Yup. Last week were the WBBT interviews. This was going to be one of them but due to a twisted alignment in the stars, that was not to be. Now I don’t usually post interviews just in and of themselves. Generally speaking I see myself as a subpar interviewer (or, as in this case, a subpar Q&A poser). Still, when someone out of the blue asks me, “Wanna interview Frank Cottrell Boyce?” my answer is “How high!” In my excitement I sometimes get confused.
So here today we are honored to host the man behind Millions and Framed and, most recently, the magnificent Cosmic.
Did I mention that he’s also a hoot?
Fuse #8: Welcome, Mr. Boyce! Let’s get the ball rolling. So thanks to books like Millions and Framed, your book Cosmic became so coveted here in the States that I know several people who found British editions early, just so that they could read it before anybody else. As an author, how are you handling the sheer fame of it all? Do you find it interferes with your work at all, or can you stand back from it?
Frank Cottrell Boyce: What a flattering question!!! Honestly I can handle all the fame you want to throw at me.
I get a lot of requests for visits to schools and other projects and I find it really difficult to say no. That’s quite hard to juggle. Usually on the journey I’m thinking – what on Earth am I doing this for? But then you get there and something magical happens – maybe a boy who doesn’t normally read, who suddenly gets it – and you think, well what was I going to do today that was more worth doing?
F8: Aw. Well in both Cosmic and Millions, you’ve boys who live without sisters and who have close relationships with their dads. Indeed, fatherhood itself seems to be the primary theme in Cosmic. As I’m given to understand it, you’re a father several times over yourself. Is this a tangent that creeps into your work again and again on purpose or is it something you just can’t help but write about?
FCB: In Cosmic it just sort of crept up on me. I thought I was writing a book about space and then … I think I’m so much of a dad that I actually start worrying about my characters – whether they’re eating the right food and going to bed early and so on! I am very Dadly in my outlook. I was recently on a recce with the film director Danny Boyle and before we left the location I asked him if he needed the toilet! He looked at me very sternly and said, “Frank, we don’t have that kind of relationship”.
F8: I read an interview with you where you mentioned that you were a big kid fan of Ursula le Guin. I find that fascinating since your books never traipse anywhere near the realm of science fiction or fantasy. Have you felt any particular inclination to write those kinds of books someday or are you perfectly content with the realistic funny fiction you’re known for?
FCB: Can I compliment you on the word “traipse” before we start? My son is bilingual in English and Spanish as a result of working in Peru for a while and I asked him what he missed most and he said, “Only having one or two words for walking. I really miss saying traipse, stroll, yomp, saunter etc.”
Ursula le Guin was incomparably my favourite author growing up. I wonder if one of the reasons I haven’t written fantasy is that Wizard of Earthsea seems so perfect to me – like the last word. I can’t think of anything I’d want to add really. I think I like writing about the modern world because I’m not really part of it and it seems like sci-fi to me. I don’t have the internet at home, don’t have a mobile phone and am basically very old fashioned in my lifestyle, and therefore find all the things you probably take for granted endlessly fascinating.
F8: Your books all take place in England, but I know you’ve lived in France as well. Have you ever wanted to set a book there, just to see what would happen?
FCB: Oh yes. What a great idea. I’ll do it.
Of course you do realize I set a book in Wales which is a completely different country almost half an hour’s drive away from my house.
Now, here in America at least, your last book was released at the same time as Mark Haddon’s Boom. The most notable difference between the two space-bound British adventures is the minor fact that his book has aliens and yours does not. But above and beyond that, the librarians here were shocked to find that the Briticisms (surely there’s a better term for that, but we’ve yet to find one) were not changed or excised from his book at all. I have not had the pleasure of reading any of your books as they were published in Britain. Do you happen to know if the Briticisms were changed when they were published here in the States? For that matter, do you have any kind of an opinion on those types of changes? Do the British do it to American children’s books as well?
I remember very clearly changing the Britishisms in Millions. I wasn’t expecting it but was very interested in it. My favourite sweets are called Wine Gums and I was shocked to discover that you didn’t have them. I wanted to arrange a wine gum aid programme.
It doesn’t bother me at all.
Except I hate having to call Football “soccer”.
F8: Finally, the inevitable . . . what are you working on next?
FCB: oooooh. I’m trying desperately to finish my next book before Christmas but have foolishly succumbed to what my family call The Great Distraction, namely the Olympic Games. My friend Danny Boyle is the creative director of the Olympic Games opening ceremony and he’s asked me and a couple of other people to help him. How could anyone turn that down? But I know if I was a proper writer I would have done.
F8: To hell with proper! I want to see some Boyce-inspired opening ceremonies!
Many many thanks to our esteemed author for joining us today. And thanks too to Elliott Wallach at Edify Media for coordinating.