Phillip Pullman Explains His Influences and Inspiration

By October 22, 2017Literature, On Writing

Phillip Pullman’s new addition to the His Dark Materials series comes not a moment too soon for fans of his writing. The first book in the newest trilogy The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, was due for release on the 19th of October 2017 but had an accidental early release 15 days before its due date. 

Pullman described the book as not a prequel, but an equel. A series not to stand before or after the novels that concluded in 2005, but ones that will stand beside them. The stories follow “the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free”.

Pullman spoke to the media about his inspiration behind his well-loved stories, and what has influenced his writing and characters over the years.




Speaking to the Daily Mail, Pullman said:

“It’s the question of consciousness, perhaps the oldest philosophical question of all: are we matter? Or are we spirit and matter? What is consciousness if there is no spirit? Questions like that are of perennial fascination and they haven’t been solved yet, thank goodness. I’m still very grateful that scientists have not discovered what dark matter is. I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers they wouldn’t while I was writing His Dark Materials. They still don’t know and I’m very happy about that.”

The literary world Pullman created was inspired by his regular walks along the rivers and canals of Oxford, and “looking at maps of the city, which is laced through and through with water”. His community and the village where he grew up also played a big part in forming his interests and encouraging his literary prowess.

“An old lady in the village took an interest in me and invited me to borrow books from her library. I read HG Wells and Tarzan. That was a very generous thing to do and I thought of her when I was writing about Hannah.”

On writing characters, Pullman revealed his particular interest in exploring the more evil characters in his novels. The villain Bonneville was a favourite creation to explore:

“Is he a psychopath? He’s a nasty piece of work. I enjoyed him very much. There’s nothing more fun than writing about villains. I loved writing Mrs Coulter in His Dark Materials and greatly enjoyed him in this.”

Part of the appeal of his novels is the timelessness of them, and that he never meant to write for a specific audience. His characterisation of the young protagonists was such that anyone who has been a ‘normal’ child could relate in some way. Pullman insisted that both Lyra and Malcolm are just ordinary children.

“There’s nothing divinely gifted about them. They’re not special children. When I was a teacher, there was a Malcolm in every class and a Lyra in every class. I didn’t base them on actual children, but I based them on the notion of children that I formed during that period. Children are capable of extraordinary feats of courage, of affection and determination and I was glad to discover Malcolm wandering in my mind.”

Fans old and new are looking forward to exploring the world he created once more, and delving deeper into His Dark Materials.

Get your copy of the new novel here:




Les Miserables is coming to the BBC

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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is getting the BBC dramatisation make over.

The six-part drama is taking us back to Victor Hugo’s original novel and exploring the themes of revolution, love, and survival. Filming for the cast and crew began in Belgium and Northern France earlier this year. Casting looks particularly exciting with Dominic West as Jean Valjean, and David Oyelowo the villainous policeman Javert. Lily Collins will play Fantine, the orphaned single mother, with Ellie Bamber as daughter Cosette. Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar are set to star as Madame Thénardier and Monsieur Thénardier along with Josh O’Connor and Erin Kellyman as Marius and Éponine respectively.

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When autobiographies go bad: reality stars and book deals.

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Autobiographies are supposed to be books about someone’s life written by that same someone… In other cases it is written by another person and is then called a ‘biography’. Pretty simple right?

It seems there are different rules when it comes to ‘reality TV stars’.

A fantastic interview from a UK publication Now Magazine was printed recently where they interviewed ‘celebrity’ Gemma Collins from television series The Only Way Is Essex (or: TOWIE).

It came to light that Gemma ‘I’m a big fan of the dictionary‘ Collins (yes she really said that in an interview once) is likely to have never read her own book -let alone written it. In a car-crash interview, printed in full by Now Magazine, the celeb and the journalist created what could be the worst interview about a book ever.

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Watch Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet as a bisexual vampire

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Have you ever wondered if Juliet Capulet would make a good vampire? Or whether she was absolutely heterosexual? Yeah… Me neither… But it seems those questions will be answered anyway.

With a Kiss I Die is a new film directed by Ronnie Khalil. The Shakespearean classic has been reimagined as a vampiric romp, answering that age-old question of ‘what if Juliet Capulet was turned into a vampire and discovers her bisexuality?’

It is set 800 years after the death of Romeo and the death of Juliet as a mortal… Juliet (played by Ella Kweku), meets Farryn (Paige Emerson) who captures her heart much like Romeo had all those centuries ago.  Once again it seems the lovers are star-crossed as the ruthless head of Juliet’s vampire family does not approve of the lesbionics. Juliet finds she must choose between her love and her family, and is understandably nervous that she will be repeating her past and inviting tragedy once more.

With a Kiss I Die is released on August the 28th 2018 and you can preorder the film on iTunes.

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Prison bans George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Books

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Books are one of the few luxuries inmates in prisons do have access to and they can be essential when it comes to keeping the minds of the incarcerated stimulated. Generally speaking, most books are okay for prisoners to read, provided they’re first checked for hidden contraband, but it seems George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has fallen foul of the law.

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British rapper Stormzy launches Merky Books publishing imprint

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Stormzy was born Michael Omari in July 1993 in London. He rose to fame as a grime artist and rapper, and won ‘Best Grime Act’ at the 2014 and 2015 MOBO Awards. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayer, was released in 2017 and was the first ever grime album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart.

Ever the supporter of new artists and ambitious, young people, Stormzy has teamed up with Penguin Random House to create his own imprint #Merky Books. This will be added to his other projects: his record label, #Merky Records, and his own music festival in Ibiza, #Merky Festival.

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Property developers name their new community ‘Gilead’.

By | Literary Places, Literature | No Comments
Gilead‘ is known to many literature fans, and television watchers, as the theocratic, authoritarian republic run by an ultra-religious US government created by Margaret Atwood. In Gilead women have no rights, and those unfortunate enough to be able to bear children are forced into sexual slavery. Free speech doesn’t exist and any hint of backlash from the women results in drastic action from those in charge.

Bearing all that in mind: would you name your new community development Gilead?! A group in New South Wales, Australia, has done just that.

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How Tolkien’s love for hearty food influenced his writing

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Tolkien is best known for his Lord of the Rings trilogy and the classic novel The Hobbit, but how much do you know about his passion for wholesome food and how it shows through his writing?

BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet programme (download the weekly podcast) this week was held in Bournemouth where J.R.R. Tolkien would frequently holiday with his family. Dr Una McCormack, Tolkien expert and food lover, spoke with the hosts, Jay Rayner and Sophie Wright, about the author and discussed favourite foodie scenes from The Hobbit.

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