Author and filmmaker
Born January 11, 1961, in London, England; companion of Mari Roberts; children: twin daughters, two sons.
Addresses: Contact —PO Box 165, Hay on Wye HR3 5WU United Kingdom. E-mail —jasperjasperfforde.-com.
Began working in film industry, c. early 1980s; received first film credits as a production runner for The Ploughman's Lunch , 1983; production officer runner, The Pirates of Penzance , 1983; camera focus, GoldenEye , 1995; first assistant cameraman, The Saint , 1997; first assistant cameraman, The Mask of Zorro , 1998; cinematographer, Lift , 1998; cinematographer, Passengers , 1999; cinematographer, Engaged , 1999; focus puller, Entrapment , 1999; focus puller, Quills , 2000; published first novel, The Eyre Affair , 2002; began "Nursery Crimes" series with The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime , 2005.
Awards: Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing, for The Well of Lost Plots , 2004.
After beginning his career working on films, Jasper Fforde embraced his long-time interest in writing and published his first novel in 2002, The Eyre Affair. It took Fforde more than a decade to find a publisher for his work; he had written several
Fforde was born in 1961 in London. His father was a prominent economist, while his mother did charity work and was a passionate reader. Fforde and his four siblings were raised in London and Wales. Like his father, Fforde's siblings also became academic scholars. As a child, he shared his mother's love of reading, and by the age of eleven, had become quite interested in film and television as well. While the young Fforde liked to watch Monty Python, he was particularly influenced by a commercial he saw when he was 12 years old. The commercial was for milk and starred actor Roger Moore. It showed what happened behind the scenes on a production set. This commercial inspired Fforde's aspirations as a filmmaker.
When Fforde was 12 years old, he was sent to a boarding school for the next six years. While attending the Darlington School, a progressive school in Devon, he was rather unhappy because he did not like the school's environment. However, because he wanted to work in film, he was able to work on photography and unfinished short films while he was at the school. When Fforde was 18, he left school and decided not to go to college. Instead, he began working on his film career.
Fforde began his film career in the early 1980s. Among his early credits was work as a production runner on films like 1983's The Ploughman's Lunch and production office runner on The Pirates of Penzance , also released that year. For the latter film, his job essentially consisted of making beverages for the set. While Fforde's film career was growing, he thought about doing fiction, so he began writing short stories to help him become better in the form. As his skills developed, the stories grew longer and longer and he was soon writing full-length novels.
While writing his novel manuscripts on his own time, Fforde continued to develop his film career. By the 1990s, he was primarily working with cameras on film sets. He began doing camera focus on 1995's GoldenEye. Fforde was the first assistant cameraman on 1997's The Saint and 1998's The Mask of Zorro. He was also the focus puller on two films at the end of that decade, Entrapment and Quills. In addition, Fforde was a cinematographer on three films, 1998's Lift and two films in 1999, Passengers and Engaged.
While Fforde had many film credits to his name, he was sure he would not make it as a director, his original goal when he began working in the film business. He knew that he did not have the right personality for the job. However, his writing career was also not going well. His first full-length novel manuscript was Nursery Crime. The story concerned the circumstances under which Humpty Dumpty was found dead at the base of a wall. This manuscript was rejected repeatedly. However, Fforde would not let the rejections get him down for long because he wrote to amuse himself, inspired in part by his love of Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker series, including The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Fforde produced four more novel manuscripts and had his works rejected a reported 76 times before one was accepted for publication.
His first published novel took years to write. Titled The Eyre Affair when it was published in 2002, Fforde began penning the book in 1993. He stopped for several years because he was concerned about how fans of the classic novel Jane Eyre might respond to his toying with its characters. In total, it took around five to six years to complete before it was published, including a last minute change from third person to first person point of view. The Eyre Affair is hard to categorize because the novel is a combination of fantasy, science fiction, satire, criminal thriller, and comedy, with many puns, inside jokes, and references to popular culture thrown in as well. At its core, Fforde created a novel around a complicated "what if" take on British history.
Though The Eyre Affair is set in Great Britain in 1985, the Crimean War is still being fought, nearly 130 years after it began, and Wales has been an independent, socialist country since 1848. Fforde also imagines British society differently as well. People make pets of endangered animals that have been cloned and literature is taken so seriously the people riot over disagreements about who wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. The primary character in Fforde's novel world is Thursday Next, a literary investigator working for a special unit in the police force. Because people can time travel and her uncle invented a means of physically entering the world of novels and affecting their contents (the "Prose Porter"), Next's job focuses on ensuring such classic novels remain in their original form. With partner Bowden Cable, Next is pursuing a rogue English professor, Acheron Hades, who has stolen important manuscripts and kidnapped her uncle. Hades has taken Jane Eyre , entered the world of the story, and kidnapped the title character, affecting all the copies of the book in existence. In the end, however, Next chooses to change the story's ending herself.
When originally published in Great Britain, The Eyre Affair was popular with both critics and readers alike. In the United States, the novel reached the New York Times Top Ten best-seller list. Many critics commented positively on the character of Next, comparing her to Bridget Jones, Nancy Drew, and Dirty Harry, as she brought down Hades. While Fritz Lanham of the Houston Chronicle took issue with the characters and dialogue, he also wrote, "Give first-time British novelist Jasper Fforde his due: For sheer inventiveness his book is hard to beat." The Eyre Affair was eventually translated into six languages.
