At Love Goostrey we like to get to know the people of our local area. We were thrilled then that the globally-respected author Alan Garner, described by Philip Pullman as “the most important British writer of fantasy since Tolkien” very graciously agreed to answer our questions.
You’ve lived in this area of Cheshire all your life – you’ve talked before about being reluctant to stray. Do you find travelling away difficult or simply unappealing? Do you ever get tired of the area? How does it make you feel about taking holidays?
I’ve travelled far and enjoyed the experience of many languages and cultures. But I have not enjoyed the travelling, especially the stress of crowds, cities, airports and railway stations. I never tire of Blackden, which holds everything I could wish. As for holidays, the last one I had was with my parents in 1950, in Colwyn Bay, and I hated it.
I remember reading that when you first saw Toad Hall, you said that you instantly knew it was the only place you could live – why did it have such a immediate impact on you?
The moment I saw Toad Hall, through chance, at 19.20 on Good Friday, 19th April 1957, I knew I had to live here. I can’t explain why. All I can add is that I was right. The Medicine House was moved from Wrinehill, Staffordshire, to save it from demolition, and re-erected in Blackden in 1970. It is now the home of The Blackden Trust.
You’re an expert in British folklore – how would you characterise our national folk stories compared to other nations? Do ours tend to be bloodier? Happier? More cynical?
I don’t see myself as an expert in anything. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.
What is it about Goostrey that you love?
My privacy is respected.
Would you consider writing another play for the local school again? If you need an incentive it was recently discovered that our local pre-school has suffered a fraud to the tune of £50,000 and we’re raising money for them this year!
I can’t work to order. “Holly from the Bongs”, which I consider to be as good as anything I’ve written, and certainly the most satisfactory, came, like everything else, in a flash. That was 1965. The whole experience was a joy.
Do you have any quirks that are essential to your writing process?
When an idea strikes, it arrives unbidden. I research that idea until there’s nothing left to find, then soak and wait for the book to emerge, like developing a photograph, and then I write down what I see and hear, without any conscious planning. The shortest time for this process has been two years, the longest, twelve. At the moment, with the next novel, I’m twenty months into the soaking.
Philip Pullman said that any country except Britain would have named streets after you. Love Goostrey, sadly, has no power to name streets after you but we can campaign to name a footpath or stretch of pavement in the area after you – which one would you like and why?
I would rather be remembered as a writer than by a footpath. It would embarrass me to have my name imposed on the landscape.