"My inspiration for a book seldom comes from a single place. Little idea-fragments grow in unattended parts of my brain, like dust bunnies, and eventually combine, like larger and more worrying dust bunnies. Bear came first. Hearing how badly dancing bears were treated, I imagined one returning as an angry ghost, unshackled at last and ready for revenge."
"There is something of the foppish hippy about her, but her beautiful manners, upright posture, and her accent seem Victorian. She is softly spoken, but impeccably articulate. She is a person of conviction."
"The winner of the Costa book of the year can’t quite believe that – even after a decade as an author – she hasn’t yet been ‘found out’. She talks about faith, being bullied at school, and finding her vocation in a dolphinarium."
"I don’t usually tell my readers what to do, any more than I generally tell them what to think. I generally prefer exploring issues and ideas rather than rolling out a manifesto. My views come out in my work, of course, but hopefully in a reasonably complex way."
The presenter Nick Higham interviewed Frances on television on the occasion of The Lie Tree winning the Costa Children's Book of the Year 2015 award. Lots of interesting insights into the motivation behind the book!
Frances answered 5-4-3-2-1 questions for this new book blog site. “Dear younger Frances, you have zero ability to judge your own work. You think what you've written is rubbish. You always do. You always will. Send it off anyway.”
Here's a radio interview with Frances, part of this podcast series. Talking about some of her award-winning books, cheeses that give you visions, and the power of books to rearrange the way you think.
Author Philip Womack chatted with Frances in a gastro-pub where you can order duck hearts on toast:
"So what drives her fiction, ultimately? She pauses, uncharacteristically, and thinks, her sensitive face alive with movement. Then she speaks, all at once. ‘Anger, humour, the desire to overturn things.’ It’s looking underneath things, I say. She nods, enthusiastically. ‘And sometimes what’s underneath actually looks a little better than what’s on top.’ This upturning, though, does not confuse; rather, it seeks to understand and explore the nuanced, strange world that we live in. And that goes for all of Hardinge’s books. Hers is an extraordinary talent, and her place in the roster of literature is assured."
And Frances also talked to Reading Zone, mostly about The Lie Tree:
"I was trying to put Faith into the context of that time. While she is rebellious and she doesn't fit the general mold of how a Victorian woman should be, I wanted to make it clear how logistically and psychologically hard it is for her to rebel. Believing what one does and behaving in a way that seems undutiful is really hard and behaving in a way that is scandalous and has repercussions for people near to you is really hard, and to see yourself continually and subtly undermined is also really hard."
Frances was interviewed by Peter Sutton for this Bristol-based book blog. She talked about her writing and influences:
"There are days when I would like to be Saracen, the homicidal goose. He lives in a straightforward world where all obstacles are surmountable/breakable, even the annoying, tall, loud, bipedal ones. Saracen seems to be the most popular character I've ever created, so I suspect others feel the same way."
Juliette Saumande interviewed Frances for this Irish children's books magazine, covering some very interesting thoughts and questions:
"I think my protagonists do show some of that originality of thought, quick-wittedness and nerve, because they're qualities that I find very appealing. I am not a fan of Chosen Ones, or individuals who are given everything they need by Destiny. I want a protagonist who picks Destiny's pocket, or finds loopholes in an unwinnable game."
C. J. Busby interviewed Frances for this website, starting off by talking about Cuckoo Song and moving on to more general discussion:
"My books tend to have a bodycount, and for the course of the story I like my readers to be in real doubt about whether my main character will survive. Most of them live in quite unforgiving worlds. I suspect that in fact I probably do take my protagonists to some dark and unhappy places… but then allow them to find a way out again, through their own ingenuity, courage and strength of will."
Cambridge Jones did a Q&A with Frances when she appeared at the museum as The Scarlet Pimpernel, and here's their page including the audio recording of it.
Frances was interviewed for this online magazine by Laurel Sills:
"In the real world, adults sometimes get things wrong and do wrong things, and a lot of children and young adults actually genuinely find themselves in situations where they are disempowered but have responsibility. Being able to see the problems that need to be fixed without necessarily being given the authority to be able to fix them and having to find some way to fix them and survive the fallout."
Frances was interviewed by author Tom Pollock at this event, and also took questions from the audience.
"I can entirely understand why there is romance in so many other books, it's often incorporated as part of a coming of age narrative. Just as recognition of your parents being human, and flaws in the world around you, is part of a coming of age narrative, learning about yourself is part of it, and that's romance, where you are being seen in a different way and learning to see yourself in a different way. I think that's perfectly natural. It's not a narrative that draws me so much, but I don't really feel in YA fiction we've got a dearth of romance…"
"I'm a hopeless kidult. The study where I work has nerf guns and water pistols arranged along the hooks on the door. My boyfriend and I have a board game stack that literally reaches the ceiling. An embarrassing number of my clothes are fancy dress or period costume. I can sing the whole of 'What's Opera, Doc'."
This interview by Ed Fortune was recorded whilst Ed and Frances were trapped in a cupboard, ten feet from a Dalek. I'm really not making this up.
Katherine Roberts talks to Frances about flies, among other things.
A podcast interview by Emma Newman – listen to it here.
Frances was interviewed by Louise Ellis-Barrett, covering lots of interesting topics:
"Descriptive 'titles' for characters are often applied to them by others, and can be either reverent or irreverent. 'The Kleptomancer' in A Face Like Glass is a title heavy with awe and fear – nobody knows who he is, only what he does. In Twilight Robbery, on the other hand, my heroine gives a certain red-faced bureaucrat the title of 'The Raspberry' in the privacy of her own head."