Fforde's motivation for writing The Eyre Affair and its sequels was born out of his own appreciation of the classics. He told James Macgowan of the Ottawa Citizen , "I love literature. I love stories, actually. The point of using the classics in this kind of playful reverence is that I always felt the classics had become stuffy through being academized—is that what the word is? Jane Eyre is a study text, and it should never have been made a study text, as has Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare. I think people are in danger of seeing them as only that, when they aren't, they're just great stories."
By the time The Eyre Affair was published, Fforde had moved to a place near his childhood home in Wales, where he continued to write his books. With the success of the novel, he now had the luxury of writing full-time. He wrote a series of books featuring Next and her continuing adventures, all of which continued to defy categorization but remained popular with readers and critics. In 2003's Lost in a Good Book , Next has become well known for her literary investigations. She has discovered that within the fictional realm, there is another police group to take care of the fictional world called the Justification Section to ensure that no bad activities happen in novels. For example, this group stops the assassination of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Next ends up helping the character Miss Havisham from the novel Great Expectations as they work to free someone from the story The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Next also has to deal with difficulties in her personal life. In Fforde's previous book, Next pined for a love she thought she lost, Landen Parke-Laine, whom she ended up marrying. In this book, she becomes pregnant by him, but he is removed from reality after they have only a few months together.
Two more novels complete this phase of Next's story. In 2004's Well of Lost Plots , the pregnant Next is on maternity leave and forced to run from reality into the fictional world. She hides in the Well of Lost Plots, where unpublished books in progress are kept. She tries to help the characters make their books better so they can be published. Next is specifically hiding in the unpublished novel Caversham Heights , which is under the control of Jurisfiction, the agency responsible for keeping the books organized. However, Jurisfiction personnel are being killed off, a black market thrives off of the buying and selling of ideas and words from the works in progress, and parasites and viruses are infecting books. Next is also looking for her still-missing husband.
Fforde wraps up the plot threads of the first three novels in the "Thursday Next" series in 2004's Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Novel. Next is back in reality, and is now the mother of a daughter named Friday. Her husband, Landen, has re-appeared as well. Next's professional life is more complicated as she has to deal with more literature issues, including a mutiny in Hamlet and an evil tyrant in a spaceship who crashes into a pulp western. She also has even larger problems as the fate of the world hangs in the balance of a croquet match, and Next must also save England. Reviewing this book in the Independent , Christina Hardyment wrote, " Something Rotten is, arguably, Fforde's best book yet. It shows him firmly in the authorial saddle, whipping in his glorious but unruly horde of characters to create a well-balanced story that stands in its own right, and has a definite plot."
While Fforde's Next books remained popular, he took a break from the character for his next books, though he planned to revisit her at a later date. Fforde focused his satirical, surreal, and playful eye on mystery writing and detective fiction, specifically crimes from fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The novels were among the first full-length manuscripts that Fforde produced, but originally rejected by publishers. The first novel, published in 2005, was his first novel idea. In The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime , Detective Inspector Jack Spratt of the Nursery Crime Division, working with assistant Mary Mary, is struggling to close cases and convict criminals. He has failed to convict the Three Pigs, for example. The pair are now working on the murder of Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III, who was found broken at the bottom of the wall.
The same pattern is repeated in 2006's The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime. Though Jack and Mary have resigned their commission, they are drawn into an investigation when Goldilocks, also known as investigative reporter Henrietta Hachett, goes missing just before her story comes out about a series of murders. Among the last to see her alive were the Three Bears, though the Gingerbread Man, a convicted murderer, is also loose and around at questionable times. Like the Next books, the "Nursery Crime" books proved popular with reviewers and sold well.
Though a long time in coming, Fforde appreciated his success as a writer and that audiences enjoyed his books. He told the Independent 's Hardyment, "I have no mission to educate or moralise. I see myself as in the entertainment business first and foremost. I'm just having terrific fun—and getting paid for it."
The Eyre Affair , Virking (New York City), 2002.
Lost in a Good Book , Virking, 2003.
The Well of Lost Plots, Virking , 2004.
Something Rotten: A Thursday Next Novel , Viking, 2004.
The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime , Viking, 2005.
The Fourth Bear: A Nursery Crime , Viking, 2006.
Bookseller , June 4, 2004, p. 6.
Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia), September 21, 2002, p. M5.
Entertainment Weekly , July 29, 2005, p. 73.
Guardian (London, England), July 26, 2003, p. 22.
Houston Chronicle , February 17, 2002, p. 16.
Independent (London, England), July 19, 2003, pp. 21-22; July 21, 2004, p. 11; August 5, 2004, p. 29.
New York Times , April 1, 2002, p. E1; August 5, 2004, p. E9; July 22, 2005, p. E35.
Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), November 2, 2003, p. C11.
People , August 23, 2004, p. 49.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), July 22, 2005, p. 24D.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), February 22, 2004, p. 16F.
Sunday Oregonian , February 22, 2004, p. D7.
Time Out , July 10, 2002, p. 8; July 21, 2004, p. 60.
Toronto Star , October 28, 2003, p. C5.
USA Today , February 21, 2002, p. 14B.
Washington Post , March 21, 2004, p. T15.
Weekend Australian , September 21, 2002, p. B10.
"The Big Over Easy, " Jasper Fforde.com, http:// www.jasperfforde.com/nextbook.html (February 12, 2006).
"Jasper Fforde, " Internet Movie Database, http:// www.imdb.com/name/nm0275532/ (February 12, 2006).
"Meet the Writers: Jasper Fforde, " Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/writers/ writer/asp.?cid=1022595 (February 12, 2006).
— A. Petruso