Answers to questions you’ve asked about The Pillars of the Earth, film versions of my novels, sequels (or not), autographing books and bookplates, appearances in your country, sex in my novels, pronouncing my surname, my favourite authors, advice for aspiring writers, replacing defective copies, and more…
What is your next novel about, and when will it be published?
I am writing another historical novel set in Kingsbridge in the sixteenth century, the time of Queen Elizabeth I. There were people all over Europe who wanted to kill the Queen, and many assassination plots, so the people around her set up an espionage system to catch those sixteenth century terrorists. This was the beginning of the British secret service that eventually gave us James Bond. Provisionally titled A Column of Fire, it will be published in late 2017.
Is Kingsbridge and its cathedral real?
The historical background in ‘Pillars’ is authentic but Kingsbridge and its people are fictional. The cathedral was partly inspired by both Wells and Salisbury cathedrals. Kingsbridge is located roughly where the present-day town of Marlborough in Wiltshire is.
The Pillars of the Earth is quite different to your other novels. What inspired you to write it?
When I started writing I found I had no vocabulary for describing buildings. I read a couple of books on architecture and developed an interest in cathedrals. I would go to a town, like Lincoln or Winchester, check into a hotel and spend a couple of days looking around the cathedral and learning about it. Before too long, it occurred to me to channel this enthusiasm into a novel…
Is there a reading or discussion guide for The Pillars of the Earth?
Yes, there is one for students and reading groups. You can find it here.
Is there a chart or tree showing the principal characters?
Yes, there is a comprehensive chart showing the characters in both The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, and an interactive ‘tree’ showing the principal characters in The Pillars of the Earth.
What is the best nonfiction book about the building of the medieval cathedrals?
My favourite is The Gothic Enterprise by Robert A. Scott, because Scott understands not just the technology of medieval building but the workings of the society that created the cathedrals. The Gothic Enterprise is published by the University of California Press.
Has The Pillars of the Earth been made as a movie or TV series?
Yes. It was filmed as a television miniseries by Munich-based Tandem Productions and acclaimed director/producer Ridley Scott as an eight-hour mini-series. It premiered in the United States and Canada in July 2010. Please see the Filmography page for more information, and for information about the sequel, World Without End, which was screened in many countries as an eight-hour miniseries in 2012.
Are any of your other novels going to be filmed?
The Century Trilogy is being developed as a major television series by Sony Pictures and the US television network ABC. The release date has not yet been set.
The German production company Network Movie acquired the rights to A Dangerous Fortune and Whiteout jointly with Munich-based Constantin Film and ZDF Enterprises for ZDF, a German national television network.
Whiteout has been filmed and screened in Germany. Both will be produced in English as international co-productions.
Jackdaws has been optioned by the BBC in the UK.
Are you planning to write sequels to any of your books?
There are no current plans for a sequel to any of my books other than the third 'Kingsbridge' novel that I am writing now.
Would you autograph a copy of one of your books, or a bookplate, for me?
I regret that I can no longer sign a book, bookplate or autograph posted to me, as the number of requests for this had grown to more than I can manage.
Where can I get a copy of one of your books in languages other than English?
Try the on-line bookstores, and please see the Publishers page, which provides links to many of my publishers around the world. If you do not find a publisher in your country or language, please contact me, and I’ll try and get more information to you. Not all of my books have been translated, however.
When will you next be in my country?
I will post details of future public appearances, book-signing sessions and media interviews on the Events & Interviews page of my website.
I have a very good idea for a novel, or have written one. Can I send it to you?
I get a lot of requests such as this, but I’m afraid that I don’t have time to fulfil them all; so I made a rule, a long time ago, that I only do it for members of my family. You would be surprised how many members of my family try writing!
Do you accept suggestions for future storylines?
I prefer to dream up my own ideas for my books, thanks.
Are Eye of the Needle and Storm Island the same novel?
Yes, the original title of ‘Eye of the Needle’ was ‘Storm Island’ in England.
Can you send me a précis or an overview of one of your books for my school assignment?
I’m afraid not. If one of my books has been set as a school assignment, then you are meant to read it, and of course, I think you should!
Why do you, as an English author, use so many American terms?
My use of British and American terms varies according to the book. When the characters and setting are predominantly British, I use British terms and British slang. However, in the few books I have written with American characters and settings, it seems odd to use ‘Britishisms’. I’m not sure how much this matters, though: almost everyone understands both.
Is the sexual content of your books suitable for young teenagers?
Yes. Both Eye of the Needle and The Pillars of the Earth are often recommended to fourteen-year-olds by their schools. In my stories, having sex is usually a moral decision with consequences for people and families. For example, in Eye of the Needle, Lucy Rose is a passionate woman in a cold marriage, and she decides, rashly, to have a love affair with a stranger. The ethics of this decision, and its effects on her family, are part of the ongoing drama. She is not presented as a wicked woman – in fact she is the hero of the novel – but, on the other hand, the story is definitely no advertisement for casual sex! Moral questions often do not have simple answers. The sooner young people come to grips with this fact, the sooner they will be ready for the joys and responsibilities of sexual love.
Why was your interpretation of events in Edge of Eternity so biased?
Every novel shows the world seen through the lens of the author's values and beliefs. However, in the Century trilogy I tried to be as objective as humanly possible. I showed the weaknesses of heroes of mine, such as Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. I wrote about the great achievements of politicians I used to hate, including Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
There was no way to go easy on the wickedness of the Nazis and the Communists. But then, having written about the evil done by Russians and Germans, I could hardly gloss over atrocities committed by other nations, for example the British in Kenya or the Americans in Vietnam. Objectivity means looking clearly at your own country as well as others, doesn't it?
How do you pronounce your surname?
My surname rhymes with ‘wallet’.
Who are your favourite authors?
Living – Stephen King, Richard North Patterson and Lee Child. Dead – Jane Austen.
Which author inspired you when you were a child?
Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968), prolific author of the ‘Five Find-outers’ mystery series, and the ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ adventure series. She was probably the most successful British children’s writer of the twentieth century.
Where do you get your ideas for your books from?
Most of my ideas come from history, newspapers and non-fiction books.
What advice would you give to would-be writers?
Check my Masterclass page for advice to would-be writers.
Is there a collection of your early works, notes and papers?
Yes. Much of the material relating to my work is held in a collection at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, United States. These include outlines, first drafts, notes and correspondence, original manuscripts and copies of early books now out of print.
Can you replace incomplete print copies, CDs, ebooks or downloads?
Unfortunately, I cannot replace copies of my novels that have missing or duplicate pages, poor binding or other manufacturing defects, and the same applies to defective audio, e-book and other download editions. The publisher of that particular edition will replace the defective copy, and you can usually do this merely by returning it to the place where you bought it, or contacting the appropriate customer support. If the retailer cannot help, contact the publisher directly. You’ll find links to many publishers worldwide on the Publishers’ page.
How many books have you sold worldwide?
To the best of my reckoning it must now be about 160 million.