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Amazon Editorial Review, May 2001

Pirouetting on the boundaries between sci-fi, the crime thriller and intertextual whimsy, Jasper Fforde's outrageous The Eyre Affair puts you on the wrong footing even on its dedication page, which proudly announces that the book conforms to Crimean War economy standard.

Fforde's heroine, Thursday Next, lives in a world where time and reality are endlessly mutable--someone has ensured that the Crimean War never ended for example--a world policed by men like her disgraced father, whose name has been edited out of existence. She herself polices text--against men like the Moriarty-like Acheron Styx, whose current scam is to hold the minor characters of Dickens' novels to ransom, entering the manuscript and abducting them for execution and extinction one by one. When that caper goes sour, Styx moves on to the nation's most beloved novel--an oddly truncated version of Jane Eyre--and kidnaps its heroine. The phlegmatic and resourceful Thursday pursues Acheron across the border into a Leninist Wales and further to Mr Rochester's Thornfield Hall, where both books find their climax on the roof amid flames.

Fforde is endlessly inventive: his heroine's utter unconcern about the strangeness of the world she inhabits keeps the reader perpetually double-taking as minor certainties of history, literature and cuisine go soggy in the corner of our eye. The audacity of the premise and its working out provides sudden leaps of understanding, many of them accompanied by wild fits of the giggles. This is a peculiarly promising first novel.

Roz Kaveney

Report in 'Time Out' 1st July 2001

It is always a privilege to witness the birth of a cult, and Hodder has just cut the umbilical cord.'The Eyre Affair'is blatantly of the Terry Pratchett/Kurt Vonnegut/Thomas Pynchon (delete according to intellectual pretensions) school of fiction, dense with literary allusion and postmodern self-awareness, where everything is ever so slightly weird. There are shades of Douglas Adams, Lewis Carroll, 'Clockwork Orange' and '1984'. And that's just for starters.

The story is set in 1985 in a parallel universe where the aeroplane never really took off, the dodo didn't become extinct, the Crimean War is still raging and bananas have yet to be invented. The book's heroine, Thursday Next, is a literary detective (LiteraTec) investigating the mysterious disappearance of the 'Martin Chuzzlewit' manuscript, the authorship of Shakespeare's plays and the kidnapping of Jane Eyre from the pages of the novel, or at least one from a parallel universe in which Jane doesn't marry Mr Rochester.

Star comic turn is Thursday's uncle Mycroft, an old-school mad inventor who is cultivating a batch of Thesauran bookworms that crawl around exclaiming 'Wonderful!', 'Astonishing!', 'Extraordinary!', and whose previous assistant was meringued to death in an unfortunate accident involving egg white and sugar.

Always ridiculous, often hilarious, and occasionally overworked, the narrative is slowed down by the weight and complexity of the text. Almost everyone has an allegorical name - Jack Schitt (president of the multinational corporation Goliath), evil genius Acheron Hades, fellow LiteraTec Victor Analogy.

Blink and you miss a vital narrative leap. As the first in what is intended to be a Discworld-style series, 'The Eyre Affair' probably has more than its fair share of work to do, setting up a fictional universe and host of characters who can be taken on adventures of their own. Watch out for 'Lost in a Good Book', currently in gestation.

Jessica Cargill Thompson

The Times interview 23rd July 2001

Jasper Fforde doesn't just create a fantasy world, he tries to live it, too, finds Vanora Bennett

It's a long time since fantasy was respected as an artistic genre. But in the past few years, since the Harry Potter phenomenon, it has become fashionable again and will no doubt be boosted further by the first part of the movie version of Lord of the Rings in December.
So the climate is exactly right for Jasper Fforde, whose first published novel, The Eyre Affair, out this month, is an exuberant -and elf-free- comic fantasy. It's set in an alternative 1985, when Wales is a Soviet Republic, the Crimean War is still on and time travel is possible. Oh, and dodos have been cloned back from extinction. Literature is now so important that a whole special police division, the LiteraTecs, work on solving "'fiction infractions" - rescuing stolen manuscripts, and, in the case of the book's heroine, Thursday Next, stopping the world's third most evil man from kidnapping the heroine of Jane Eyre from the pages of Charlotte Bronte's book.Thursday is far too busy chasing the Jane Eyre tampering criminal (as well as sorting out her own love life and ending the war) to question the existence of her pet dodo, Pickwick. So he just tags along for the ride, like any other pet, remaining an almost unexplained part of an imaginary world of unusual charm and complexity.

