Terry Pratchett and Pupil Power

Terry Pratchett is one of the world's most successful novelists. He was born in Beaconsfield, England in 1948. At the tender age of 13, Terry wrote and published his first short story, The Hades Business. His first full-length novel, The Carpet People was published in 1971. Since then, Terry Pratchett has sold around 30 million books worldwide and is best known for his Discworld series.

WoE: People instantly recognize you by your black hats. When and why did you get into hats?
TP: It was about 15 years ago. I walked into a shop and saw this beautiful, black wide-brimmed hat and suddenly realized that I had always wanted one. It gives me something to do with my head! Every spring I buy a new one. One hat lasts about 7 years.

You sell an amazing amount of books to young adults and teenagers.
Yes, that's true. But I don't write for any particular age group. Most people who buy my books for the first time are young; but young readers grow into older readers, and my accountant loves that. My readership continues to grow because I have lots of readers who read me when they were young and are still reading me now. And those people have kids of their own, who also read me.

When you started out as a novelist, why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?
Because you can do a whole load of things with fantasy that other genres can do, plus a whole lot more. And if you want to have a talking dog in your novel, then you can have one. Fantasy writing means that you look at the everyday, normal world from another perspective. We too often accept things as ordinary, which are, in fact, extraordinary.

When you began writing who were your main literary influences?
My main influence - his philosophy as much as his style - was JK Chesterton. He was a great writer of paradox. Chesterton once saw a sign on a shop window that read: moor eeffoc. This, of course, is Coffee Room spelt backwards. He was reading the sign from inside the shop and not outside. But mooreeffoc sounded such a great and outlandish word to him. Suddenly the normal, familiar world had become extraordinary and unfamiliar. The everyday world is made up of some very strange things. And it's familiarity that makes things appear normal. The ability to look at the world from another point of view is something we should treasure and encourage, I think.

Why do you think that British writers, from HG Wells to JK Rowlings, have been so successful working in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre?
Maybe it's because it rains so much in Britain? But I have another theory. The British began writing fantasy at the same time as they were building an Empire. So, they were conquering new worlds in their heads at the same time as they were exploring new countries and planting the British flag around this world.
But the popularity of fantasy writing in Britain goes in booms. We are going through a boom now, and we went through one in the early nineteen eighties. Tolkien had shown us then that it was possible to make big money from fantasy. I survived the boom then, and, hopefully, I will survive this one.

And what are you writing now?
Another book in the Discworld series, of course. It should be in the bookshops this autumn. But it is hard to find time to write when I am on publicity tours like the one I'm on now in Poland. I have to decide whether to write or to tour. But I did get up early today and wrote 200 words in the hotel room.

When I go on holiday I often write more than when I am at home. No phone calls. And it can be a tough life, sitting on the beach in Australia, the sun going down over the horizon, with a nice cold beer, writing novels.