An interview by fellow Kitschies finalist Tom Pollock.
"I remember seeing a church where some of the carved faces were clearly caricatures of the local nobility. Some stonemason soldiered through a long apprenticeship, and spent his whole life perfecting his craft until he was respected enough to get away with that kind of cheek. Speaking for myself, I am much more interested in that stonemason than in any supernatural creature frolicking out of the forest to say: 'Hello! I was born pretty and magically gifted! Aren't I wonderful?'"
"Eleven-year-old Triss is recovering from a near-drowning and a serious illness, tended by her doting parents. As she tries to return to her ordinary life, however, she soon becomes aware that something is terribly wrong. Her memories are tattered and incomplete, her appetite is running rampant, and sinister, impossible things keep happening around her. And for some reason her younger sister Pen is treating her with hostility and hatred… or possibly fear…"
An account of Frances's visit to St Nicolas School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, followed by a brief interview.
"When sending your work out, treat your rejections as triumphs, your rejection slips as trophies. Getting rejected means you are getting out there, it means you are making progress. Listening to criticism and making revisions is all part of the craft. It's a toughening up process, and you need a thick skin for when your books gets published!"
This new interview doesn't seem to be online anywhere, but it's only short so we're putting the whole thing here.
What books did you read when you were a child?
My favourite stories were always the ones full of adventure, mystery and peril, rather than those set entirely at school or in everyday situations. I particularly loved Susan Cooper and Alan Garner for their books where the magical world existed alongside the mundane, and where ordinary kids (like me) might suddenly slip sideways into mysterious and exciting new realms. I was also addicted to Leon Garfield's historical adventures.
If you could be a storybook character, who would you be?
I would like to be the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I'd love to be able to vanish leaving just a smile, just to weird people out.
What is the best thing about reading?
Opening a book is like stepping into a TARDIS. Turn the right page, and you can be transported anywhere in space or time, and discover whole worlds that other people have created. It doesn't matter if the author lived a hundred years ago, their mind-world is still there, waiting for you to step into it and explore.
What is your all-time favourite book?
That's a really difficult question, since I have about twenty favourites. The book I have re-read the most is probably Watership Down by Richard Adams. It's a lot darker and more epic than you'd expect.
Frances was interviewed by the online book club Bookbabblers, for whom she was 'Author in Residence' for the whole of May 2012. Read it here.
"Every Thursday I go for a hike of at least ten miles. For some reason I find it easier to think through plot ideas while I’m walking. I’ve got no sense of direction and I get lost all the time, but that just means I discover interesting places unexpectedly."
During May 2012, Frances was 'Author of the Month' for Reading Zone, the website dedicated to children, librarians and teachers enthusiastic about reading. Her interview for Reading Zone can be read here.
"One of the common ways in which oppressive powers try to control the downtrodden is by stopping them from expressing themselves.
They ban rebellious books and newspapers, arrest poets and journalists who dare to criticise, crush demonstrations, etc.
In Caverna it's one step worse – the poor drudges aren't even able to look angry. Their expressions are always happy or obedient, even when they're miserable or seething inside."
"Are you conscious of the age of the children you're writing for? Is it a consideration in your choice of language?
FH: I don't find writing for children at all inhibiting. I write for the 12-year-old me. I actually have a lot of respect for young readers, and think they can cope with darker subjects and more complicated plots than some people think. Of course children are used to not understanding every word they read; they're used to looking things up and taking the time to puzzle out new ideas, whereas adult readers are far more impatient."
"Mosca is, admits Hardinge, 'partly me'. 'It's the adoration of books,' she says, citing Alan Garner, Leon Garfield, Susan Cooper and Nicholas Fisk as childhood favourites. 'And I probably don't come across as a particularly angry person but what anger I do have probably gets manifested in Mosca to quite a noticeable degree. There's a strong streak of stubbornness too: she's very stubborn, I'm more stubborn than I look.'"
And also a video of Frances talking about the book!
In March 2011, Frances was interviewed by Caroline Sanderson for Books for Keeps. You can read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt…
"At the end of Twilight Robbery, an uncertain future once again faces Mosca, Saracen and Clent as they leave Toll for pastures new, Mosca declaring herself on ‘borrowed time’ as she decides whether to accept a rather complicated job offer. So can we expect a return for the fly girl, born on the day sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies Out of Jams and Butterchurns? ‘I do have ideas about what happens next. The territory of my books always stretches out beyond what I actually use, and there is still a sense of the wider realm beyond. So there is probably more Mosca to come. But not yet. And I’m definitely not writing a trilogy. I still don’t know how many books there might be in the series.’"
Elizabeth Bird, from School Library Journal, did this interview with Frances in November 2009:
"Will there be a Gullstruck Island sequel? The book stands on its own, true, but now I want to know even more about these characters in the future. Any plans to return?
FH: I have no plans to write a sequel, but it makes me happy when readers feel there would be room for one. I hate leaving characters at anything that feels like a full stop. Life simply does not work like that. I prefer to leave the reader feeling that the book’s world and its inhabitants will continue after the last page, and that this is not the end of their story."
Frances was interviewed by Nikki Gamble from this website in January 2008, mostly about Verdigris Deep / Well Witched. It's not online any more, unfortunately, but here's an interesting question that we captured:
"I've noticed that your writing is multi-sensory and in particular the sense of smell is frequently referred to.
Smell does evoke a sense of place quite strongly. Funnily enough, one of the sensory elements I have to remind myself about is actually temperature, because my personal sense of temperature is extremely poor. I don’t tend to notice it. So I often have to remind myself to include such things so that my characters aren’t similarly afflicted."