Emma Madden interviewed Jonathan Stroud last year for Write Away!.
One exchange from the interview:
Arrogance and vanity, although amusing, are the negative traits of most of your magicians (and djinnis). Is there any significance to those characteristics?Read the entire interview.
Well, I think the books are really about power and the imbalance of power. A lot of fantasy books show characters wielding power, of one sort or another. Traditionally heroes seem to be able to wield it fairly easily. In children’s fiction particularly, you have heroic magicians, like Gandalf, who are tremendously virtuous. I wanted to experiment, so that the humans with power would not be virtuous and so that I could explore the down side of having power up your sleeve. Nathaniel is the key character. He is quite idealistic in Book 1, but as he grows up the corruption around him accentuates his natural arrogance and vanity and these qualities become more extreme. The parallel in the real world is that no matter who you are there is the danger of the powerful becoming the elite. I don’t want any of these points to become didactic. It’s just a question of having issues floating around under the surface, which the readers can pick up on if they choose.