It’s been 10 years since The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was first published, so we were inspired to share author John Boyne’s Q&A with us.
1) Who or what first inspired you to write?
JB: My parents brought me to our local library every Wednesday afternoon when I was a child and I loved it. I read voraciously as a child but wrote a huge amount as well. The two activities were always connected in my mind. There was never a time when I didn’t think I was going to be a writer. It was just something that lived inside me.
2) What made you decide to revisit WWII with The Boy at the Top of the Mountain?
JB: I didn’t think about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas when I wrote The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, even though both novels are set during the Second World War. There are hundreds of thousands of stories that can be written about that time and these are just two of them. I’m fascinated by the effect of war on children and the role children play in war. My last book for young readers, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave, was set during World War I. I imagine it’s an era I’ll return to again and again over the course of my life.
3) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was turned into a successful movie. Did the possibility that The Boy at the Top of the Mountain could follow suit cross your mind whilst writing, and did that affect the shape or feel of the story?
JB: No, not in the slightest. The novelist who writes with one eye on a potential film adaptation will write a bad novel and I don’t write novels as source material for movies. With every novel I write, whether it’s aimed at adults or young readers, I hope to tell an interesting story, one that will move readers. But once it’s out in the world the writer has no control over what will happen to it.
4) You’re a writer of fiction for adults as well as children. Have you ever started writing a book intended for adults, only to end up writing it for children (or vice versa)?
JB: No, but I’ve used an idea for one as the basis for the other. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, for example, was originally conceived as an adult novel but I couldn’t find my way into the story. Then I thought about using a child at the centre and it became a novel for young people.
5) Where do you write?
JB: Anywhere. My favourite place is at home in Dublin but I can and do write in hotel rooms, on planes and trains, in cafes. I always have my laptop with me and I’m always working on a book.
Oliver Jeffers has illustrated a new edition of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to celebrate the anniversary. To invest in this beautiful special anniversary edition, click here!