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  Philip Pullman
Updated 23 January 2002, 19.50
Philip Pullman
Author Philip Pullman joined us here live to answer YOUR questions, after winning the prestigious Whitbread Book of the Year award.

If you missed the live version, you can still catch up on his chat by clicking on the link below:

  Hear chat  

Katy, 13, London
How did you feel when you won the Whitbread Award?

Philip: Well I felt very surprised and very thrilled, very excited, it is a nerve wrecking thing because you don't know in advance whether you have won or not. So you sit there with everybody else watching them bring the envelope in and fumbling and pretending to open it and then, and then suddenly you know - but it is nerve wracking.

David, Wolverhampton
Will you be writing any more books with the same characters in? Please say yes!

Philip: I will be writing another book later on when I am finished the book I am doing now. I will be writing another book set in the same world and dealing with some of the same characters, it won't be a continuation of the story, this particular story, but it will be set in the same world and dealing with the same sort of things.

Lucy, Stroud
Where do you get the ideas from your books from? They're brilliant!

Philip: Well the question where do you get your ideas from is always a difficult one for a writer to answer but I think the best way to get ideas is just by wandering about in a day dream. Sit on your chair and swing back on it with your mouth open and your eyes closed and eventually ideas will come. And if you can't get any of your own then steal somebody else's!

Elsa, 12, Nottingham
What made you choose writing as a career?

Philip: Well I don't think you choose it as a career so much as you find it's something you have just got to do. I have always told stories when I was young, I was telling stories to my friends and to my brother and when I got old enough to write them down I started doing that, and it is just something that I have always done and never wanted to do anything other than that. So you don't calmly look around and think now shall I be, shall I be a window cleaner? No I don't think so - you are out in the cold and the rain. Shall I be a stock broker? No it doesn't happen like that.

Jasmine, 10, Bristol
What was your favourite book as a child?

Philip: One of them was a book called the Magic Pudding which is an Australian comic children's book, a funny book about a magic pudding by a writer called Norman Lyndsey and it has got very funny pictures in it which he drew himself. It is quite an old book, it was published in about 1916 and so it is almost a 100 years old, but it is still as funny and as fresh and as delightful as the day it was written. I also love the books about the wonderful Moomin family who live in Finland.

Franka, London
If you had a daemon, what animal would it be?

Philip: Well you see the thing about your daemon, as Lyra discovers in the course of the first book is that you can't choose what your daemon is going to be. You might want it to be a lion and he turns out to be a poodle so you can't choose. If I could choose I would like my daemon to be something attractive and beautiful and photogenic and things, all the things that I am not typically. But you can't choose and it might turn out to be something like a slug that didn't look very nice at all.

But what I think my daemon probably is if I could guess would be one of those birds like a Jackdaw or a Magpie, nothing spectacular to look at but they steal bright things, whether it is a diamond ring or a bit of aluminium foil or whatever it is, an old tin can, if it is bright and shiny they go and pick it up. That is what story tellers do - we look for bright shiny interesting bits of gossip or bits of news or bits of information that reveal a character or something. And we collect them all and take them back to our nest, so that is what I think my daemon probably would be, but I can't choose and I don't know.

Felix, 12, London
Is it essential to read the first two books to understand The Amber Spyglass?

Philip: I think it probably is. The chairman of the judges of the Whitbread Award hadn't read the first two books and he still thought it was OK so obviously it is possible, but to make full sense of the story you really do need to start with Northern Lights because it is all one story and it continues in the second book The Subtle Knife and it comes to a conclusion in the third book. Just beginning with The Amber Spyglass would be like starting with the end of a film. You can sort of get a sense of it but you get a much better sense of it if you have read the first two first.

Cameron, 12, Upper Largo
Will a movie be made of your books?

Philip: There are plans to make a film - yes. The company that has bought the rights is called Scholastic Films Incorporated and they are based in New York and they are talking very actively at the moment to screen writers and to directors and producers and people like that. They are gradually putting the thing together but it does take a lot of time because films, as I am sure you know, are very very expensive things to make. It is quite common these days to have films that cost a hundred million dollars and you don't get that sort of money hanging on trees, so you have got to do a lot of talking and a lot of persuading and a lot of thinking about it and how it can raise the money and so on and so forth. So it will take a long time to get it together but I think there might well be a film one day.

Simon, Kent
Why do you hate God so much as it appears in your books?

Philip: Well, it is not that I hate God, it is just because I don't believe in God, it is just that I think the people who do believe in God and persecute the people who don't believe in God are thoroughly dangerous, that is the way I would put it. People who have got an idea of God that makes them want to persecute other people for not believing their idea of God, they are the dangerous ones, people who say we have got the truth and the truth is in the Bible or the Koran or the whatever it is and we know the truth, and we are going to kill everybody who doesn't believe things that we believe, that is a dreadful state of affairs and it is an unfortunate part of human nature that it seems to be attracted to this sort of extreme certainty and arrogance and so much so that they want to make everybody else believe the way they do and kill everybody who believes different. And I think that is the dangerous thing and those are the people I mistrust and fear and would fight against willingly.

Thomas, 14, Sheffield
What is your next book coming out going to be about?

Philip: Well the book I am writing now is a shorter book. The working title is The Scarecrow and his Servant and it is one of the books I call my fairy tales. But it won't be out for a year or so because I haven't finished it yet.

Patrick, 16, Birmingham
Will the fact that you have won this top Whitbread Award change the way you write books in the future?

Philip: It is an interesting question but no it won't because if you were to let it change the way you write books you would very quickly start writing rotten books. You would sit there thinking gosh I am so important, oh I am clever, oh everybody thinks I am wonderful and you wouldn't be able to put one word in front of another without thinking how wonderful you were.

Sean, 16, Romsey
Why did The Amber Spyglass have such a sad ending?

Philip: Well I know what you mean, I felt it was a sad ending, I felt sad about it too. But there was nothing I could do about it, that was implicit in it from the very beginning and if you look at the book carefully you will see a lot of little patterns throughout that you might not have noticed, all of which have to do with two things or two people or a person and a place that were very close to each other are split apart. Now that happens a great deal in the book and if you notice that pattern you will see it turning up all the way through and I had to be true to that pattern because that is the basic pattern of the whole story.

Selina, 14, Essex
Your books have been compared to Tolkien who wrote Lord of the Rings. What do you think of that?

Philip: Well I'm flattered I suppose because people who say that don't usually say these books are just like the Lord of the Rings, a load of rubbish that was too, they generally say it because they are intending to say it is a good story or something and so I am flattered by that. I don't think that I was doing the same sort of thing that Tolkien was doing, he started by inventing the language the Elves speak, he invented a world in which that language could naturally come about and then found himself writing stories about that world.

So he began in a different way and I think he had a different sort of purpose too. I didn't begin like that, I didn't invent a whole language or all the different history of the different places or anything like that, I just wanted to tell a story about a girl and a boy who were both growing up and I found myself writing a sort of fantasy about different worlds because that seemed to be the best and most vivid way I could tell that story. So they began in different ways and they had different purposes. On the other hand I live in Oxford as Tolkien did, I have written a big book in three volumes as he did and there are sort of fantastical elements in both of them, so I can see similarities but there are other ways in which we are very different I think.

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