Frank Cottrell Boyce on writing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again
"If someone said that you could drive their fabulous 23 litre vintage racing car out for a spin, wouldn't you be nervous? But wouldn't you also say ... yes please."
Frank Cottrell Boyce answers our questions about writing his book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again.
What was it like to take on such a well known and beloved story? Did you have any reservations about resurrecting a classic or was it full throttle enthusiasm to dive in?
If someone said that you could drive their fabulous 23-litre vintage racing car out for a spin, wouldn't you be nervous? But wouldn't you also say ... yes please.
The members of the Tooting family are pretty eccentric, how did you come up with those characters? Are they modelled after anyone in your own family?
NO!!!! I'll NEVER write about my own family. As far as I remember the Tooting family were just there at the side of the road when I went out for that ride. They were thumbing a lift and I always stop for hitchhikers.
Did you have to do any research on vintage automobiles or just cars generally to write this book - how did that help you to literally and figuratively bring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back to life?
Discovering that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a real car - and that it was really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - was a great moment for me. I've really been able to play with the fact that some of the people in the story - such as Count Zborowski - were real people.
One of the most charming elements of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again is the wonderfully written humour and dialogue - when you are writing, how do you know when something is truly funny, especially to kids?
If it makes me laugh, it'll probably make a child laugh - because I have a very infantile sense of humour.
Do you plan to turn Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again into a series? When can we expect more adventures with the Tooting family?
Yes I'm already writing the next book. If you think I'm putting this car back in the garage yet, you're dreaming! It's still my turn!
When writing children’s books, do you keep your own children in mind? Do you let them read some of your first drafts to get a review of how the book is going?
Not normally but on this occasion, yes. Because Chitty doesn't belong to me - she belongs to everyone. So I thought it was only right to get my children to kick the tyres and listen out for any strange knocking sounds from the engine. They've been really really helpful.
What were your favourite books and movies as a child?
I have extremely clear memories of going to see CCBB as a child - especially the bit where she falls off the cliff and everyone screams. And especially the Childcatcher of course. Favourite books would be - E. Nesbit every time. I still idolise her. She wrote The Railway Children, Five Children and It and best of all, The Treasure Seekers.
As a screenwriter and author, do you keep your ideas for movies and books separate? Did you have a movie version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again in mind when you wrote the book?
I'm really hoping we can make a movie out of this. It would be such a lark.
When did you decide to write novels along with screenplays? As a successful screenwriter, what attracted you to writing children’s books?
I've always loved reading children's books but I never thought of writing one until Danny Boyle suggested that I write Millions - which he was about to start filming - as a book. Sometimes you need someone to give you that shove, don't you? As soon as I started writing it I thought, "Oh this is what I'm supposed to be doing with my life". It was like coming home.
What car do you drive and do you wish it had some of the abilities that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang displays?
I have a big family so I drive a very elderly, very battered, very grubby people carrier.
If you could take a flying car anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I'd love to land on the top of the Auyantepui plateau in Gran Sabana, Venezuela. It's almost impossible to get there apart from in a tiny flying machine and it's from the top of this plateau that the World's highest waterfall - Angel Falls - goes tumbling into the Rio Gauya. Angel Falls is so high that most of the water turns to mist before it hits the bottom. I'd love to peep over the edge.
And after that fly home and land in my front garden.