by Sandy Auden
Specially dedicated to an exceptional book, we go behind the scenes with Coraline: A Visual Companion and
talk exclusively to author Stephen Jones about why he wanted to follow a different path with this particular book…
It's endured a bumpy journey through the publication process but the Visual Companion book for Henry Selick's Coraline movie, based on the popular young adult novel by Neil Gaiman, will now be published to coincide with the film. Companion author Stephen Jones explained: "For a while it was touch-and-go if the book would ever be published. Although we started work on it back in the spring of last year, the process became stalled for several months when it was deemed work on the intricate stop-motion movie should take precedence over any spin-off material. Happily it was the intervention of Neil and director Henry Selick that got the project back on track again, and the book was eventually finished in time for the release of the movie."
At the center of these problems is Coraline, the daughter of two very busy parents who don't have much time to spend with her. Having moved to a new house, Coraline goes exploring and discovers a strange door in the drawing room that opens onto a dark passage. At the other end of the passage, Coraline finds a mirror-world where her other mother and other father give her sumptuous treats and lots of attention. But her other mother wants Coraline to stay in the other world with her and kidnaps Coraline's parents so she can't go back. Coraline must use all her skills to outwit the other mother, find her real parents and free the children trapped in the other world with her.
Coraline is so adorable that it's difficult not to get caught up in her world and it certainly seems to have inspired Jones when he was putting the Visual Companion together. Rather than delivering the kind of picture-heavy, content-light volume that usually accompanies movies, Jones has delivered a much deeper and more satisfying experience. He has delved enthusiastically into the Coraline universe and taken us on a journey encompassing Neil Gaiman's original children's book; the animation process; the cast of characters; and the diverse media spin-offs that have taken Coraline to wider audience.
"Having done a number of these tie-in volumes over the years," reveals Jones, "it is important to realize that you don't want to produce a book that lasts for just the release of the film. Far too many tie-ins are simply produced to cash-in on the initial movie publicity before being relegated to the remainder bins. I personally have no interest in doing books like that, which is why I wanted to ensure that the Coraline book looked at other creative areas, rather than just the film.
"As a result, we cover the complete genesis of Neil's original novel and other adaptations of the book in the media, from theatre and music to the graphic novel. Although the majority of the book is still devoted to Henry Selick's wonderful film, I hope that there is enough other interesting and unique material to make this book a relevant companion to Neil's novel long after the movie has come and gone at the box-office. To that end, I made sure that I went out of my way to include exclusive interviews and visual material that you wouldn't usually expect to find in a book like this.
"Although I originally only had three months to research and write the book, because of the delays that were forced upon us I ended up spending the better part of seven months working on the project, even becoming involved in the final design process. As such, it was a very rewarding experience, and I couldn't have done it without the help and support of such people as Neil, Henry and my publishers."
Reading the interviews with the voice actors and animators who have been working on Coraline for the last two years, you become aware of the excited buzz that the movie is creating. So what is it about Coraline that is so universally enjoyable? "I first read Coraline in manuscript form, long before it was published," recalls Jones. "I was immediately captivated by the characters, but also by Neil's refusal to write-down for a younger readership. Coraline is a grand adventure that has something that appeals to the whole family, but it also includes some quite frightening images and situations that will have adults as well as children sitting on the edge of their seats. Being familiar with Henry Selick's previous work, I am sure that the movie will retain those darker moments while still giving the audience a plucky and likeable young heroine that everyone can cheer for."
It won't be long before we can all experience the fun and scares of Coraline's life on the big screen. Coraline the movie is released February 2009 (US) and May 2009 (UK). Coraline: A Visual Companion is out everywhere from February 2009.
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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