For a competition on Fjodors new German book “Fjodor und der große Knall” Felix Janosa and Pål H. Christiansen have sat down to chat about the naughty fish:
Felix: Pål, at what age did you start writing stories and what was your first one?
Pål: I wanted to write from the age of 10, but didn’t really start up before I was about 20 years old. One of my first stories was a very short and very serious and Kafkalike thing about a lonely young man climbing up a hill in search of himself. Very depressing. Very symbolic. I later found that the writing went much better with a little humour. How about yourself, Felix? How important is playfulness and humour in your work?
Felix: As a teenager I listened to music that had great portions of humour – The Beatles, Udo Lindenberg (The Godfather of German Rock Music), Randy Newman and last but not least Frank Zappa. So when I started writing music and lyrics I already knew what I wanted – serious music and funny lyrics.
But tell me Pål, where did you meet Fjodor for the very first time?
Pål: I have no idea why, but already in my first novel back in 1989 a cod made it’s way into the story, and ever after cods knock on my door whenever I sit down writing. But I didn’t really open that door before I finally started to write children stories and a certain naughty cod invaded my life.
The idea for the first book about Fjodor, Fjodor flippt aus, had its origin in a piece of prose I wrote when I lived in Lillehammer for a while in 1987-1988. It was about a man coming up from the sea with a bag in his hand, like a father returning from office, and a boy was on the shore waiting for him.
When I was asked by a publisher to start writing for children in 2005, I found a stack of old writings and picked this one out. My first question was: Where had the father been? The answer was: At work repairing creatures in the sea. The second question was: What is in the bag? The answer was: A cod by the name Fjodor.
The third volume in the Fjodor-series, Fjodor und der grosse Knall, has recently been published in Germany, once again with wonderful songs composed by you Felix. What is the difference between making songs to Ritter Rost and to the very naughty cod Fjodor?
Felix: Fjodor is not so much a musical with different singing characters as an Childrens’ & Audio-Book with long narrative passages and some nice songs in between. We have just one singer who serves – although he has the role of “Bobby Berg” – as a musical narrator in addition to the main narrator. So all the songs have to fit this one singer.
Pål: What made you want to develop my Fjodor-books into musicalbooks? Why didn’t you just write some books yourself with songs and everything?
Felix: I did, for example “Das Rap-Huhn”, which contained 10 raps for children and was a minor success here in Germany. But it was just 10 songs with different topics, no story line.
I’m a better composer than story-inventor. So the collaboration with authors like Jörg Hilbert who
invented “Ritter Rost” or you who invented “Fjodor” is fantastic, cause I don’t have to search for these fine characters. By the way, Pål: Do you see a difference between the childrens` book taste in Norway and Sweden? (Cause from the distance here it’s all “Pippi Langstrumpf” and “Petterson and Findus”)
Pål: Sweden had a very strong childrens literature from after World War II, and Astrid Lindgren was the most visible abroad, of course. In Norway we had our own stars like Thorbjørn Egner, Alf Prøysen and Anne Cath Vestly, all three extremely clever with the radio medium and different in style, but some of the swedish stuff was a bit more crazy and naughty at that time, I think (like Lindgrens stories about Emil, Pippi and Karlsson on the Roof). This has changed and Norway has for some decades brought forward lots of great childrens books that develops the genre, like Erlend Loes books about the truck driver Kurt.
Felix: And now we have mixed your Norwegian codness with my German rustiness into something quite new. Are you happy with the result?
Pål: I really am. I love how your songs adds something to my Fjodor-universe, sometimes following the story, other times by adding something completely new to it. There are still two more books to be translated from Norwegian, Fjodor at school and Fjodor on Ice, and I have more ideas in my desk drawer, too. Are you ready for more, Felix?
Felix: Ready for takeover, Captain Cod! 😉