Ours is a highly individualised culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one-offs. But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers. Who first invented meatballs? In what country? Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup. Think in terms of the domestic arts. 'This is how I make potato soup'.
GJ: I think small communities can be taken over by these things and so can an entire state (Germany under Hitler was in the grip of an occult belief in almost supernatural primacy of the race). But there is always a mythology underpinning these beliefs, reinforced by an authority, whether it's the Irish storyteller/wise-man or the Third Reich.
GJ: Well as I've said I like to draw on the tension between skepticism and credulity (and it's not a blind credulity, it's a credulity based on sound anecdotal evidence of people close to me. I grew up with a psychic Grandmother. She had this extraordinary talent but the strange thing was that she rejected it and didn't want to explore it. She described it to me as a "nuisance". She had to keep checking with her daughters including my mother about whether someone had just come to the door or whether she'd "imagined" it. She spent her life "managing" a condition that rationalists can't explain except in the most inadequate terms).
But while it's fun for me to ride this shuttle I only pick up those readers who are open to the switchback. Some blogger-reviewers have said they wanted more of Fairyland in the story – as if that was the point – as if the point was to build another insulated kingdom in the traditional manner of High Fantasy. You quickly realise that ambiguity is not a comfortable position for many readers. You say I make it work: but it's genuinely because – for the purposes of creativity – I can hold two contradictory things in my head at the same time while I'm writing. Out-and-out fantasists won't understand the story and out-and-out rationalists can't approach it. Luckily I have a readership who can entertain both positions before making the choice about where they stand at the end. But if that choice is ever unbalanced, the story is over too soon.