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Five Questions with Georgia Byng

Today we play a quick round of Five Questions with Georgia Byng, the brilliant author of The Sunday Times Children’s Book of the WeekThe Girl With No Nose!

But first, why don’t we get to know The Girl With No Nose (illustrated by Gary Blythe) in Georgia’s own words?

Can you describe your story in 5 words?

Moving, funny, wabi-sabi, Victorian, interesting.

 

Can you tell us about the particular inspiration behind your story?

The Hunterian Museum in London is a museum that shows off the history of surgeons and medicine. It has lots of interesting things to look at. On one wall was a display case with a pair of glasses that had a false nose attached. A noseless woman had worn this contraption 150 years ago. I began to wonder about her and her life. What had it been like then to be a child without a nose? I began cooking up The Girl With No Nose.

Now, on to Georgia herself!

What appeals to you about reading or writing short fiction/novellas/short stories?

I love writing shorter stories. You can experiment with ideas, place, characters without having to invest the sort of time you have to with longer pieces of writing. With a novel, you have to write a lot before you can see whether it is good and whether it works. For instance, let’s say you wanted to experiment with writing science fiction, and wanted to set your story on another planet, with aliens as its characters, when maybe you hadn’t written that sort of thing before, it would be great to enter the world for just a short story. This doesn’t mean that writing shorter stories is easier than writing longer ones. Shorter pieces are a challenge. But they take less time to write. And you can be very free with what you do because if it goes wrong, it is easy to shrug and say, ‘Oh that was a bit of a mess,’ and chuck the thing, whereas with a longer book that you might have been working on for six months it’s not so easy to do that. So perhaps one is a bit over-safe with ideas when writing bigger books.

I like a good story and with shorter stories the aim is to find a strong one and then tell it with a brilliant efficiency. Short stories are elastic in that they can cover huge amounts of time, or very little moments in time or one moment in time. They can cover big ideas or little ones.

If they can have twists and layers in the short time that they have then that is very satisfying for the reader. This is quite hard to make happen, but it being difficult to do makes it fun. I suppose getting it right is a bit like solving a puzzle or a crossword. I’m not very keen on puzzles or crosswords as I don’t practise doing them and as a result am a novice and don’t get them right. But I’ve been writing now for a while, and find the puzzle of getting a plot to work and the characters to be the cogs that turn it, or the plot working with the characters being the cogs that turn that plot, very satisfying indeed.

 

_23_0365Where is your favourite place to find inspiration and/or write?

I love to write in public places. On buses, on park benches in the summer, in cafes, on a beach or at waterparks, or in hotel lobby bars. I like to write where there are people about. I like this because I enjoy being able to look about me and watch human beans. And then to also have a plate of beans or another cup of coffee. I often get ideas from them, especially if I am writing a section about people on a bus or a person on a beach or at a waterpark. Then, sometimes the people about me don’t inspire my writing at all, but instead, they are just a nice distraction from maybe the intensity of the concentration of working on the bit I am writing.

I like writing in libraries too. The British Library is great. Newspaper stories are brilliant for inspiration, as so many of the mad smaller stories in the backs of the papers show that, as Yorkshire people say, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk.’ I love to travel and get ideas abroad in exotic places where the culture is different. But wherever I write, I always have to spend a lot of time daydreaming my stories, plots and characters up and this involves lying about with my eyes shut. I am not joking … this is a very important part of my writing process.

img_2772 img_3203

 

Who or what made you into a reader? Can you remember a specific book or moment?    

unknownimg_5238The Tale of the Fierce Bad Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is the first story I remember reading. I was about three. I couldn’t read but I could understand the pictures.

The story is about a bad rabbit who steals a carrot from a good rabbit. The good rabbit is minding his own business eating the carrot his mother has given him. This book made a huge impression on me. I can remember opening it and thinking that maybe today the story inside would be different. Maybe today the bad rabbit wouldn’t be in the book. I wanted the story told the way I wanted it to be. Just a story about a rabbit having a good time with his carrot.

I remember being shocked that yet again the nasty rabbit was in there, again being mean. And then I remember getting to the page where the bad rabbit scratches the good rabbit and I can remember thumping the book. Thumping the bad rabbit to try to stop him.  I remember the roller coaster of a ride that I got as a reader. The anger, then the pleasure when the bad rabbit is frightened off by a hunter.

Later in life I found reading often came about from being interested in something. So, when I was acting a lot for instance, I read about the time the play was set. Or about the subject the play was about. And I read lots of plays. Reading isn’t just about reading books. You can read song lyrics, or poems or recipe books. Writing also makes me read more as I want to know how other people write.

 

Who would you love to collaborate with?

I loved collaborating with Gary Blythe the illustrator of The Girl With No Nose. I loved the way he took what I wrote and put his imagination to it and really brought it to life in ways that I had not imagined. That was very exciting. It might be interesting to work the other way around with an illustrator, maybe Gary, and for him to throw the pictures at me and for me to have to come up with a story.

I would also love to write a musical with my friend Guy Pratt. He is a musician and I have always wanted to write the musical of the story I wrote, Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism. We laugh a lot plus he is very brilliant, so not only would the musical be good but it would be fun working on it too.

I would also love to collaborate with my 11-year-old son who is very funny too. He also likes writing.

 

img_4062What’s the nicest (or worst!) thing anyone’s ever said about your books?

I have had a few people write to me and say that their child hated reading until they read my book and that it was a wonderful thing because their child couldn’t put the book down. That made it all worth it. The idea that I might be able to write something that engaged readers so that they didn’t stop. Wow, that was the best feeling. I thought, well whatever I did, I must have done something right. To switch someone on is a great thing to do. Whether it’s turning them onto art and painting or computer programming or playing an instrument, or belly dancing or scatology. OK, so not the last one. For those of you who don’t know, scatology is the official name for the very serious study of… of poo!

 

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About Georgia Byng

Georgia Byng originally trained as an actor, then found her way to children’s books by writing and illustrating comic strip stories. She is the best-selling author of the much-loved Molly Moon books, now adapted into a film that she cowrote. She lives in London.

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