(Note: These are selected interview questions and answers taken from the “Extras” section of the paperback edition of Howl’s Moving Castle, reissued in 2008.)
1. The Wizard Howl has charmed many readers across the world. What do you make of that?
The one big, strange fact about Howl is that almost every young woman who reads about him wants to marry him. They began wanting to before the book was even published and they all confess their wish quite openly. Yesterday I was doing a question-and-answer session in a London theatre and a teenage girl put her hand up and said—without any embarrassment at all—that she had long wanted to marry Howl and would I mind. I wondered whether to ask her if she would mind everywhere being covered with green slime when Howl’s hair went wrong; or if she minded coping with a man who had head colds like a drama queen; or being twisted round Howl’s little finger; or would it worry her that the man was a terrible coward; or always falling in love with other women; or . . . But I could see she regarded these facts as a challenge. So I sat with my mouth open for a second and then told her that she had now joined the end of a very long line that stretches at least once around the world.
This didn’t appear to trouble her unduly.
My opinion of Howl is that, much as I love him, he is the last person I would want to marry. Apart from anything else, I would want to get in the bathroom sometimes.
2. You say on the dedication page that a young boy gave you the idea for the Moving Castle, but did it spring into your mind fully formed or take time to develop?
When the boy gave me the idea of a Moving Castle, I knew at once that I would want to write about it, but it took a long time to decide how. I needed to discover Howl and Sophie first. This didn’t happen for about three years, by which time I had totally forgotten the safe place where I had put the boy’s name and address.
3. Why do you think Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer make such a spectacular team?
Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer make a very good team (in spite of disagreeing violently from time to time) because they all have strong magic, which they use in quite different ways. Howl is dashing and original—and vain and quirky of course—where Sophie is quite practical and good at covering up Howl’s dashing blunders. Calcifer is very fond of Sophie because she released him from his contract with Howl and, in addition, gave him one thousand years of life (as a shooting star he should have died long ago). So he will back Sophie up whatever she does. But Calcifer and Howl, because they have been almost one person for some years in the past, work wonderfully together as a team, at double strength. Between them, they can do almost anything magical.
4. Were you surprised by Hayao Miyazaki’s vision of the castle and characters of Howl’s Moving Castle?
I was surprised by Miyazaki’s Moving Castle, because I had not thought of the castle having feet. In the book I wrote, the castle is more like a hovercraft and floats an inch or so above the ground. But I am very fond of Miyazaki’s castle. I have several models of it around the house. As for Howl and Sophie, both of them are gentler and more noble than the characters in my books. But I wasn’t surprised by this. Movies are always different. I have several models of Howl and Sophie around the house too, and quite a few Calcifers, one of which sits in the fireplace.
5. Why do you think Howl has to trick himself into being brave? Or that so many other characters are almost unwillingly—or unknowingly—brave?
Everyone has to trick him/herself into doing what they think is against their nature. Think of the many times you have promised yourself a treat of some kind once you have done a chore that you hate. This is the most normal way of tricking yourself. But how many times also have you sauntered over to the jar of cookies, telling yourself that you are not really going to eat one? This is another way of tricking yourself. Howl is an extreme case of this because he has convinced himself he is a terrible coward. The fact is that he is quite brave in some directions and only frightened when he is face to face with someone whose powers are equal to his own. Then he has to trick himself into dealing with them.
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