Social media can harbor both the quaintest and foulest of surprises, and in the downward scrolling abyss of political discontent deriving from recent happenings, imagine my delight and surprise upon seeing a call for book bloggers from the QI Elves for a “QI Blog Tour”. Yes, the QI Elves – the small-ish army responsible for gathering up every tidbit and query used on the ever-famous UK comedy panel game show. And yes, the same game show formerly hosted by Stephen Fry himself.
I was (very) surprised upon being accepted for the Blog Tour, in which selected book bloggers had the opportunity to interview the QI Elves. It was an immense pleasure to have a Q&A with Elf Anne Miller across the pond, and I thank both the magic of Twitter as well as sheer fortune for this opportunity.
First off, how did you come by the nickname ‘Dusty’?
All the Elves who work on QI share their research on a Top Secret section of the QI talk forums. Traditionally our usernames were different from our actual names. QI’s creator John Lloyd goes by JumpingJack, Head Elf James Harkin is Eggshaped and Justin Pollard is FrederickTheMonk for reasons I’ve never discovered. Dusty is an old nickname for people with the surname Miller, because they’d be covered in dust from milling the flour. As it happens, Alex joined shortly after me and he chose a perfectly sensible username – ‘AlexBell’.
How does your background in politics and sociology influence your writing, if at all?
I think it influences my research more than my writing. During the course of my degree I spent a lot of time looking for books in libraries, leafing through journals and searching the web for information and articles so I’m used to trying different paths to track down the right piece of information. However, it also taught me to look for the tangents. Sometimes the book that claimed to be in stock wasn’t actually on the shelf but others in that section would turn out to be equally interesting, even if for different reasons!
What do you love most about the literary community?
I think there’s a lovely connection when you meet someone who loves a book that you love. Even if you’ve never met before you suddenly have lots to talk about!
As a QI Elf, are there any types of facts or tidbits you particularly gravitate towards?
My favourites are facts about animals, books and Scotland. There’s a fact in an earlier book about how in 1715, a group of Jacobite rebels failed to take Edinburgh Castle because their rope ladders were six feet too short.
Your favourite personal encounter at QI (celebrity or otherwise)?
One of the great perks of working at QI is that when we are recording the TV series we have to hold a technical rehearsal to make sure all the buzzers and pictures are in proper working order. As the panelists aren’t allowed to see the material beforehand, we run a version with Sandi in the chair and assorted Elves pretending to be panellists! This means we get to sit behind the desks, answer Sandi’s questions, press the buzzers and try and hit as many klaxons as possible – just to make sure they’re working you see.
What were your experiences as a contributor for 1,342 Facts to Leave You Flabbergasted?
All the facts in the book link to each other and this year I was in charge of making the order work. It was brilliant fun and quite like trying to solve a gigantic logic puzzle because there are so many facts in play. I found it got a bit unwieldy trying to scroll back and forth on a computer so at one stage I printed off all the remaining facts and moved them around on my living room floor like a jigsaw puzzle. It was very satisfying when it finally clicked into place!
Lastly, if dire circumstances permitted you to read only one particular genre of literature for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
Oh, that’s very difficult. I’d quite like to keep reading everything but if I had to choose I’d go for non-fiction so I could carry on spending every day learning something surprising!
You can follow the QI Elves on Twitter for more facts and un-useless information.