"Yes, the dodos are sweet, aren't they?" says Jasper Fforde enthusiastically. "I got the idea when I was working in Oxford and went to the Natural History Museum, and there, in all its glory, was this beautiful stuffed dodo. It was the new dodo - the sleeked-down, less chubby variety. And I wandered over to the Museum shop and said, off the top of my head, "Do you have home cloning kits for dodos?" The woman said: 'Come back in about 30 years.' So there it was." Although he didn't quite dare make Jane Eyre herself a walking, talking -character in his book, the fast-talking Fforde took almost as many daring liberties with her sombre lover, Mr Rochester, as he did with the dodos. "I think irreverence is healthy. Certainly playing with Rochester in the way that I do is, I think, quite amusing. All that dour brooding nonsense, Rochester the man of mystery - it's all a big act really. I think if whoopee cushions had been invented then he'd have tried one on Mrs Fairfax - almost without a shadow of doubt." Perhaps unsurprisingly, nervous publishers found the half-dozen unpublished novels he wrote over the past decade or so "too bizarre". But now The Eyre Affair has won enthusiastic reviews and Fforde is already working on the first of several sequels, he is delighted he never toned down his quirky vision in an attempt to become saleable.

Twenty years in the film business - as everything from tea boy to camera - assistant - helped him to see the fictional world as one peopled by characters who might easily, go on having their own life after we, the readers, had stopped looking at them.

Once Fforde stumbled on the idea that literature was full of vanishing characters and mysteries, he found a whole new world of detection waiting for him. 'Did David Copperfield murder his 1st wife to go off with his childhood sweetheart? Was there a secret fourth bear with the Three Bears of the nursery rhyme? And isn't there something fishy about the disappearance of Cassio's wife, mentioned just once at the start of Othello? Fforde left school with one A-level in Art and a habit of writing capitals in the middle of words that his remedial writing teacher never quite managed to eradicate. He never went to university, never learned the cowed respect of undergraduates for the great texts of literature and did all his adult reading and discovery for the sheer fun of it.

He's currently amusing himself by keeping the boundaries between fiction and reality fluid. His rented house near the Black Mountains in Wales is filling up with memorabilia from Thursday Next's world.
He has created postcards showing bottles of- "Bordeauxesque wine" and orange jam, products of the book's all-poweful Goliath Corporation. Dodo crossing signs decorate the road outside. A website at www.thursdaynext.com introduces outsiders to this world. Fforde's fascination with his zany stories keeps him firmly inside his fantasy realm. If you ask him a banal question about the detail of his everyday life, he'll try politely to answer - but only until the next great idea strikes him, his eyes light up again, and then it's "Another thing about the dodos...." For his next book, a Thursday sequel, he says he has designs on Miss Havisham of Great Expectations. He doesn't' quite know yet how she will interact with Thursday, but he isn't worried. The details will come later.

For Fforde, writing is a long, drawn-out business, of identifying ideas "like little tussocks in a marsh. Not writing in any clear order or anything. Slowly, as the water recedes, they start to join up so I can walk dry footed from one end to another. Sometimes it's published quite hard, but I enjoy the challenge." The Eyre Affair is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton and in paperback by New English Library.

Locus 487, August 2001
Jasper Fforde's first novel, The Eyre Affair, is an exhilarating, unlikely, and ultimately delightful tale that places the reader in an alternate world where things are definitely not as we understand them to be.
The Crimean War has moved into its 131st year. Faced with economic and social unrest, Her Majesty's Government has had to establish a network of Special Operations departments, thirty in all, to deal with duties too unusual or specialized for regular police, which range from neighbourly disputes (SO30) and art crimes (SO24), to SO1, which polices SpecOps itself. It is also a world where popular culture has taken a decidedly different path. Literature dominates completely. Everyone has read Dickens and has a favorite novel (!), and the argument over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays is far more passionate than we would expect, with the Baconians (a group who support the idea that Francis Bacon was responsible) doorknocking like Jehovah's Witnesses to raise support.

