Thursday, 2 June 2016

Q is for QUORP

One of the questions I’m regularly asked is whether I base my characters on real people. I always find this rather strange. I’m a novelist, not a biographer. So the answer is no: the majority of my characters are the product of my imagination. I do, however, make the occasional exception – and QUORP, Governor of the Western Sector was one such example.

He’s actually based on a writer of some fame. For libel reasons I won’t name him, or even hint who he is. I confess I’ve never actually met this man but as I was writing the Quorp scenes I read an interview with this writer, complete with an odious photograph – and found him so insufferably smug and unreflective I just had to base Quorp around him.

Quorp's Red Setters

You might also like to know that Burton’s aunt was also modelled on a novelist – this one much more agreeable, though once again I will spare everyone’s blushes and not name her.

I can see how I might be accused of being terribly coy in this entry, but I have dropped a few tiny hints in the text as to who the people are. I’m sure the more astute of you might be able to decipher who I’m referring to... though obviously I will deny everything!

Quorp is also the embodiment of a theme that runs through the book (and links all the characters I despise the most). Excess. If I were drawing up a new list of deadly sins, excess would be at the top. Without wanting to sound too preachy, so long as mankind’s excesses remain unchecked the future will always be bleak. Excess is also a theme in the new novel I’m currently working on (not an Afrika book).

[Spoiler alert.] Hochburg’s threat to Quorp – ‘nice family’ is a quote from The Good, Bad Ugly, a line Christopher Frayling once described as the most menacing in the film.

Q is also for Quince

Many people have commented on the use of quinces in The Afrika Reich, in fact I’ve been asked why Q wasn’t for Quince in the previous A to Z.

Quinces return as a motif in The Madagaskar Plan. Burton owns a quince orchard. Partly this was to give him an unusual job but the symbolism of the fruit was not lost on me either. Through the centuries the significance of quinces has varied from culture to culture. In Ancient Greece they were a symbol of love. In early readings of the Bible, the devil tempts Eve to pick a quince from the Tree of Knowledge (it morphed into an apple during the Middle Ages). Quinces are an amazing, perfumed fruit that turn the most extraordinary pinkish-orange when cooked. Delicious! I have a quince tree in my own garden.

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