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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Interview with a Cosmic man

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.

F8: Uh . . . yeah . . . totally remembered you’d set a book there.  Totally.  *cough cough*

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?

FCB: No we never change Americanisms because we love them!  Like the rest of the World we’re endlessly fascinated by the minutiae of American life.

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.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. The Canadian writer Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee (aka The Yarn Harlot) tells about her first editors telling her they’d loved the manuscript and hadn’t changed a thing “except for the Britishisms.” Baffled, she asked what those were. “Oh, you know — colour, honour…” “Ah. We don’t call those Britishisms,” she remembers telling them. “Really? What do you call them?” “ENGLISH!”

  2. Oh I’m horribly jealous! But great interview. Need to show it to my class as I’m reading aloud COSMIC now for the third year running. And, yes, I was one of those who got the British edition as it took a couple of years till the American one came out. I can thus vouch for the maintaining of the language. (Actually I first listened to it — great audio version. I can’t help doing Dr. Drax exactly as that audio book reader did.)

    I also love the traipsing about the sci-fi business as some have considered COSMIC as sci-fi just because of the er, outer space bit. I’ve never seen it as the slightest bit sci-fi and so was glad you both made that clear.

  3. Frank Cottrell Boyce says:


    First of all thank you for having me.
    Just after I read this I went into the city centre to buy some Christmas presents. An elderly lady was crossing the road next to me – struggling with her bags. I took one for her, got her across the road and was about to say goodbye when she said, “Wait a minute, son, hold this one as well for me”. She gave me another bag and started rooting round in a third. I thought she was going to give me a sweet or something. Anyway she pulled out two copies of Millions from her bag and said, “Just sign them before you go, will you?”

  4. Ha!

    I live in the land of challenging bedtime read-alouds — have to find books that engage the 9-year-old, the 6-year-old, and ME. Not easy. Cosmic was by FAR our biggest winner this year. Holy CRAP is it good. I am not dadly at all, having no penis, but found it provided such lovely insights into dadliness, and was relevant enough to PARENTLINESS that I didn’t feel, y’know, EXCLUDED. and liam was a fab and nuanced enuf character to engage the spawn, and the book was funny (SO funny) and moving enuf to engage me. I gushed in a most unseemly way on Goodreads. Thanks for the interview, Betsy, and I would give you a sweet, Mr Boyce.

  5. Wine Gums! Best day of 2010 was the day a grocery store in atlanta started to carry them!

  6. Cosmic was the first book I read by Frank Cottrell Boyce, but I LOVED it! I can’t wait to read his other books (and I feel silly that I haven’t read them already).

  7. Mr. Boyce, that may be the best encounter-with-an-author story I’ve heard. And Millions was just marvelous! One of my favorites this year.

    (And thank your son for introducing me to a new word, “yomp.”)

  8. Alyson Whatcott says:

    Loved Cosmic and I also loved Millions and Framed. We just finished reading Cosmic out loud to our class, and I have not heard the audio book, but I must confess, I liked the voice I gave to Dr. Drax! She is so sweetly irritating. After reading it, one of my students said, “I don’t really like Dr. Drax–do you?” But we all LOVED Cosmic and heard an audible groan when we had to mark our place for another day. Keep them coming, Mr. Boyce!

  9. Thank you! COSMIC would be my choice for this year’s Newbery…if only Mr. Boyce were American.