I was recently asked to review Minty, by Christina Banach. It's always a bit scary when someone asks you for a review, because of course you want to be positive and enthusiastic about their work, but you also want to be honest. And since this is a debut novel, I has no idea what to expect. But happily, in this case, I was able to be positive, enthusiastic AND honest. You can read my review here if you're interested.
In return, Christina has generously agreed to answer my twenty questions, which actually turned into a few more than twenty...
|This is Christina...|
Christina is a former head teacher, living in Scotland with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves walking, delicious food and wine, the theatre, exploring new places, surfing the Net, listening to music and anything that makes her laugh. (She also has a bit of a thing about shoes and handbags!).
WS: So, Christina, how did you came to be a writer?
CB: I came to writing late in life. As a child I’d scribbled stories, made my own comics, and wrote elaborate scripts for plays. My teachers told my parents that I had talent – that I’d be the next Enid Blyton (Enid was the JK Rowling of her day!). I never took them seriously, though. Instead, I became a teacher. Although I loved working with young people I always felt there was something missing in my life. It took a bout of ill-health, and time off work, before I picked up my pen again and began writing. After that, I couldn’t stop. So, in January 2006, I resigned my head teacher’s post to become a full-time writer, completely ignoring that sage advice, ‘don’t give up the day job’!
|...and this is her fabulous book.|
WS: And can you tell us briefly, what Minty is about?
CB: Minty is a contemporary young adult (YA) ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost. It’s a cross between The Lovely Bones (without the grim murder!) and Ghost, and is a real weepy with heart and warmth at its core. It tells the story of fourteen-year-old twins Minty and Jess. They do everything together and, although they sometimes bicker, they are completely inseparable. But then a day trip to the coast puts their bond in jeopardy. As Minty tries to rescue her dog from drowning she ends up fighting for her life. Will she survive? If doesn’t, how will Jess cope without her?
It’s a book about friendship, loss, and coming to terms with consequences. Above all it’s about love and hope.
Get your copy here or from your local bookshop!
WS: And what was the inspiration for writing this novel?
CB: The idea for the book appeared early one summer morning in 2006, just as the sun came up. During the night I thought I sensed my late father's presence, so, unable to get back to sleep, I sat in the sunroom contemplating what had actually happened. While doing this I heard my dog panting and put out my hand to stroke her. Until I remembered – my pet had died the month before. That's when Minty's story came to me.
WS: Who is your intended audience?
CB: Minty is written for young adults although, from the amazing feedback I’ve been getting, it appears to have struck a chord with adults too. Love and loss are such a part of the human condition so maybe that’s why all ages can relate to Minty and her family’s dilemma.
WS: And why should they read your book?
CB: Well, it’s a heartfelt story shot through with humour. (WS: I agree!) Not only is it entertaining but also makes you think about life and what might come after. I’ve been told that it’s haunting - that the story lingers in the reader’s mind long after they’ve turned/swiped the last page. Some teens have also said that it’s totally gripping and unlike anything they’re read before. Just typing that feedback makes me smile inside. It’s such an honour to have someone love your book.
WS: Would you say the story has an underlying message?
CB: Consciously, I never set out to write a book with an underlying message, but I suppose there is one, and it’s probably this: carpe diem. Seize the day – make the most of life, whatever knocks may come your way.
WS: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
CB: I’m very disciplined. My usual routine is to rise early in the morning, spend some time on social media (sometimes too much, it has to be said) and then it’s out of bed, shower, and on with the writing. I’m usually at my desk by eight at the latest and work on until lunch, although have been known to forget it’s lunchtime, especially if the work is going well. After a quick snack it’s on with more writing until it’s time to take my dogs for their afternoon walk. Once they – and I – have been exercised it’s back to the manuscript until my husband arrives home from work. After dinner I might surf the Net a little (lot!) or press on with the manuscript, depending on what stage I’m at in the writing process. I aim to take at least a day off per week but rarely manage it.
WS: And do you plan your writing – or is your first draft your plan?
CB: Am I plotter or a pantser? Good question! I’m a bit of both, I reckon. Once I decide to run with an idea, and the characters have entered the stage, I plunge into the research – surfing the Net, reading books, going on field trips etc – taking copious notes as I go. Once I have enough material I do a lot of brainstorming on character and plot: thinking of scenes, exploring character arc, considering the structure and so on. I always know how the book will start and how it will end. Or so I think…that’s when the pantser part of me comes to the fore, because once I actually begin the first draft anything could happen. The important thing for me is to get that first draft written, and if it deviates from all my carefully thought-out plans, so be it. It’s all about telling the story that demands to be told.
WS: You live in a beautiful part of the UK; does your environment influence your writing? And if so, how?
