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Thursday, 27 May, 1999, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Terry Pratchett's fantasy world
Terry Pratchett writes about wizards, witches and dwarves and might have been dismissed as a crank if was not for the fact his books have sold 12 million copies worldwide.

He talks to BBC HARDtalk about how he escaped the nuclear power industry for a multi-million pound fantasy world.

"If you have to have your head in the air professionally you certainly have to have both feet on the ground," says Pratchett, who has written more than 30 novels about the likes of Corporal Carrot, Granny Weatherwax and Gaspode the Wonder Dog.

But all such characters behave surprisingly like old-fashioned earth-dwellers and Pratchett reckons that the boundary between the two worlds is "pretty vague".

"This world does have its fantasy elements," says the author, who uses his comical creations to take a satirical look at our own behaviour.

"Fantasy allows you to reflect things happening in our world by looking at it in a slightly distorting mirror," says the author.

"You can see and comment on humanity from an outsiders perspective."

Death stars in several Discworld novels, including Mort (1987)
Born in 1948, in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, Pratchett started writing as a child and got his first short-story published when he was just 13-years-old.

Published in the school magazine, Pratchett remembers that his work was condemned by the headmaster as 'morally suspect', which sent sales of the publication through the roof.

The budding writer went on to work as a journalist on a local newspaper before taking up a post as a press officer in the nuclear power industry.

It was during this time that Pratchett started writing his biggest money-spinner - Discworld.

The Discworld series introduced a whole new array of comic characters who live in a world supported by four elephants who stand atop a giant 'star turtle' which swims endlessly through space.

Pratchett describes Discworld as "an attempt to simplify life", by dealing with weighty subjects such as political correctness, religion and war in a unobtrusive and amusing way.

And it was this hugely popular series that changed Pratchett's life by making him one of the UK's best-selling authors.

"I can't spot my readers now," says Pratchett, whose audience has exploded over the last 15 years to encompass all types of people.

His readers include those who prefer not to pay for the pleasure, for Pratchett holds the distinction of being Britain's most shop-lifted author.

Pratchett has now written more than 20 Discworld novels and made a fortune out of his star turtle, but the author remains surprisingly level-headed about his own success.

Describing himself as a "rather harassed, small, bald-headed man", Pratchett insists it is the small extravagances that give him the most satisfaction these days.

"It's nice to go into a bookshop and buy several books without looking at the prices," says the author, who insists he isn't just in it for the money.

"It isn't everything," says the author, "It's just a way of keeping score."

To watch the HARDtalk interview in full:

Tune in on Thursday 27 May on BBC World at 1530 and 1930 GMT (1630 and 2030 BST) and in the UK on BBC News 24 at 2030 and 0330 BST.

Upcoming HARDtalk highlights include:

Award-winning British playwright Harold Pinter on Tuesday 1 June

British film director Michael Winner on Tuesday 8 June

Controversial feminist and writer Camille Paglia on Wednesday 9 June

Terry Pratchett: "Fantasy allows you to reflect things happening in this world"
Terry Pratchett: "Fantasy is the oldest form of fiction"
Terry Pratchett: "I can't spot my readers now"
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