Interview with Betty G. Birney

Thank you to Betty G. Birney, widely known for her 'Humphrey' book series, for supplying today's interview.

So, Betty, what was the first book you've published? 
The first book published with my name on it was a Disney book, so I was hired to write it. The first book that was entirely my own was a picture book called Tyrannosaurus Tex. I sent it to a few publishers and it was rejected so I put it away for a while. Then one day I realized what it needed, rewrote it and sold it right away. 

How long have you dreamed of becoming an author?
Every since I was seven. As soon as I could read books, I loved them so much I knew I wanted to write them.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It varies from three months to years, but I get good ideas every single day. Sadly, only a few of them turn into books. Getting ideas is easy. Writing books is difficult.

What is your favourite book written by somebody else?
Too many to name. I love Charlotte's Web but I have about 30 "favourites."

What were your previous jobs?
All my jobs had to do with writing. I started out in advertising - writing newspaper adverts, radio and TV commercials.  I even worked in advertising at Disneyland. Then I moved to the Disney Studios where I did advertising for Disney films. From there, I began writing for the first show on the Disney Channel (a Winnie the Pooh show) and spent the next 20 years writing children's television, before branching out into books full-time, which had been my goal for a long time.

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?
Maybe for an hour or two, but not really.

How were your teenage years?
My teenage years were not difficult. Of course, I had some of the teenage ups and downs. I had spots but my mother took me to a dermatologist and that worked fine. I read a lot, wrote a lot, but was also very social and had a great time!

What is your most treasured possesion? Why?
I'm not terribly attached to my possessions, but I would really miss my watch. It's a very good watch, vintage and my husband gave it to me years ago.  

Do you go by any pseudonyms?

Why did you want to become an author?
Because I adore books and I enjoy writing. I always had a knack for writing. And I love the fact that I can communicate my ideas with so many people I'll never even meet.

Do you ever receive fanmail?
A few, but it's not something I encourage.

How many pets have you got? Have they influenced your writing in any way?
I have a dog named Desi. She and the animals I've known in my life have influenced my feelings about animals and their roles in humans' lives.

What do you do when you're stuck for something to write about?
If I get stuck, I usually just sit there and think of a solution. But sometimes I take a walk or do something else for awhile. I actually don't believe in writer's block. Getting stuck is just part of writing. You have to think it through. It's like solving a puzzle.

Do people ever chase after you in the streets and beg you for autographs? 
No, thank goodness. People wouldn't recognize me. But if I go to a school, that happens. 

Do you have a certain writing place?
I have a little house all to myself in the back of my garden. I have all my books here, my desk, a couch and I spend most of my time here.

And finally, have you got any tips for young writers?
Here a few of my favourites:
-Write something you’d enjoy reading. Have fun with your writing.
-The more you write the better you’ll get. It takes practice, so try to write on a regular basis.
-The more you read, the better your writing will be. Read a lot of different kinds of books, too.
-When you’re writing a story, you shouldn’t think about what other people will think of it or whether it will get published. You should only think about making it the best story you can possibly write. That’s all that counts.
-Read your work aloud. You'll catch a lot of mistakes that way.


  1. I read this series in elementary school and I totally forgot about them! That's awesome that you had a chance to ask her your questions :)

    Just wanted to let you know that I finally got around to doing the tag that you tagged me for :) Here's the link if you want to give it a look!

    1. She's always been one of my favourite childhood authors so it was a great interview to compose!

      And sure - checking it out straight away!

  2. That book looks sooooo cute!! I have never heard of it before. I must check it out!

    1. I read it a while ago , but you really should!