Meet the author Russell Cornhill
"Welcome to my world, or rather the website which serves as a portal to my worlds." I like that, Russell, and I welcome you as a guest on the book club, where we explore the world of literature and introduce our readers to new and interesting books, and the Language Barrier is definitely not to be missed. Author of two published novels, a man of unusual thinking, today we meet Russell Cornhill.
Working on the cover of the Language Barrier was a real challenge; Creating a concept for the image that should best represent the book is the most difficult part of my job, especially when it comes to a book without a specific genre. The original idea was quite different, but we switched to Plan B in the absence of suitable photographic material to work with. I do not regret it because this vision represents what you will really find in the book.
Russell, how was the idea for Language Barrier born, and what is the message behind this crazy humorous story? Who is Daniel, and what is your protagonist fighting for? And what do bananas have in common in this case?
Um, I don’t know.
No, seriously, the idea for the first scene came when I was half-asleep, basically in the position Daniel is. I remember laughing at the idea of someone walking in, seeing the mess and me half-asleep on a mattress on the floor. The rest I really made up as I went. Often that means lots of changes, though in this case, the only real change was the penultimate scene.
Readers are allowed the privilege of coming to their own conclusions. For me, the story is simply a rebuttal of the religious concept of evil, basically saying there is no Evil, simply human beings. To rid the world of evil, we humans have to find a way to change.
Daniel simply represents an everyday person. He’s no great hero, just one of us. Even at the end, Daniel wasn’t completely sure what he was fighting for. At the beginning he was simply being guided by the angels.
Ah, bananas are bent. Like our way of thinking.
I admit it was fascinating for me to immerse myself in one of your worlds. The surreal world in the Language Barrier left me speechless, throwing me into thinking about humanity, evil, and the various dimensions of our existence as a species. I'm not too fond of comparisons, but I feel that Terry Pratchett's fans will become your fans after reading this extraordinary book. You can read an excerpt from the Language Barrier here at this link. Please tell us of the beginning of your writing career and why did you start writing only now at this adult age? Why not earlier?
Frankly I simply never thought much about writing. I was one of those people who simply didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t start reading fantasy and science-fiction until I was into my twenties. To say I played around with writing after that would be an exaggeration. It wasn’t until my forties, when my life was turned upside-down, that I used writing as an excuse to get away from everything. I became interested, but really knew nothing about the craft. From there it’s been a matter of learning and evolving. Still doing both.
Who is Russell Cornhill as a person? I believe you have a rather unusual answer to this.
Do you mean, I was born, but haven’t died yet. That’s probably a way of getting out of answering the question.
I say I’ve lived in my head all my life. Part of that has been the imagination, making up stories. Most of it has been, to quote Douglas Adams, thinking about life, the universe and everything. Like everyone, I guess, I have my ideas, but there are always more questions.
I admit that this book is not easy to digest because it challenges you to think outside your comfort zone, to look for answers to big questions that may not have an answer. After I finished it, I stood a little startled, speechless; I definitely wasn't expecting this finale. I like books that surprise me and make me wonder what is real and what is an illusion. What do you think is the biggest illusion in our lives?
There are so many possible answers to that. I’ll concentrate on three of them.
The most obvious, I think, are our opinions and beliefs. They have such an influence on us that’s it’s easy to say we all live in our own alternate reality. The day I decided I was going to write a book on that theme, I bought a book by Philip K Dick. It was based on exactly that theme. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for beating me. Still, the Ancient Greeks probably wrote about it too.
The second answer might surprise some people. It’s simply language. Language was supposed to be a means of communication. These days it’s become anything but that, particularly when it’s used as a means of persuasion, creating illusions that are emotionally pleasing I guess it’s the ideas that are the illusion, but it’s the language that promotes them.
The third answer is more basic and could be considered to be the main theme of Annabelle. It’s the human ego. Whether we’re talking about individuals, people as part of a group, or the human race as a whole, it’s the ego that drives us forward and forms our view of the world. We really need to constantly step back into reality, and to accept that we’re only a small part of something much bigger.
