I am Mervyn Laurence Peake, author of Gormenghast. Ask me anything!
A bit about me. I was born in 1911 in central China. My parent were British missionaries. Alas, their faith did not stick. I was friends with Graham Greene and Dylan Thomas. Missionaries of a very different gospel.
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what books would you want with you?
A: "Life is a peninsula", one of my characters says. Ergo death is an island. I'd want the books that life did not allow. The fourth book of my own trilogy: Titus Awake. Never finished. Followed by a gloriously printed (leather bound!) picture book containing my proposed works for a sarcastic exhibition of mock art pieces by Adolf Hitler. The war department turned my proposal down. The fools! Would have been hilarious, in a gruesome way.
Q: You were a successful painter, poet, and playwright. Now remembered for your three Gormenghast novels. Do you consider those books 'fantasy'?
A: If your definition of fantasy requires wizards throwing fire, heroes questing for fairy-queens, then no. But if a vast castle encompassing bizarre peoples and ancient ritual can be considered 'fantastical', for their absurdity, their beauty, their dream-like reality of infinite age and significance... then put Gormenghast on the map between Earthsea and the Shire, just south of Anhk-Morpork.
Q: The Times named you one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. What do you cite as your primary influences?
A: I was an artist. I taught life-drawing. Consider that I did illustrations for Alice, for Coleridge, for Stevenson and Grimm. Now consider the strong visual description in Gormenghast, where every stone and trembling ivy-leaf achieves sharp shadow and tone. Conclude that I painted with words using for life-model all that was truly dream-like in fantasy. Not the dragon, but the boy thinking about the dragon. Not the wizard in the tower, but the tower itself. There is nothing quite like Gormenghast in modern fiction. Manners and madmen, old castles and plotting servants: these are common props stored beneath the stage for a thousand fantasy plays. But the tale of Gormenghast is unique.