The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Introduced by Jasper Fforde

Novelist Jasper Fforde recently participated in a live webcast for The Guardian. He gave quick fire answers to reader’s questions on everything from his plans for his hero Thursday Next, dealing with publisher rejections and the feminism in Jane Eyre. Jasper has kindly agreed for his responses related to The Eyre Affair to be adapted for A Book a Day in Hay.

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When I read The Eyre Affair I really enjoyed all the twists and turns – but the idea of having to plan it all seemed overwhelming. Do you use any kinds of visual aids/plans? or just have it all in your head?

All in my head. I once did a plan and spent two weeks doing it, then started writing – within a week I had gone off on a tangent. The trouble is that there are these things called ‘better ideas’ and they lurk at the door, taunting me until I tell them to come in and use them. And those better ideas only chance along when I am writing. The worst and best thing that can happen for me is a better idea at the 11th hour. Bad because I have to rework everything, and best because they are, well, better ideas. The ‘changing the ending of Jane Eyre’ idea is a case in point – arrived when the book was finished. Had to go in. Pulled the book apart and then plastered over the cracks. The book is better for it.

What made you make the protagonist of the Thursday Next books a woman? 

Thursday was a woman quite simply because I’d written two books with a male protagonist (The two Nursery Crime books, which although published last, were written first) and I thought, I like Jack Spratt but his female co-stars were much more interesting to write. She was third person for a while, but then I though I wasn’t getting inside her head enough, so switched the book to first person.

I’ve written Thursdayish characters ever since, even if they aren’t truly the protagonist.

Thursday Next is a wonderful heroine. Is there any one or number of women that inspired you when writing her? And if so, who?

This was a hard one, as much of writing is intuitive and it may take years to figure out why you did some thing. I think Thursday is based on pioneering women aviators of the golden years of aviation – people like Bessie Colman, Beryl Markham, Amy Johnson. Women who didn’t think for one moment that this was unusual or difficult – just went and did it because they had a burning desire to do so. Amy Johnson flew to Australia alone, in the twenties, with about ninety hours of flying experience in a 2nd hand aircraft and guided by what was essentially a school atlas. When she crash landed in India she repaired the aircraft with men’s shirts sewn together and got a painter to make her some cellulose dope by smelling the wing and mixing up something similar.The equivalent today would be a young lady passing her driving test on the friday, buying a Nissan Micra on Saturday and announcing she was going to Pluto on the Monday.

Extraordinary women.

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Read the full webcast transcript on The Guardian website here.

Jasper Fforde lives near Hay-on-Wye.

www.jasperfforde.com

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