This month sees the release of Inkdeath (Scholastic/Chicken House), the third and final book in Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy, which began in 2003 with a book of the same name. Inkheart tells the story of Meggie and her father, who has the ability to bring fictional characters into the real world when he reads from a book. The second book in the trilogy, Inkspell, followed in 2005.
Looking back, Funke says it feels “incredibly satisfying” to bring her series to a close. “Everything that started to grow in the first and second book comes into full bloom, and there’s so much hope in the third. Everything comes to a good ending, and I always wanted that to happen.”
Funke says that when she wrote Inkheart, she had no idea that it would ultimately lead into two additional books. But during a third draft of that first title, she began to feel that there were nagging questions she wanted answers to, such as the fates of certain characters. “I thought, ‘There are so many trilogies out there, Cornelia, don’t do that. That’s really embarrassing,’ ” she recalls. But she gave herself two weeks to come up with what she calls “a reasonable plot” for a second book, and “Inkspell flooded onto the paper.”
And while writing that book, she then realized she would have to do a third. “I was on page 400 of Inkspell when I realized it would have a really bad ending,” she says, “and I knew readers would kill me if I left it at that.” Funke says that while the series is done for now, an escaped villain in Inkdeath could potentially “drag me back to that world,” adding, “The good thing is with the movie coming out you don’t have to fully leave the world behind.”
That movie, a New Line film, is slated for release in the U.S. and Europe. Directed by Iain Softley (K-PAX; Hackers), it stars Brendan Fraser, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany and Eliza Bennett, who plays Meggie. Funke was a producer for the film and was thus closely involved with everything from script meetings to casting. “I had meaningful consultation, which in Hollywood means they don’t have to follow my advice but at least they listen,” she says.
Although the Inkheart trilogy may be behind her, Funke has had no problem staying busy. She has a full fall schedule of events for Inkdeath, which began with a Today Show appearance and a pair of events at Scholastic’s New York City headquarters. She was just back home in Los Angeles for bookstore appearances, and events are scheduled in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.
And from a writing perspective, she has plenty on her plate as well. Funke says she is currently working on a book called Reckless (“it’s set in a fictional world that is a mix of 19th century and Grimm’s fairy tales”) as well as a book for younger readers called The Knight and the Boy (“a ghost story set in Salisbury Cathedral in England”).
As with all of her books, Funke is writing these in her native German, although she is fluent in English. “I tried some English writing, but I very happily returned to my native tongue,” she says. “In English, I can’t break the rules of the grammar. In German, I can do that.” Funke says that seeing Inkdeath appear in different countries (it has been sold to 28 publishers around the world) has been like having multiple “birthdays” for the book. “It is wonderful to see a book be born again in other languages again and again, and to remember it fondly while already working on another one.”
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke. Scholastic/Chicken House, $24.99 ISBN 978-0-439-86628-6