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Betty G. Birney worked at Disneyland for many years, has written several children’s television shows and is the author of over thirty five books, including the bestselling World According to Humphrey.
Her work has won many awards, including an Emmy and three Humanitas Prizes. She lives in America with her husband.
The Humphrey books have won several awards in the US, including the Christopher award for Friendship According to Humphrey and many children’s choice awards.
Which character from a children’s book are you most like?
Humphrey! We are both curious, excitable, love good stories and we both write in secret notebooks.
What is/was your favourite children’s book?
Charlotte’s Web would be way up there. I also loved Stuart Little, the Dr. Doolittle books, the Little House books, the Mary Poppins books and Little Women.
Where do you get inspiration for your books?
Anywhere and everywhere! It might be something I see or overhear, something that happened to me or someone I know, things I read and see on TV.
Did you write as a child?
Yes. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was seven and just kept writing from there.
Where do you write?
In my little blue writing house in the back of my backyard in Los Angeles, California. In the UK, you’d call it a shed.
What’s your proudest moment?
When my son was born.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
It happens a lot: I’m signing a book for someone and trying very hard to get the name right – then I end up misspelling my own name!
Do you have any pets?
My darling dog, Desi.
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
A dog, I think. They have so many wonderful qualities.
I love the smell of freshly-mowed grass.
Believe it or not, eggs! I also like pasta and garlicky things.
I like many types of music: classical, jazz and show tunes. I love to go to musicals.
I like old black-and-white films: The Third Man, Casablanca, The Philadelphia Story.
Which of the following totally rules?
—James Bond or Jason Bourne?
James Bond – in fact the last 3 numbers of my mobile phone are 007!
—Ketchup or mayonnaise?
Ketchup – yum!
—Cake or biscuits?
—Pizza or burger?
—Christmas or summer holidays?
I love Christmas – especially the music.
Tell us a joke!
What did the spider do on the computer?
He made a website!
What were you like at school?
I was an excellent student and I loved school. Though I read all the time, I was also outgoing and fun-loving. I spent a lot of time living in my imagination and I still do.
What were your favourite and least favourite subjects at school?
Reading and writing – yes! Maths – no!
Interview reproduced with thanks to Faber & Faber.