Book Nerd Interview
He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone's, typing up his drafts by night.
John Boyne is the author of six novels, as well as a number of short stories which have been published in various anthologies and broadcast on radio and television. His novels are published in 39 languages.The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008. Boyne resides in Dublin. He is represented by the literary agent Simon Trewin at United Agents in London, United Kingdom.
No. The truth is that I can’t remember a moment when I didn’t want to be a writer. From childhood, I loved books, I loved stories and I loved writing my own. I filled copybook after copybook with new stories for characters from books I enjoyed – all completely breaking copyright laws, of course! – and even at a very young age my goal was to one day have a novel published. As a teenager I began taking this more seriously, writing hundreds of short stories, sending many of them out and when I started to get some published towards the end of my teens I really began to believe that it was possible that I could achieve my goal.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
My schooldays were not particularly happy ones. I grew up in Dublin, in quite a posh rugby-focussed school. The school year was built around an annual inter-schools football tournament and the only important students in the school were those who played on the rugby team. Facilities which should have been open to all pupils were often only available to the rugby players. There was a real lack of interest in anyone who was studious or who liked books or who wanted to learn. The greatest thing I learned there was that anyone who says that schooldays are the happiest days of your lives has lived a very unfortunate life afterwards.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
When I was a student on the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia in ‘94/’95, I was taught by the novelist Malcolm Bradbury. He told us that we should write every single day, 365 days a year, even Christmas Day. That whatever we were working on would only get finished by writing, writing, writing. I followed this advice and it is quite rare that I spend a day without committing at least a few paragraphs to page.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
I think a lack of self-consciousness is important. Feeling that one can try different styles, different types of writing without everything having to be perfect. As a young writer, there is no chance that everything you write will be published so it’s worth experimenting. I was 28 when I found my own particular voice and style, when I was writing my first novel The Thief of Time and when I captured it, I just knew that I had.
In your newest book, The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
There’s nothing unusual about the Brockets. Boring, respectable and fiercely proud of it, Alistair and Eleanor Brocket turn up their noses at anyone strange or different. But from the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, it’s clear he’s anything but normal. To the horror and shame of his parents, Barnaby appears to defy the laws of gravity – and floats.
Little Barnaby is a lonely child – after all, it’s hard to make friends when you’re ten feet in the air. Desperate to please his parents, he does his best to stop floating, but he just can’t do it. Then, one fateful day, Barnaby’s mother decides enough is enough. She never asked for a weird, abnormal, floating child. She’s sick and tired of the newspapers prying and the neighbours gossiping. Barnaby has to go . . .
Betrayed, frightened and alone, Barnaby floats into the path of a very special hot air balloon. And so begins a magical journey around the world; from South America to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even a trip into space, Barnaby meets a cast of truly extraordinary new friends and realises that nothing can make you happier than just being yourself.
When was the last time you cried?
About a month ago, when I found out that a young person, quite close to me, was very ill. Fortunately that story seems to have had a happy resolution.
This whimsical novel will delight middle graders, and make readers of all ages question the meaning of normal.
The character Barnaby Brocket can easily relate to readers. Although he is very different that the rest of us, he is still “normal” with the same problems eight-year olds go through. John truly captures the inner workings of an eight-year old’s mind and stops at nothing at bringing credibility towards his character’s personalities.
John’s extraordinary tale of Barnaby is unlike anything I have read before. Considering that he excels in producing stories that will appeal to both children and adults, he is truly one of the major players in the writing world. The way he puts his message across is just brilliant. John reminds us that even people who are regarded as freaks have the same human feelings as us. The message is conveyed beautifully, thanks to the John’s extraordinarily show.
You can purchase The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket at the following Retailers: