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Beyond the mirror

"This world is visible for my fans now. I can invite all MirrorWorlders to see and touch and go through the Mirror." Author Cornelia Funke. Photo by Gillian Crane
Fantasy author Cornelia Funke talks with Transmedia NZ's Fiona Milburn about extending her MirrorWorld series beyond the printed page.


Renowned fantasy author Cornelia Funke talks with Transmedia NZ's Fiona Milburn about working with Guillermo del Toro's Mirada Studios on extending her MirrorWorld series beyond the printed page.

"This world is visible for my fans now.  I can invite all MirrorWorlders to see and touch and go through the Mirror."

* * *

Cornelia Funke is the award-winning German author of the Inkheart trilogy and MirrorWorld series.  With numerous fantasy and adventure books for children and young adults to her credit, she has recently moved into the realm of transmedia storytelling with the development of the MirrorWorld app with Mirada Studios.  

Cornelia will be in New Zealand in May for the Auckland Writers Festival and has kindly answered some questions on extending storyworlds, the nature of collaboration, and engaging readers beyond the printed page.

What drew you to the collaboration with Mirada Studios on the MirrorWorld app?  Why did you want to extend MirrorWorld beyond the printed page?

I have been through seven movie adaptations - which made me realise that the images on the screen very rarely show my readers what I have in my head.  As I am an illustrator as well, the visuals of a world are vastly important for me.  I have notebooks filled with images on locations, creatures and characters from MirrorWorld.  I cover my walls with photographs, prints and illustrations so it has always been quite frustrating to never be able to share this with my readers. When I met the Miradas it felt like walking into my own imagination - it is hard to describe how enchanting a feeling that is! I did not even know how much I missed having those creative eyes.

How did the collaboration work in practice?  Was it difficult letting someone else into your creative process?

To work with Mirada was the most inspiring and fulfilling creative collaboration I ever experienced in my life. They read my mind.  I am sure they travelled behind the Mirror without me in secret as they knew so much about it.  They made me see that world even more clearly, asking all the right questions, being endlessly curious about places, characters, rules, spells.... They also had a deep understanding of the traditions I come from - they used illustration techniques from the 19th century.  They created figurines, embroidered cloth, made a ManGoyl Head, an Ogre Arm (it's on my desk, I will get buried with it, as it is my greatest treasure:) invited me into creative heaven.

Has the relationship between MirrorWorld and its fans changed with this expansion of your storyworld?

This world is visible for my fans now.  I can invite all MirrorWorlders to see and touch and go through the Mirror.  We will next create passports - people can already register on my website.  I am writing a short story for my Spanish, German, French publishers about the world behind the Mirror - and wherever I travel I ask about the fairy tales.  I will ask in Auckland! :)

My ideal would be to involve my readers so much while travelling through this world that they get to places without me, discover treasure, characters, and report back to me...I will of course still spin the yarn of the story, that can be found in the books, myself.  But, I would love to gather lore about MirrorWorld and its places, make it rich and diverse and a celebration of the mysteries and miracles of this world (for, of course, every imagined world is fed by this one).

In short - I will probably never find my way back through the Mirror.  But I love the idea that I am travelling behind it with readers from all around the world.  I want them all to be able to find their own unique cultural heritage behind it, the past and the tales of their countries, the sound of their language.... Of course I won't be able to do that for all the countries of this world, but I hope to include many! :)

What are your favourite elements of the MirrorWorld app?  Are you planning similar extensions for your other works?

Oh I can't pick a favourite. The carpet is woven too perfectly :)  

And yes, we are already working on a Dragonrider app (which will be vastly different, of course:) and I hope that next year we will show Inkworld the way I see it in my head.  Which is, by the way, MirrorWorld - just about 600 years earlier.

Mirada and I founded a company called BreathingBooks for these projects.

Can you tell us a bit more about the connection between Inkworld and MirrorWorld ... will this connection be explored more fully in future apps and/or books?

When I started my encyclopedia for MirrorWorld, creating A4 notebooks with quotes, images, etc about all my creatures, characters, locations etc to not get lost in this ever growing world, I noticed creatures and motifs that reminded me very much of Inkworld.  'Of course!' I said to myself.  ‘It IS the same world, just 600 years earlier!’  And Fenoglio's word-controlled domain is just a small region in Northern Italy.  There are very different rules and powers once you leave that region - the rules I observed in MirrorWorld.

I wrote three short stories (which are already published in German and Italian) about this connection:

1.  How a book bound in silver brought the Silvertongues to our world (which was created by Alder Elves).

2.  How Orpheus realises that Fenoglio's power exists only in a certain region and that outside of it he can gain power in very different ways.

3.  How Fenoglio learns that Orpheus is still alive and sending his glassman out as a spy.

Mirada and I plan to explore this in another app that focuses on Inkworld next year.

I also start using motifs from my other books behind the Mirror: the carousel from Thieflord was mentioned in Fearless, there are connections to Dragonrider and I think I know where Dustfinger lives in MirrorWorld and what he calls himself :)

Your engagement with MirrorWorld readers extends beyond the MirrorWorld app, can you tell us about the MirrorWorlders Project?

I guess you refer to the passports we plan to hand out?  I want to make my most passionate MirrorWorlders into true residents of that world, so I will give them all an identity behind it, of course taking their wishes in account.

Can you tell us more about these passports?

I asked MirrorWorlders on both my website and Facebook to apply for a passport in my guestbook on the website, giving me whatever info they want me to have on who they want to be behind the Mirror.  

I plan to in summer create from this info profiles of inhabitants of MirrorWorld, and Mirada will develop the design of the passports (we plan to send them out as paper, not as downloads).

We’re thinking of adding stamps, visas etc but we are still only playing with ideas.

Are you inviting readers to create fan fiction and/or submit stories from their own cultural mythologies? How do you feel about fan fiction?

Yes, I already gather suggestions from readers about treasures and creatures, based on their local lore, which my characters may meet.  I will also be open to fan fiction that follows the rules I set up for this world and explores corners I may not get to (after all it is a whole world:)  As for the story told in the books, I will not publish stories on my website that tell different endings, plot lines, use my characters - although those can of course be published on fan fiction sites (I actually take any fan fiction as a great compliment).

I really love the playfulness of your official Cornelia Funke website, it reminds me of point-and-click adventure games.  Was this playfulness important to you as a storyteller and how similar is it to your actual "Writing House"?

It is VERY similar. We worked from a photo of my Writing House. And SpoonFork the small German company that designed it did a brilliant job, together with my sister Insa, who is the brilliant captain of the ship.

And to finish, what inspired you most about the possibilities inherent in these new forms of digital storytelling?

First of all - the restrictions I face as an illustrator. It was wonderful to do the illustrated stories we created for the app.

Second - my frustrations with movie adaptations. It is still a miracle for me that I could control the visual presentation of my world.

Third - the app (or the Breathing Book as we prefer to call it) grew my world instead of shrinking it.  An unforgettable experience.

Thank you, Cornelia.

  • If you’d like to hear more from Cornelia Funke on imagination and storytelling, you can catch her at MirrorWorlds, her Auckland Writers Festival event on Friday, May 16 at Aotea Centre.

Written by

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