Into this world Fforde places a plucky heroine and an evil mastermind. Thursday Next, daughter of a Colonel in the Chronoguard and a famous Crimean war vet, is a literary detective who is swept up in events when a minor character goes missing from Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. The original manuscript of the novel has been stolen, and it becomes obvious that someone has entered the manuscript, removing the character and thereby changing every copy of the book. Next is approached by the mysterious SO5, who second her to help with investigations. It appears that Acheron Hades, the world's third most evil man and author of Degeneracy for Pleasure and Profit, is involved and he is very dangerous. Things, however, don't become really serious until Hades, intent on escalating his evil plans (and they are evil), manages to steal the manuscript of the widely loved, if slightly disappointing, Bronte classic Jane Eyre. His kidnapping of Jane creates a national crisis, and it seems that only Thursday Next can save Jane, Mr Rochester, and readers everywhere.

Fforde, who comes from a film background, has thrown everything into The Eyre Affair - murder, mayhem, time travel, fantasy, literary in-jokes, despicable violence - and has managed to produce what is one of the most original science fiction/fantasy/crime novels in recent years.

The novel works because Thursday Next, a character who manages to walk through a kaleidoscopic world where everything can, and often does, change at any moment and in the most unexpected ways, remains seemingly unfazed. Her pragmatic world view grounds the book, making it seem equally plausible that Surrealists could have pitched battles in the streets with Modernists, that genetically reconstructed dodos might make good pets, and that characters could step from the pages of a book.
In the foreword to her recent collection, Tales of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin coined the useful term ''commodified fantasy'' to refer to fantasy produced by the mills of capitalism. It ''takes no risks: it invents nothing, but imitates and trivializes. It proceeds by depriving the old stories of their intellectual and ethical complexity, turning their action to violence, their actors to dolls, and their truth-telling to sentimental platitude. Heroes brandish their swords, lasers, wands, as mechanically as combine harvesters, reaping profits. Profoundly disturbing moral choices are sanitized, made cute, made safe. The passionately conceived ideas of the great storytellers are copied, stereotyped, reduced to toys, molded in bright-colored plastic, advertised, sold, broken, junked, replaceable, interchangeable.''
She could have been talking directly to Jasper Fforde, who has written a novel that is as far from commodified fantasy as it is possible to imagine.
Dark, funny, complex and inventive, The Eyre Affair is a breath of fresh air and easily one of the strongest debuts in years.
Review by Jonathan Strahan
The Scotsman 23rd July 2001
HERE'S what happens: close to lifelong spinsterhood, 36-year-old Thursday Next thinks often about her lost love, Landen Parke-Laine. One day, she runs into him; but the resentments which drove them apart ten years before resurface, and Thursday discovers he is soon to be married. As the clock ticks, Thursday manages to put aside her pride, and in the nick of time the wedding is averted, and Thursday and Landen are blissfully united. Which is all well and good, in a Mills and Boone sort of way. Thursday Next has plenty else to keep her busy, though. There's her time-travelling father; her uncle Mycroft, who has invented a Prose Portal through which it is possible to pass from reality into fiction (and vice-versa); and Acheron Hades, most wanted villain in the world, who covets the Prose Portal for his own evil ends. And if this sounds potentially plot-heavy, be thankful I'm not going to mention the ripple in time on the M1, the meteorite-catching Earthcrossers, Spike the dreadlocked vampire-killer, the ongoing Crimean War, Pickwick the regenerated dodo, and the debates about the real author of Shakespeare's plays and the "crap ending" of Jane Eyre... Drat. Anyway, you know the sort of thing. All too soon the dreadful Hades has not only captured the Prose Portal, but he has used the machine to kill a minor character in Martin Chuzzlewit - as a warning - and kidnapped the title character of Jane Eyre herself, demanding an outrageous ransom. Then Special Operations agent Thursday Next is tracking Hades through the village inn and below-stairs gossip of Charlotte Brontė's novel, and things are coming to a rip-roaring climax amid the burning edifice of Thornfield Hall.

