WRITERS' MINDS Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce is an award winning writer, his novel, Millions, won the Carnegie Medal and was made into a film directed by Danny Boyle whom he collaborated with for the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012. He’s gone on to write a series of successful children’s books, including The Unforgotten Coat which won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and is also a successful screenwriter with the films 24 Hour Party People and Hilary and Jackie to his name.

I first met Frank at a reframing literacy conference in London and he kindly agreed to speak at our small cinema festival the following year. Over lunch, he enchanted my kids with tales of travels through Finland, his love of The Moomins, notebooks and our shared city, Liverpool. He’s had associations with SCBWI before and is a captivating speaker, giving the Philippa Pearce Lecture in 2014. He’s written sequels to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and his most recent books include Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and The Astounding Broccoli Boy. He lives in Liverpool, not far from Antony Gormley's sculptures Another Place.

Another Place  Image by Jools Abrams

1. Inspiration – where do your ideas for a story come from? Hunter or gatherer?

I am constantly bombarded by ideas but I think you don’t really get going until two or three of them find each other and stick together. Ideas are like atoms. You need a molecule to seed a story.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantster – is there method in your process, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

It’s definitely better to throw yourself in at the deep end, but I seem to require months of standing at the edge of the diving board looking down at the water thinking about it.

3. Shed sitter or café dreamer? Where do you write?

EVERYWHERE! At the moment my dad’s in hospital and I’m spending most mornings with him. I write when he nods off.

4. Do you have any artefacts, mottos or words of wisdom by your desk?

I’ve got a big box of HB pencils, that makes me feel very serious.

5. Target word count per day or as and when it comes?

When it comes.

6. High days and holidays? Do you write seven days a week, or weekends and holidays off?

I never work weekends and I take August off!

7. Quill or keyboard? Pen or technology?

I write in a notebook and type it up on my Mac. I love the feel of being able to type quickly.

8. Music or silence to write to?

The sound of my Dad snoring.

9. Chocolate or wine?

Neither! My body is a temple.

10. Perspiration or inspiration?

The more you perspire the more likely you’ll be inspired.

11. Where do you find the muse? Any techniques for inspiration?

I think E.M. Forster said “visions don’t come when we try but they do come by trying” - so sit down, trying to think it all through. Then go for a walk and it will all snap into place in some remote corner of your brain.

12. Do you ever hear your characters' voices in your head? Have you ever seen them in real life? (I once boarded a train and sat opposite the spitting image of a character I had just been writing about.)

I wish! I think the only one I’ve seen in real life is Liam from Cosmic. The overgrown slightly awkward boy.

13. If there was one piece of advice or wisdom you could impart to other writers about the craft of writing, what would it be?

Turn off the internet until you’ve done your work. Do NOT check your emails before starting your day. Still less your Twitter feed.


Jools Abrams is originally from the North West, but now lives in Hertfordshire. She is an award-winning writer of short stories for children and adults and has read at Word Factory and Birkbeck events. The latter is where she completed an MA in creative writing and children's literature with Michael Rosen as her tutor. She's also a ghost memoir writer for The Story Terrace in London and a writer of novels for young adults, currently mentored by The Golden Egg Academy. She's written screenplays and worked with The Script Factory in London and self-published a book on outdoor pursuits She Who Dares, inspired by her women's group. Jools is a qualified primary teacher, a forest school practitioner, has worked in independent cinema and the arts and is mother to two older teens.
Follow Jools:
Blog: shewhodareswrites.blogspot.com
Twitter: @joolsdares

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures. 
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org 
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! What a treat, thank you Frank and Jools! Love FCB stories - my favourites are Framed and Millions, they're in my top ten of all time.


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