CB: As with most writers, I’m a keen observer of everything and anything that happens around me: what I hear, the things I see; how such and such smells, or feels to the touch - tastes; what kind of atmosphere a particular place evokes – they all end up in my memory bank (and notebooks!) to be used later when writing my manuscripts.
WS: What has been your best experience as a writer?
CB: Am I allowed to have three best experiences?
WS: Um...okay, just this once J
CB: Oh thanks Wendy! The first was when my agent said she loved my book and wanted to sign me. The second was when new publishing house, Three Hares, signed Minty; that was a true ‘pinch me’ moment because I was their first acquisition. The third was on Minty’s book birthday last month. Now that was an awesome day. Truly unforgettable.
WS: And what about your worst experience as a writer? (Sorry to lower the tone.) L
CB: That has to be when I entered Minty into the Undiscovered Voices 2010 competition and it didn’t get anywhere. It knocked my faith in me as a writer – and the book itself. But I got over it, and it spurred me on to write a better novel. Thank goodness I did or I wouldn’t be answering these questions.
WS: And there's a message there for everyone - NEVER GIVE UP!
WS: Do you also like to read?
CB: Do I love to read? You bet!
WS: Who are your favourite authors?
CB: I recently answered this same question over on another blog (fellow writer Sarah Broadley’s, Great Big Jar) whereupon I told her that if she came back next week I’d give her a completely different set of answers. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to do just that. The thing is, it’s a big ask to whittle it down to a few - there are so many wonderful writers out there. But anyway, I’ll get to the point. Amongst my favourites are: Suzanne Collins, Douglas Kennedy, Adrianna Trigiani, Jenny Valentine, Anne Cassidy, David Nicholls, Cathy Cassidy, Dave Cousins, Teri Terry, Ian McEwan, Sophia Bennett…oops, I think I’ll stop there!
WS: What do you think makes a really good story?
CB: Great characters and a compelling plot. Lots of hooks and read-on-prompts, the kind that keep you reading well past your bedtime. Believability, even if I’m reading fantasy. An element of humour. Something that moves me, and makes me think. A story that plucks me out of my own experience and drops me right into the fictional world. For me, these are essential.
WS: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
CB: Nope. Sad, eh?
WS: Okay, so what would your fancy dress costume of choice be?
CB: I really have no idea. I once went to a party as Wonder Woman, will that do?
WS: Wonder woman, eh? Yes, I can see it now. And what super power would you like?
CB: Indefatigability. (I wish!)
WS: Who would you invite to the dinner party of your dreams?
CB: I’m guessing I would have a big table – yes? If so I’d invite Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and my late dad, because they’re my heroes; Jane Austen and Graham Norton, for their sharp observations; Hugh Jackman and Liam Neeson for their rugged good looks; Marilyn Monroe and Oprah Winfrey because I’d like to get to know the people behind the legends; Danny O’Donoghue from The Script, Paolo Nutini and Adele and because they could entertain everyone at the end of the meal; and last, but not least, my husband because he’d probably be doing most of the cooking so it would be rude not to invite him!
WS: And since you're a bit f a foodie, what would be on the menu?
CB: We’d have scallops with pancetta, pea puree and cauliflower foam to start with (oh yeah, I’m rocking the fine dining here!), followed by a champagne sorbet, then – no, scrap that! Let’s send out for pizza and chocolate. To heck with the food, it’s the company that counts! And anyway, we’d be too busy yacking to concentrate on the grub. J
WS: If you could say thank you to one person, who would it be and why?
CB: It would be my husband, for his unfailing love and support, and for uttering those three magical words, ‘go for it’ when I called him from work and told him I wanted to resign from my head teacher’s post. Without him I’d still be unpublished, I’m sure.
WS: Is there a phrase or quote about writing that you particularly like?
CB: Absolutely. It’s Hitchcock’s axiom: a good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.
WS: Where can we find you when you’re not writing?
CB: Walking my dogs along a beach or in the fields near our house. Or I could be in Edinburgh, my favourite city in the world. Or on a cruise ship (I love being on the sea). Or…any number of places. But the best bet is usually inside my house, tucked in bed, propped against the pillows, reading a book. Now that is my idea of bliss!
WS: And finally. what can we expect from you in the future?
CB: Lots, I hope. I have several stories on the back burner but my next project is another contemporary YA novel. It’s a ghost story-come-psychological thriller and, so far, has been a blast to write.
WS: Thank you for taking time out to take part in this interview. I wish you the very best of luck with all of your projects, but I am sure you don't need it.
CB: Thanks for letting me stop by your blog, Wendy. It's been a pleasure. x
You can find Christina here >>>