And at this point, able to stand no more, your reviewer lowers himself into The Eyre Affair on a string of coincidences, and confronts its heroine while the blaze rages through Rochester's home. "Thursday Next," I say, causing her to hesitate in the middle of reloading her automatic. "What is it with this dialogue? I mean - 'Alas!', for Pete's sake!" The feisty girl is about to reply when she is interrupted by Hades's henchman, Hobbes, a redundant Shakespearean actor in leather jerkin and codpiece, who thrusts his livid face in front of me. "Dost quibble with 'alas', sire?" "Haud yer wheesht," I mutter, pushing the inessential and attention-seeking minor character away with the aid of a critic's boot to the rear..... .......It is Acheron Hades himself, emerging from the smoky shadows in his grey duster jacket, who prevents any further violence. "Perhaps you think it is contestable to debate that I am the most debased individual on this planet and quite the most brilliant criminal mind this century?" purrs the 46-times murderer as a burning beam crashes to the floor behind me.
"Oh, you seemed like a pretty good villain," I say. "Sinister, even scary - until you started brandishing your press cuttings on page 153. Pure pantomime, you and your cast of caricature cronies." And yet, as Hades floats towards me, his evil smile undiminished, I wonder if I have underestimated the strange powers that have been ascribed to him. "You self congratulatory, verbose, narking little smart-alec," he purrs. For a moment I am completely powerless, watching his hand reach for my throat. Only at the very last moment do I manage to clutch back my self-possession, and leap gratefully to safety aboard a passing train of thought. Not without a twinge of regret, though; for I had more to say on the subject. What a shame, I would have added, that for all her eccentric experiences Thursday Next does not have more of a personality to sharpen the focus of this book's colourful imagination. How irking, too, that the action is so hitched to formulaic conventions. But this is a book about what happens in books, after all, even if it may not be about very much else. And fear not - this reviewer will be long gone by the time you arrive, if you decide to venture further into Thursday Next's entertaining world. Though you may just be able to make out the faint imprint of a size 9 boot on the Elizabethan posterior of Acheron Hades's henchman, Hobbes.

Ninian Dunnett - Read of the week

The Bath Chronicle, June 2001
Crime's a novel idea

If Lewis Carroll had written a detective story he might have come up with something very like The Eyre Affair. Philip Horton discovers that it is a first novel by an accomplished new writer.

EVEN though his literary career started at The Bath Chronicle and his books subsequently sold by the zillion, I've never been able to finish a single page of Terry Pratchett's Discworld Tales. The eyes quickly glaze over after just a few lines of his, or anyone else's, fantasy fiction. Though perhaps it didn't seem like fantasy to him in the first place. Working in Bath, it might have seemed normal that a proportion of the population still thought the world was flat.

Until Pratchett, I thought my reading habits were distinctly catholic, though with a leaning towards crime. Perhaps that inclination encouraged me to open The Eyre Affair, a first novel, described as being akin to Lewis Carroll writing a detective story. The novel is set not just in England, circa 1985, but mostly Swindon; not exactly the place you'd expect amazing happenings. But this isn't the world as we remember it in those days.

In Jasper Fforde's world, crime is combated by various grades of SpecOps - government's shadowy Special Operations Network. His unlikely heroine, Thursday Next, has returned from the Crimean War (still going on after 130 years) to become a literary detective in SpecOps 27. I rather liked SpecOps 17, vampire and werewolf disposal operations - otherwise known as 'the suckers and biters.'

Literary crime is big business. First edition theft and forging are high profile stuff and literary argument abounds. Miltonians and Dryden fans fight in the street, there's a surrealist riot in Chichester, Wales is a socialist republic (nothing new there then) and Baconites argue over Shakespeare but, as Thursday says: "If you expect me to believe a lawyer wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream, I must be dafter than I look." Readers need to be on their toes to pick up all the references, but there are still a few easy ones, such as the nod to Fleming when another character appears: "The name's Schitt," he replied. "Jack Schitt." And GSD has been invented; global standard deity, meant to stop all wars. When then her archenemy, Acheron Hades (bulletproof and can lie in thought, word and deed), starts to kidnap actual characters from the books and hold them to ransom, the story really hots up and the multitude of literary references thicken. Hades goes back in time and imagination via a prose portal invented by Thursday's uncle, this allows readers to step back in time to enjoy the tranquillity of Wordsworth's daffodils, or whatever. Eventually Jane Eyre is plucked from the novel and only Thursday can go into the book to repair the damage.

An unusually inventive, literary, fantasy thriller then and an entertaining hoot. Perhaps I ought to try Pratchett again, but I'll certainly try Fforde's next.


Sunday Telegraph July 15th 2001

Susanna Yager's Choice.

Jasper Fforde's fascinating first novel reads like a JulesVerne story told by Lewis Carroll. The Eyre Affair (NEL, £6.99 pbk) takes place in a Britian where literature, especially the works of Shakespeare, is an important part of everyday life. It's dashing heroine is Thursday Next, a Literary Detective in the elite Special Operations Network. Her assignment is difficult and dangerous. An evil extortionist has stolen the original manuscript of Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit and is threatening to kill one of the characters unless he receives a huge ransom. Forget all the rules of time, space and reality; just sit back and enjoy the adventure as Thursday, with the help of Jane Eyre's Mr Rochester, fights a desperate battle in which Jane herself is in Jeopardy.

