We had a pleasant interview with British writer Darren Simpson about the youth novel Furthermoor, which was also published in Turkey.
-Hello Mr. Simpson. You met your Turkish readers with your third novel translated into Turkish. May I know your feelings on this matter?
I feel so lucky to have seen all of my books published in Turkey and received so well. From what I’ve seen online – particularly on Instagram – Turkey is blessed with an incredibly passionate reading community. I’ve come across so many Turkish social media accounts dedicated to the joys of reading, and many of them have young and enthusiastic readers as their stars, which is heartwarming and inspiring to see.
-The fantasy novel you wrote “ Furthermoor” starts off strikingly with the fact that the main character, Bren, will die if she can’t get out of the room she’s locked in. Can you briefly talk about the subject of your book?
Furthermoor is a book about two worlds. There’s Bren’s real world – a town called Williamsborough – and this is where Bren’s been trapped in a room by bullies and is close to freezing to death. And then there’s Furthermoor: an imaginary clockwork, bejewelled forest created by Bren in his mind, where he can hide from his problems and be with his sister, Evie, who died in car accident in the real world, but is still alive in Furthermoor. Bren finds respite from bullies and grief in his imaginary sanctaury, until a malovelent, crow-like creature called Featherly arrives in Furthermoor and begins to threaten its existence, while also having a dark influence on Bren’s reality. Furthermoor is essentially the story of how Bren learns to faces up to Featherly, not only to save Furthermoor, but also to fight for his place in the real world.
-How did the idea to write your book “Furthermoor” come about?
It all began with the setting. Inspired partially by J.G. Ballard’s The Crystal World, I fell in love with the idea of a clockwork, jewelled forest, but I found the setting problematic, because it felt very fantastical and I don’t really see myself as a fantasy writer. I spent several weeks trying to fugure out how I could use this magical setting without writing a fantasy book. And then, one day, while washing the dishes, the answer came to me: I could put that magical setting into a protagonist’s imagination and set the story both in the character’s real world and in his imagined world. That way I could write a fantasy book that wasn’t quite a fantasy book. And when I started to envision how this jewelled, mechanical forest might somehow blend with and subvert a more urban, realist setting, I got really excited, and the story was soon writing itself.
-What is the most important lesson your readers will learn from your book?
I try not to give simplistic lessons in my books, because life is more complicated that, and readers – particularly young ones – don’t want to feel like they’re being lectured to when they lose themselves in a story. Furthermoor has several themes, many of which raise questions rather than give answers. For example, as important as imagination and escapism are, at what point do they become harmful? Does imagination control reality, or does reality control imagination? How can we let go of grief without letting go of the loved ones we’ve lost? The answers to these questions are very personal, and I hope Furthermoor encourages readers to explore these themes in their own way. Having said all that, Furthermoor also explores bullying, and while the book highlights how complex bullying can be, there is one simple lesson I hope readers take away: if you’re being abused by a bully, please don’t ever start to believe you deserve it; it is not your fault.
-Are there any places in your book that you wrote inspired by your life?
Furthermoor’s real-world setting – Williamsborough – drew very much from my hometown of Nottingham. Nottingham has an area called Sneinton, and though I’ve never lived in Sneinton, it means a lot to me, as my band used to rehearse in a warehouse there, and it’s where I first kissed my wife. So I based Williamsborough’s layout and aesthetic on Sneinton, while naming many of its streets after authors who – like Bren – have created incredible imaginary worlds.
-What would you like to say to your Turkish readers?
I’d like to say a hearfelt and very sincere thank you not only to those who’ve championed my books, but also to every single Turkish reader who’s picked up one of my books and given it a go.