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Interview: April 1, 2014

Plenty of technology has been invented since the first Chitty Chitty Bang Bang book was written in the 1960s, from the internet to cell phones to iPads. But, as Frank Cottrell Boyce, the author of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG: Over the Moon, says, “the idea of a car that can fly is still really magical,” even decades later! That’s why we were so excited to interview Frank about the latest story starring the flying car with its own personality. Read on to learn about Frank’s favorite feature of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, how writing books is different from writing movies, and what it was like to meet a man who helped build the car that inspired the first book! The original CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was written by Ian Fleming in 1964. Why did you decide to continue the adventures of this famous car?

Frank Cottrell Boyce: The first proper film I saw in the cinema was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I went with my cousins and a big bag of cherry lips.  When the car fell off the cliff I was absolutely rooted to the spot.  And then when she flew, I think the whole cinema cheered.  I love the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stories because --- despite all our amazing technology and new inventions --- the idea of a car that can fly is still really magical.

KRC: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is no ordinary car --- what are some of your favorite features of the vehicle?

FCB: I'm always impressed by Chitty's noisy engine and flashing mud guards.  But best of all is that she has a personality.

KRC: In earlier Chitty Chitty Bang Bang books, Tiny Jack is quite the villain, but in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG: Over the Moon, he’s more of a sympathetic character. Why did you decide to make this change?

FCB: It's not so much that he changes as that you find out more about him and start to understand him a little better.  Isn't that how it happens in life, too? We sometimes meet people who are frightening or horrible at first and then you find the truth about them.

KRC: I read that you have seven children --- did any of them influence Little Harry, the youngest member of the Tooting family? Have they influenced any other characters?

FCB: We do spend a lot of time in the car so the idea that an adventure can be a family jaunt --- with people reading or talking or falling asleep on the back seat and someone up front to read the map --- is very familiar.

KRC: Did you have to do any research for this book? What’s the most interesting thing you learned?

FCB: Yes, I did loads of research.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a real car driven by Count Zborowski in the 1920s and built at Blyth Brothers in Canterbury.  I met an old man in Canterbury whose father helped build her and as a little boy, he had sat next to his dad holding a bucket of rivets.  So I met someone who helped build Chitty Chitty Bang Bang --- how amazing is that?

KRC:  Ian Fleming wrote another famous character --- James Bond. Who do you think has cooler gadgets, Bond or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

FCB: Definitely Chitty.  Come on! No competition!

KRC: We love how Joe Berger’s fun illustrations help bring the book to life. Did you work with Joe on the illustrations, at all?

FCB: Yes we talked a lot --- about our favorite stories.  Sometimes the story would take a swerve because Joe had a great idea for a picture (El Dorado for instance). It's wonderful to work closely with an illustrator --- it's like having an extra brain.

KRC: What were your favorite books to read as a kid?

FCB: I loved JUST WILLIAM and also anything by Edith Nesbit.  I was really changed by reading THE WIZARD OF EARTHSEA --- the book that made me see that learning about things was a kind of superpower.

KRC: If you had the chance to ride Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for a day, when and where would you go?


KRC:You’re not only famous for writing children’s books --- you’ve written screenplays, too! What are some of the main differences between writing books and movies?

FCB: You go to a lot fewer meetings when you're writing a book.  A movie is mostly meetings. It's easier to write a movie than it is to write a book but it's much harder to get a movie made than it is to get a book published.  You're on your own when you're writing a book --- which is wonderful but also scary.  You get a lot of chances to get it right when you're making a film --- rehearsals, editing, music etc.  On a book sometimes just after it's published you have the most brilliant idea for it --- but it's too late.

KRC: Are you working on any children’s books, now? Can you tell us about them?

FCB: I've literally finished my new book this morning! It's a great day and spring is in the air.  It's about a boy who turns green!

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a writer of books for young readers, most notably MILLIONS, winner of the Carnegie Medal, COSMIC, which garnered six star reviews, and THE UNFORGOTTEN COAT. He lives in England.