Friday, December 10, 2010
FEATURED AUTHOR: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Liam has always felt a bit like he's stuck between two worlds. This is primarily because he's a twelve-year-old kid who looks like he's about thirty. Sometimes it's not so bad, like when his new principal mistakes him for a teacher on the first day of school or when he convinces a car dealer to let him take a Porsche out on a test drive. But mostly it's just frustrating, being a kid trapped in an adult world. And so he decides to flip things around. Liam cons his way onto the first spaceship to take civilians into space, a special flight for a group of kids and an adult chaperone, and he is going as the adult chaperone. It's not long before Liam, along with his friends, is stuck between two worlds again—only this time he's 239,000 miles from home.
Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Millions and Framed, brings us a funny and touching story of the many ways in which grown-upness is truly wasted on grown-ups.
How did you start out your writing career?
My career began when I started writing bits of radio comedy but I first started to think about writing in Year Six (i.e. when I was 11). My best friend was away from school so I too the energy I usually reserved for making him laugh at the back of the class and poured it into a piece of written work instead. The kindly nun who was my teacher looked very surprised when she collected the work in - as though I had laid an egg - and she read it out to the class. That was the first time I noticed that if you put words in a particular order, that will make people laugh. It seems obvious but it's also very magical.
What did you learn while writing this book?
Wow! Great question. Well I certainly learnt a lot about space - which I've mostly forgotten now. I also learnt that if you want the ending to be a surprise to everyone then it should be a surprise to you too. So just keep writing and don't be scared and the ending will come.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
These are meaty questions! I want first of all to make people laugh. And second to make them feel good. It feels to me that life can be a big wide, barren desert and the point of writing is to show people where the oases are and make sure they spend enough time there, drinking the water and smelling the flowers and just admiring the wonderfulness of it all before setting out again.
Also in Cosmic, I wanted to remind people that mankind did once do this astonishing thing - go to the Moon. So perhaps we could do other astonishing things - like control our petrol consumption or provide fresh water for everyone on Earth.
If we can do something as amazing as that, then maybe we could deal with global warming and poverty etc. - we are amazing when we put our mind to it.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Not at all. I thought it would involve working on a whaling ship and fighting distant wars and starving in a garret. But in a way raising a family is a grander and more unpredictable adventure than any of those things.
Which five characters (can be from books, movies, or tv shows) would you invite over for dinner and why?
1 Flora Poste - From Cold Comfort Farm because she's the funniest person in a very funny book.
2 The Wil E. Coyote - boundlessly inventive, always optimistic, always wrong. We are twin souls.
3 Anne of Green Gables - that ecstasy! That despair! Those freckles. I love that girl.
4 Lisa Simpson - obviously.
5 Lester Freeman from the Wire - who I want to be when I grow up.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
1 That all the time I thought my kids were not listening - they really really were and I didn't need to shout so loud.
2 That you shouldn't eat between meals. I'm sure someone mentioned this but it never went in.
3 You do your best work when you're having the most fun.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
Read, read, read and then read some more.
Don't be in a hurry. The kindest thing about writing is that it allows you to stay at the table for a long time before you have to cash in the chips. You can publish your first book when you're very old (eg. Giuseppe diLampedusa, who wrote The Leopard).
It doesn't matter how long it takes, if you get it right then it was worth the wait (Huck Finn took fifteen years).
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
The unpredictability - the fact that you might write 7000 words one day and none the next and that the day you wrote none might have been much harder and more tiring that the day it all poured out of you.
What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?
I'm not sure that anyone ever gave me any advice in fact! But here's some advice from me - do not think for one minute that you are going to have more time to write after you have turned professional. You end up going to meetings, giving talks, running charities, visiting schools and so on. Sometimes I think I had more time to write before I was a "writer".
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
I bake bread most days. But I don't seem to be getting any better at it.
If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?
I was always very jealous of the Pevensie chidren in the Narnia books.
I always wanted to be Snufkin - the poetic wanderer from the Moomin books by Tove Janson.
Our theme for this month is Children Books. Can you recommend three books for children?
Anne of Green Gables - but you have to read it aloud to your kids as it's hard for them to read.
The Journey to Riversea Swooningly romantic Amazon adventure by Eva Ibbotson - who sadly died yesterday at the age of eighty five.
Can I recommend my own book Cosmic? I'm sooo proud of it!
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
That I am loved.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
So scarey ... it's about a boy who is diagnosed with an unusual blood-related illness. He refuses to believe he is sick and insists that he has superpowers.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
I guess via Walden in the USA or Macmillan in the UK (d.Kingston@macmillan.co.uk)
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