ELLE Magazine July 2001

"THE ECCENTRIC EPIC. This is a bizarre little number, a truly pell-mell rush of words and inventiveness. In a parallel universe, someone has seized Jane from Charlotte Bronte's classic masterpiece Jane Eyre. Literary detective extroadinaire Thursday Next has to rescue Jane from the kidnapper, find aunts lost inside poems, deal with hecklers at Hamlet, and manage to get back in time to marry the man she loves. A read that'll leave you breathless.

Ideal for: The literary girl who craves giggles instead of gravitas and wants to combine the equivalent of several large books in one easy-to-carry volume"


The Guardian June 22 2001

Whether trash or triumph, holiday fiction needn't be the same old story, says Alex Clark ....Whimsy often features heavily in summertime publishing, indicating that the literary world can't quite bear to be left out of the silly season. Much hype has surrounded Jasper Fforde's THE EYRE AFFAIR (Hodder £6.99), of which all we can say is that it's a sort of bibliophile's Terry Pratchett. Either that description will prove a major marketing tool or it'll put you right off.....


SFX Magazine

Tom Holt

IN AN ALTERNATE HISTORY WHERE THE CRIMEAN war is still in progress and Eng Literature is the opiate of the masses, an Evil Mastermind is kidnapping characters out of classic novels and holding them to ransom. Our Heroine, a thirty something Lara Croft derivative, is assigned to the case. Then it gets complicated.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mr Fforde has been very nice indeed to a whole host of folks, from Paul Anderson to Simon Hawke, Douglas Adams to your humble servant. What the hell; if you're gonna flatter, flatter the best.

Mr Fforde writes comic fantasy in the American fashion, telling a fairly straight thriller story against a backdrop of imaginative weirdness. He has a sharp wit though very little humour, and the book's appeal lies in the mechanics of the plot rather than any human interest. The hardbitten heroine, dastardly villain, dependable sidekick, dopey love interest and evil corporate scumbag are off-the-peg characterisations who slip from the memory like car keys through a holed pocket: their silly names - Thursday Next, Acheron Hades, Bowden Cable, Landen Park-Laine (for crying out loud), Jack Schitt, and a supporting cast named after places in the Shipping Forecast - suggest that Mr Fforde can't be bothered to take them seriously; they're as nebulous to him as to the reader.

Never mind; apart from a few false starts and loose ends, the plot is precisely machined out of quality material, and most of the strands click into place with Swisswatch precision as the story bounces to a close. The narrative is slickly paced enough to keep the pages turning (there's also a character called Paige Turner) and the chapter-head 'quotations' are cleverly used to avoid excess infodumping. The back cover blurb says that Mr Fforde used to be Something In The Movies, and the book feels rather like a film idea forcibly converted into a novel. Worse things happen at sea.
Disarmed by Mr Fforde's flattery (see above), I decided I wouldn't mention the Bragasque temporal anomaly subplot. So I haven't. Anyway, we find ourselves with some time here on SFX FM, so here's Abba....

What Mr Holt doesn't know is that I haven't heard of either him, Paul Anderson, Simon Hawke or the 'Brag-someone' referred to in the final line. Douglas Adams I freely admit was a great inspiration - the 'Rosettionary' translating carbon paper on page 97 is my homage to 'The Babel Fish', one of the late and very great writer's finest conceptual zingers. Similarly, the 'popping through time' idea was brought about by 'The Burning Man' in Alfred Bester's 'Tiger Tiger' (and undoubtedly numerous others) a book that still has, over twenty years since its last reading, a strong impression on me. I will happily concede that my ideas in Sci-Fi are probably woefully naive and simplistic as I have read almost none of the genre; for that I will try harder next time. This isn't a sci-fi book; it has a sci-fi subplot or two. Mr Holt, you have my sincere apologies - but not my flattery - Jasper Fforde.

