Quickfire Questions with Patrick Ness Transcript
Hello to all Zoella Book Club members and WHSmith’s customers, I am Patrick Ness, the author of A Monster Calls.
Were there many changes to the book in adapting it to a movie?
A few changes. Mainly because the experience of a book is very different to the experience of a film. You can set a book down. And so we talked a lot about how we needed to sculpt the moment slightly differently for a film. And also, because the book is very internal, how do you take that and make it external? And so those were the big challenges. How do you shape it correctly? How do you show what Conor is thinking without it just being lots of gabbing?
The fantastical invades Conor’s reality in this story. Was it a challenge to bring the two together?
I never see it as a challenge because I never see the division. I have a theory that there’s no such thing as a realistic story, even if it’s set in contemporary London, it’s still just as made up as Game of Thrones is. And if you can acknowledge that, then it makes it easier to let things bleed together. And I like that in a story, I want to read it so… they all makes perfect sense to me, all the stories make perfect sense to me, all that has to happen is it has to be a universe where the story can take place. And that’s it. Once you’ve established that you can do anything you want.
What was the most challenging part to adapt?
The most challenging part to adapt was probably the tales. Because I’m not a visual artist. And in the book I had Jim Kay the illustrator come on and do things that I could never have thought of, and that’s when collaboration is so joyous. To see somebody brings things that you could never have imagined. So I had to trust that, I had to structure them how I wanted them to be structured and suggest – they grow, they arc themselves – and I would suggest how they would arc and maybe black and white shadow-puppety kinda thing, or oil painting. And then just hope and trust that somebody would come in and do some amazing stuff, and by God they did, by God they did, yeah.
What’s your favourite scene from the book, and why?
The very first idea I had for the book is what I think is the most important scene in the film, which is when he comes out of the second tale to discover he’s destroyed his grandmother’s sitting room. And to me, that’s where I started, to me it’s the fulcrum of the book, everything rests on it. And the anger there, and the transgression there. That’s my favourite scene, it feels there’s real power and the way Sigourney and Lewis play it is really, really something I think. And to me, the most important line is much later, it’s when Conor turns to the monster and asks if he’ll stay. And to me that’s the whole movie in a line. That’s all he wants. He knows there’s something tough coming, he’s always known. He just doesn’t want to be by himself.
Where did the idea for the monster come from?
The idea for the monster came from Siobhan Dowd, whose was the original idea behind the book. She had a different kind of monster, and so when I took it over I thought ‘I’m going to take this a different way’ because I have to let it grow for me. Because she would’ve let it grow for her. But I knew a lot about the green man myth, which is a very ancient English folklore of landscape personified. And I like that idea of something inscrutable stepping out of the landscape to… is he going to help? Is he gonna just destroy? The mystery of it was really quite spicy to me, there’s something really really there.
What message do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Ooh I never try to say what messages… I think, it’s not a message it’s a story. Hopefully people can see themselves in it, and hopefully they can see a little bit maybe into the mind of a young person, who know a lot more than we would like them to know. And I feel the important thing is to engage with that rather than to just wish it didn’t happen. But Conor knows tough stuff, and it’s immoral to leave him behind to deal with it by himself. And so, if anything, maybe that.
What’s next for you?
Next for me? I’m very busy! I have just finished the Doctor Who spin-off series Class. And I have a new novel out in May called Release. I’ve had a very busy year, I’m very tired.