Jonathan Auxier was raised in Canada and obtained his MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. He lives outside Los Angeles with his wife, a lecturer in Victorian children’s literature. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is his first novel.
The following interview has been excerpted from the September issue of Book Page Magazine. Read the whole story »
Q: What difficulties did you have writing this novel from the point of view of Peter Nimble, a blind orphan?
A: I am a pretty visual storyteller, and cutting away all visual descriptions added another layer of work to every scene. There were several moments where I found myself wishing I could just describe the way things looked instead of having to think through what they must also have smelled and sounded like. On the other hand, how often will I get the opportunity to write an entire story through the senses of smell, taste, touch and hearing—that’s pretty cool!
Q: Tells us about the world Peter Nimble finds himself in after discovering the Fantastic Eyes.
A: Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes takes place in a moment of history when the lines between magic and science were being blurred. Strange, exotic lands were being discovered and becoming known—but with that comes a loss of mystery. The central metaphor in the book is that of a half-finished map: the moment a new island or country gets charted by cartographers, it becomes reduced in some indefinable way … and that’s sad. In the story, I wanted to take that map metaphor and make it literal. So when Peter Nimble sets out for uncharted waters, he finds himself in a place where the rules of logic and science still don’t apply—a place where the impossible is still possible.
Q: Many of your characters are incredibly unique—Peter Nimble, Mr. Seamus, Sir Tode, Princess Peg. Where did you get your inspiration for these characters?
A: Where didn’t I get inspiration? Pretty much every book I’ve ever read has worked its way into this story. I’ve always thought of nasty Mr. Seamus as a combination of Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist and Mr. Wormwood from Matilda—a vicious brute who can also be crafty and disarming. Peg is pretty much all the Lost Boys from Peter Pan rolled into one awesome 10-year-old warrior—kind of what I had always wished Wendy had become once she arrived in Neverland! Sir Tode is a knight who has been cursed into an unfortunate combination of human, horse and kitten, which was inspired by a desire to fuse Don Quixote with his nag Rocinante.
Q: Parts of your book are quite dark, even unsettling. Why did you think it was important to include this type of writing in Peter Nimble?
A: I actually think a whiff of darkness is essential to children’s literature. From Peter Pan to Magical Monarch of Mo by Frank Baum to The Witches by Roald Dahl—these books create a safe place for a child to explore dangerous subjects. That play between darkness and light is what drew me in as a young reader, and it’s still what draws me in today.
Q: The Vanished Kingdom and the characters who live there are so rich that it’s hard to leave them behind. Have we seen the last of Peter?
A: Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes was meant to be a complete story in and of itself. That said, I am currently writing another book that brushes up against the world of Peter Nimble. Who knows? Maybe those characters will find themselves in need of the greatest thief who ever lived!