I totally agree with you. What was the most challenging part of writing this unusual novel?
I really just had fun. Probably the most challenging part was getting the ending right, particularly that penultimate scene. I guess many people might not like it, but I’m happy with it.
Russell, please tell us about the things that inspire you, the personalities in art and literature you enjoy?
Oh dear, I’ll just stick to literature and try to keep it short, or we’ll be here all day. As a child, the first books that ‘hooked’ me into reading were the ‘Biggles’ books by W E Johns. Not sure what I’d think if I read them today. My brother had many of them, which I’ve managed to lose. Could have been worth a fortune.
By high school, I’d stopped reading to concentrate on sport, but among all those books we ‘had to read’, the few I remember loving, were ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ (Hemingway), ‘Animal Farm’(Orwell), and the play ‘Arms and the Man’ (Shaw).
In my last year at high school, a birthday present from my mother was ‘Exodus’ by Leon Uris. That got me back into reading, mostly mysteries, adventures, war stories, detective stories, etc.
It was a few years, before I decided to try teaching and while at college, I slipped out of the reading habit again. However, I do remember reading ‘Winnie the Pooh’ in the library while everyone was studying for an upcoming test. I had to work really hard not to burst out laughing at almost every page.
It wasn’t until I heard another teacher reading ‘The Hobbit’ to the class, that I became hooked on fantasy. Thanks, Tolkein. Not long after that I bought a book because it was described as ‘comparable to Tolkein at his best’. The book was ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, and I was finally hooked on science-fiction. I won’t try to name the many science-fiction and fantasy writers that I read after that.
It was some 10 years, probably more, after I started reading fantasy that I read my first Terry Pratchett book. I can’t remember if it was ‘The Colour of Magic’ or ‘Truckers’, but one led to another and that also led me to discovering Douglas Adams. I don’t think about copying style and anything like that when I’m writing, just trying to write each scene the best I can. However, if there are any writers that have sub-consciously affected my writing, it would probably be those two. I’ve probably forgotten lots of writers and books, but I am seventy.
I believe that you are a writer with a mission in this world, and each of your readers will discover something different about themselves in your work. If you have a huge impact on people, what would you like to share with them? What advice would you give to the younger generations?
That’s so hard to answer. I’m not sure I’m one to be giving advice. There are so many slogans, mottos and catchphrases out there that sound wonderful but even the best are only generalisations. I usually cringe when I hear most of them.
My personal motto, which I often fail to live up to, is question everything. But there are times to trust and times to simply accept. And remember that questioning means looking at all sides, simply rejecting an idea outright isn’t questioning.
Everything else sound like one of those slogans that make me cringe. Perhaps that because I always question them.
Very interesting. And what are you working on right now? What can we expect from you in the future?
One of my problems is having ‘too many’ ideas. Not a problem in itself, but it is when you have to force yourself to concentrate on the story you’re writing. My brain is constantly weaving to sequels, prequels, similar ideas, or even something completely different that I also want to be working on.
At the moment, I’m in a state of flux. Annabelle is with my publisher. The sequel to ‘An Ancient Evil’ is with my editor and I’ve almost finished reshuffling the writing that will form the bulk of the final book of that trilogy. At the same time, I’m trying to get started on book 3 of the novella series, called ‘The Pink Helepunt’. Most of my writing would probably be suitable for YA, but that’s never something I consider. ‘The Pink Helepunt’ could possibly be suitable for even younger readers, but I’ll never make promises. Considering the way I write, anything could happen.
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I look forward to the publication of Annabelle, who captivated me with its first chapters, which I met while working on the cover of this book. This is a fantastic story for the younger ones, but if you are like me - an eternally dreaming child dressed in an adult costume, I believe you will fall in love with it and read it in one breath.
If we have won your curiosity, you can follow the news on the site of Russell Cornhill and be the first to learn about the new books that are coming out.
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