or what it means, I'm flummoxed. Same as 'daft as a brush' or 'a complete basket case'. Perhaps a jaunte around Google might help you find out; I'd be interested to know if you discover anything...

4: Daniell526 asks: Wombats. Where does one inquire about this organization?

The 'Most Worshipful Order of the Wombat' is, I am told, a highly secret organization that one is asked to join if other local 'Wombats' feel you are worthy. Gatherings are held at night, in meeting houses called 'burrows'. Members wear the 'pouch' of recognition and talk, or 'gnaw' about topics of interest to Wombats. New recruits to the 'Wombats' are expected to gnaw their way through a broom handle within six hours to prove themselves worthy. Precise figures are unknown, but in Thursday's world they are thought to number a thousand or so.

5: 'Talpianna'asks: Leigh Delamere: Can someone please explain this joke to a benighted Yank?

     First you must know that until quite recently, motorway (freeway) service stations were pretty appalling and were best avoided unless you had one of the following: A/ An empty fuel tank; B/ A full bladder; C/ An aversion to good food; or D/ Wanted to buy stolen property and/or drugs. They sound sort of grand if you screw up your ears and whistle 'Land of Hope and Glory' : Leigh Delamare, Aust, Gordano, Michaelwood, Chievely, Fleet, etc.
     The thing is, because motorways cut swathes through the countryside where entire counties can be reduced to nothing more than a tedious stretch of asphalt where a passing bridge becomes a point of great interest and fevered discussion, the obscure villages that the services are named after have no reality to the motorist other than as the names of services - and are also extremely familiar to any Brit brought up on dull car journeys to duller relatives. Fathers, who tended in my youth to wear hats and do most of the driving, often had this sort of conversation with their children:
      'Dad,' we used to say, 'when are we going to eat/wee/stop/?'
     'At Gordano, son. I know Aust is closer but Gran was poisoned by the sausages last year and we didn't stop at Leigh Delamare because the petrol was way too pricey at 38p a gallon and I wasn't going to buy four-star when I know we can run on two-star and besides your mother's asleep and I didn't want to wake her.'
     You get the picture. So, the question one asks -or at least I asked - is why are these service stations named as they are? For all those millions of Britons who stopped at Leigh Delemere or Vernham Deane or any of the others, there was no explanation - until now. Leigh Delemere was named that way because in 1985 one of Hades' dopey henchmen thought it would be the height of class for his mother to be named after one.

6: Jean-Claude Vantroyen of 'Le Soir' asks: "Jane Eyre and Martin Chuzzlewit are not well know by the Frenchspeaking readers. Do you mind the loss of complicity outside Great-Britain? Or, next time, will Thursday go into French novels, like Flaubert's Madame Bovary or Hugo' Les Miserables?"

To be honest, I was staggered to be published in France at all - I couldn't fall over with surprise because I had already fallen over in shock for selling the book in the UK and the US! There might be a lack of complicity outside England but I haven't noticed anything at all from English-speaking nations - the books works equally as well in the US as it does here or in Australia or Singapore.

Obviously, I would like the jokes to be accepted by as many people as possible, but for the 'high literary irreverence' concept to work I don't think it is imperative to have read either "Martin Chuzzlewitt" or "Jane Eyre" - all that is really necessary is the knowledge that they are literary classics in the first place - that they exist, that they are highly respected and perhaps a little stuffy. Example: If a Van Gogh is used as a plot device in a book it is not necessary for a reader to know which one it is, or what it looks like - they know a Van Gogh is valuable and that is what is important to the story.

Also, I like the book to work on several layers - to many readers less well acquainted with the classics it might just read as a slightly surreal thriller. But for those more familiar with the books I feature, then another facet will display itself - a book full of in-jokes and sly references. You might read the novel at age 16 and enjoy it, then read it again ten years later and pick up on many jokes that you missed the first time out. It will seem like a different book but it isn't - the reader has changed. The reader is what makes the book what it is. The reader is everything.

As for going into French books, perhaps so - but I like to write about what is familiar and I don't know those books as well as Dickens or Bronte. Mind you, Captain Nemo makes an appearance in book three and The Little Prince in book two, so France is not totally unrepresented!

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