In June 2013 I met someone. I met my kindred spirit in human form. I met Christina Banach.
There I was ranting on Twitter about my writing, musing about the characters from my WIP, tearing my hair out at the plot, is the title boring etc… and Christina calmly answered all my questions and said “You know what you need to do, you need to join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)”. So I did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I am very fortunate to have my own little writing family at SCBWI British Isles, South East Scotland and it amazes me how much I look forward to our meetings. I feel welcome, I feel empowered and I feel special. All the things that provide the necessary fuel for my imagination as I sit back and watch the stories unfold onto the blank page in front of me. I consider Christina a member of my own family now and I am so pleased that lovely lady from Fife was on-line that day all those months ago.
Christina’s success in publishing her debut novel ‘Minty’ gives us all the encouragement we need. We know that we can do it, we just need to work hard, edit, read, write and support each other along the bumpy road to publication. We want to see our words in print, forever bound together in a book, just waiting for the right reader to come along. A bit like little SCBWI’ers flying the nest, never looking back.
Today, I am honoured to have her as a guest on my blog. So without further ado and in her own words, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Christina Banach.
Christina Banach is a former head teacher who lives in Scotland with her husband and their two rescue dogs. She loves walking; delicious food and wine; evenings at the theatre; exploring new places; surfing the Net; listening to music; and anything that makes her laugh. Plus she has a bit of a thing about shoes and handbags, even though she wears the same footwear all the time and the only bag she uses regularly is the plastic one for the dogs (ahem – ’nuff said about that!). She is mad on reading, and is especially keen on young adult and children’s fiction (all those years buying for school libraries!).
ONE – ‘Minty’ is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about the book and what inspired you to write it?
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, 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?
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.
TWO – How long did it take to write from the 1st draft to the completed MS and are you considering a follow-up?
After I had the concept I left it to ferment for a while. Then in the summer of 2008 I embarked upon the first draft. All in all I re-wrote Minty eight times, sometimes leaving months between drafts to allow myself proper thinking time before tackling the next one. During these periods I also worked on other novels. The final manuscript was eventually completed in February 2013. Next came the proofreading, and then the finished book.
Currently, amidst the book promotion for Minty, I am writing another contemporary YA novel. On the surface, it’s another ghost story but it’s also a psychological thriller full of twists and turns – or at least it will be if I can pull it off!
THREE – Do you have any advice for fledgling writers, maybe some books or web sites that you use to help you on your way?
My advice would be to read a lot. Read as widely as possible but especially within your chosen genre. You learn so much about the craft of writing by studying other authors’ work. Also I’m a great fan of writing guides. I know some people believe that writing can’t be taught. My answer to that is that talent can’t be, but technique can. I have a study-full of amazingly helpful books that helped me on my journey to publication. So I would say start with the more generic guides and, as your writing skills progress, move on to the more in-depth books devoted to plot and structure, character, dialogue etc. For the self-editing process I’ve found James Scott Bells’ book on Plot and Structure indispensable. As for websites there are lots of very helpful ones out there. However, if I had to recommend only one it would be the excellent Words and Pictures online magazine from the British Isles chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. But the most important advice I can give you is to write! Get that first draft done. Don’t be a perfectionist – give yourself permission to write drivel. But get that story written. OK you might think it’s pants, but you can work on any problems you perceive by working through the self-editing process. With each draft, the story that you are trying to tell will slowly evolve.
FOUR – Do you have a mantra or favourite place to go that helps when the dreaded ‘writers block’ springs up on you?
Get your butt on that seat, there’s one mantra for you. You can do this, that’s another. Give yourself a break, that’s one more. It’s what I tell myself when, despite repeating mantras 1 and 2, my brain freezes or the words won’t come out right. When that happens I allow myself some time off. Usually I take my dogs for a walk, or I might read, or on rare occasions I might even do something domesticated like cook dinner or iron the laundry. Sometimes my brain just needs thinking space and no amount of nailing myself to my desk will produce the writing goods. So I cut myself a bit of slack (oh heck, that’s yet another mantra!) and let my subconscious go to work while I do something completely different.
FIVE – Name your 5 favourite books/authors
Oh Sarah, that’s cruel! Only 5? Seriously, that’s a tough one. There are so many authors I admire, and books that I love, so it makes it impossible to choose.
But you’ve asked me to select some so, for authors, let’s go with Jane Austen, Kevin Brooks, