We spent yesterday evening at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford--the venue with The World's Most Uncomfortable Seating--to listen to Philip Pullman talking to James Naughtie. I'm a big fan of the His Dark Materials trilogy, so I was interested in hearing what he had to say.
It was a great evening. Pullman is a very humane, honest and intelligent author, and it was fascinating to hear how he came by the characters. Like some other authors, he said that he felt as if he had just 'discovered' the characters. He knew that this couldn't be true, because he didn't believe that they existed outside of his imagination, but at the same time he couldn't account for where they came from. Certainly, when you read the books, you get the feeling that all of the characters (even the minor ones) have full lives--a past and a future--and that you are just glimpsing a tiny part of that life. He also said that he would like to write about how the friendship between Lee Scoresby (the airship pilot and adventurer) and Iorek Byrnison (the king of the armoured bears) developed. I loved those characters, so I'm very keen to see how this turns out.
It was also fun hearing about why he picked particular locations in Oxford to set his books. He pointed out that Oxford is a place where reality and alternative reality meet--where South Parade is north of North Parade and the river has a special name not used anywhere else. I do sometimes feel that quite keenly when walking around Oxford--particularly at night. It seems as if you could easily slip through a rip in reality, and wander into another world.