I’ll admit, I’m a fan and avid reader of his work, so meeting Philip Pullman on Thursday, was definitely one of the perks of the job!
When I first got caught up in His Dark Materials, I marvelled at how anyone’s imagination could create such stories, but today I got to meet the man behind the creations, and he didn’t disappoint.
Philip Pullman lives in a farm cottage in Oxford where his dogs bounce and jump about, books litter every room and a roaring fire blazes.
The lounge - where we sat to do the interview - would be any reader’s perfect place to curl up on the sofa, read a book and be transported to another world.
The author grew up in Norwich but after studying at Exeter College, Oxford he pretty much stayed in the city.
The author worked until he was 40 within education, both as a teacher and a teacher trainer, but he always wrote, only giving up the "day job” once he could afford to!
Pullman still writes with a pen, not a keyboard, and manages 1,000 words a day, every day.
Even on a Sunday, he replies to all the letters he receives, and he reads books all the time, in bed, at the breakfast table, on the train, on the sofa, but writing is what he loves most.
His latest book The Book of Dust - Volume One - La Belle Sauvage returns to the fantastical world of His Dark Materials and expands on the story of his main protagonist, Lyra, but it is neither a sequel or a prequel to the trilogy.
Pullman says it’s an “equel,” just because he likes it as a word!
The novel came out in October, and on Thursday it was awarded Waterstones’ Book of the Year Award which is a rare honour for a children’s novel.
Pullman says he is “delighted” to receive the honour because it’s a “nice prize to win, especially from a bookseller, and prizes are nice to get.
"They’re affirmation that you’re doing something right."
He continued that "there are three parts to success; talent, hard work and luck.”
He told me that he knows lots of hard-working, talented writers who’ve created masterpieces, but they’ve never quite had the lucky break he has, and you need all three to make a successful career as an author.
You may be surprised to hear that Pullman doesn’t write for anyone but himself.
“If the reader doesn’t like it then it’s tough,” he explained.
Pullman is passionate about protecting the art of storytelling, the love of books and the skill of reading, believing that the current education system and the National Curriculum have “exiled delight in the classroom.”
He believes we should read to children, tell children poetry, let children read poetry and not explain everything, and not let everything become the subject of a test.
The 71-year-old also speaks out vehemently about the closure of libraries, describing it as “cultural vandalism that we’re allowing to happen.”
He believes it is a "deplorable state of affairs,” and he'd like to see things properly funded.
“We should defend these things with fire and anger," he says passionately.
La Belle Sauvage was 17 years in the making.
Very few things are worth such a wait, but this novel is supposed to be one of them so deserving of this award.
So, what’s next for Pullman? Yet more success?
“I’ll be writing forever, as long as I can hold a pen and my brain still works. "