Thursday, November 22, 2007

Loaded Questions: "World Without End" author Ken Follet

Eighteen years ago Ken Follett wrote a 1,000 page novel based the building of a great cathedral in 12th century Europe, The Pillars of Earth . It was a change of pace from the thrillers that he had written in the past. After the The Pillars of Earth Follett Ken went back to writing the mystery and thrillers that he had previously been known for. Over the years, though, his book based in medieval England continued to sell and grow via word of mouth. It became so popular that people were constantly asking for more. As of a little more than two weeks ago, Ken Follett's sizeable book that could has become an Oprah Book Club selection.

Ironically enough, Oprah's selection came just weeks after Ken had responded to the many requests of his readers to provide a sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, and so we have World Without End. The p
lace is the same, the town of Kingsbridge, but two centuries have passed. The beautiful Gothic Cathedral built in the first book has become a place solely for the elite and wealthy. World Without End has been receiving praise from fans and reviewers alike. I am happy to present, Loaded Questions with Ken Follett.

World Without End by KEN FOLLETT
Oct. 2007, 1024 pages, $35.00

Kelly Hewitt: World Without End takes readers back to the same setting that you wrote about in The Pillars of the Earth but two hundred years later making it, in many ways, a sequel. Some of your readers have noted that World Without End can also be approached as an independent stand-alone novel. Do you think that's the case? What familiar settings, characters, and themes can fans of the first book look to find in the second book?

Ken Follett: World Without End is set in Kingsbridge, the fictional town that is the focus of The Pillars of the Earth. Readers will recognise the cathedral, of course, and the monastery next to it, plus the main streets and the river. The neighbouring town of Shiring may be familiar, and the Earl's seat, Earlscastle. However this story takes place 200 years later, so none of the characters are the same. Nevertheless they are the descendants of characters in Pillars, and sometimes retain inherited characteristics that readers with good memories may recall.

Kelly: It has just been announced that Oprah Winfrey has chosen The Pillars of the Earth as her next book club selection. It is a major success and a tribute to the continued increase in the popularity of this book. What does if feel like to find out that Oprah has selected your book?

Ken: I'm thrilled that The Pillars of the Earth has been selected for Oprah's Book Club. Oprah is a unique cultural leader who has a special place in the hearts of people all over the world, and I have enormous respect for what she has achieved. Her endorsement will bring my work to the attention of her many millions of fans, and for that I am very grateful.

Kelly: You have written some very strong female characters in World Without End. I read another interview in which you said that women largely paid lip service to men in the medieval period and still served in merchant, religious and leadership roles. This English historian in me thought, "Exactly!" How much time have you dedicated to the study of history in the 14th century? Is there a particular piece of history that appeals more to you?

Ken: I have been an amateur enthusiast of medieval history for about 30 years. What interests me most is the building of the great cathedrals--although that interest has led me to study many other aspects of medieval life including, as you note, the role of women.

Kelly: You have written historical novels but have written even more successful thrillers. How does the process of writing the historical novels vs. thrillers differ? Do you intend to return to writing thrillers after having written World Without End?

Ken: A thriller is like a snapshot of a group of a characters taken at a moment in their lives when they are in great danger. A novel like World Without End tells the entire life story of each major character, from childhood to old age. The main difference is that there is so much more that has to be invented!

Kelly: Was there any nervousness on your behalf when it came to World Without End being touted as the biggest sequel of the year?

Ken: I was nervous about writing WWE, because of readers' high expectations. By the time it was published, it had been read and enjoyed by enough people to calm my fears.

Kelly: Is there another historical era or a particular historical character that you could ever see yourself writing another novel about?

Ken: I'm sure I will return to the Second World War. It is still the war we look back on as the great battle of good and evil. There are thousands more stories of real-life heroism to inspire writers such as I.

Kelly: Your two big novels Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are called "epics" do you think that's an accurate way of describing them?

Ken: "Epic" is a word I would take as a compliment!


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