Science Fiction Chronicle

This first novel is an odd mix of humor, alternate history, changewar, and other genre themes. The protagonist is Thursday Next, the daughter of a time agent who apparently went rogue. She thinks she knows what the proper course of history was, but her father isn't so sure, and it's perhaps impossible for anyone to know since time travel became possible. In her world, the Crimean War continues after a century and has become a point of national honor rather than an effort to actually gain any territory. Animals extinct in our world still exist and lycanthropy is a known and treatable illness. Theft of original works of literature has become a major crime, and Thursday sets out in pursuit of Acheron Hades, who stole Jane Eyre, a villain whom she continues to chase even after the rest of the world believes that he's dead. There's lots of entertaining embellishments in this one, including the truth about who wrote Shakespeare's plays. The author's previous background is in the film industry but he shows a genuine talent for humorous adventure in this clever and amusing debut.

PostMortem Books review, March 2001

**FFORDE,Jasper: The Eyre Affair**

1st UK. New English Library. July 2001. Yes, that is a double "F" at the beginning of the author's surname! Classy!! This is very peripheral to the main genre of crime fiction but it looks so interesting and there is so much literary detective work contained within it that I just had to list it. It is 1985 but a different 1985 to that which we remember. Wales is a Soviet Republic, Dodos are available in home-cloning kits, the Crimean War is 131 years old and the ending of JANE EYRE is less than satisfactory. Thursday Next is the name of a literary detective who is pursuing the writer who has kidnapped Jane Eyre in a dastardly display of literary vandalism. With its narrator missing, half the book is blank and the world holds its breath. As if that wasn't enough, Thursday also has to assist her time travelling father, marry the man she loves, figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays... A first novel of some literary dynamism and marvellous fun. Spot the allusions! To be published in two formats. The regular small format paperback and a simultaneous VERY SHORT RUN hardback (the hardback is not being advertised as it is deemed primarily for libraries). I have copies of the hardback reserved and I would recommend early reservation. I can supply both editions. Updated info: This review by Sarah Broadhurst has just appeared in The Bookseller, a trade magazine. I quote it exactly: "Take note of this for it is very special indeed. I cannot remember being so excited about the beginning of a series since Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel. Similar to Pratchett in that it is set in another world, though this one is actually another time as opposed to another universe - and it is very clever. It has the startling originality, an imaginative set of characters, some ingenious ideas and a damn good plot. With literary references, wonderful time warps, good pace intriguing detail, I believe that very soon this author will be a top seller. Sadly I don't think the cover does it justice (hear! hear! Ralph) but I await the next with bated breath."

Piece for ezine getoutthere June 2001

There is a rumour going around -as substantiated as the easter bunny- that novelists have a clear idea of their book before they write it, construct large plot diagrams and even go so far as to sketch characters and chapter outlines. I wish I could do this. I can't. My writing technique is a sort of strange haphazard progression - more akin to fish evolving into mammals than an ordered sequence of events.

"The Eyre Affair" began with two names, one bad guy and the notion that Jane Eyre gets kidnapped from her own book. The first really important step was the realisation that Thursday Next's world needed to be slightly skewed - yet close enough to be amusingly familiar - to allow all the bizarre occurrences to make any sense. Once this framework was in place, anything becomes possible - The Crimean war still raging, the greater interest in literary matters, the all powerful Goliath Corporation, audience participation renderings of Richard III, a Welsh Socialist Republic, neanderthals alive and well - the list goes on and on.

The inspiration for these meanderings are from anywhere and everywhere: things people say, things people do, newspapers, current events, movies, books - all are grist to my mill. Example: Thursday's pet was an Abyssinian cat named Elmo until I visited the Oxford museum of Natural history and came across a stuffed dodo in a glass case. I asked the woman in the museum shop if they sold dodo home cloning kits and she told me to come back in fifty years. I wrote in Thursday's pet dodo that weekend. Most of my ideas arrive this way - then those ideas beget new ideas and other ideas added to those, and so on and so on until something has emerged from the primordial ooze that is closer to a mammal than a fish. Then - the combing starts. Dialogue which is lame is made less lame, conversations tightened up, useless descriptions thrown out and necessary descriptions added in. Holes flagged, points explained, unfunny jokes removed. The combing carries on right up to the moment my publisher tears the manucript from my keyboard-stained fingers.

If it were possible I'd be around Waterstone's with a pot of glue and replacement pages and perhaps after that knocking at your front door with a bottle of tipp-ex and a pen: 'Excuse, me, my name is Jasper Fforde. Do you have a copy of 'The Eyre Affair' by any chance? I've spelt Steller's sea cow incorrectly and I was wondering...' So you see how it works. Scatty and haphazard and totally undisciplined but, but - I do get my own mammal out of the fish at the very end - even if it is a duck-billed platypus.

Jasper Fforde
June 2001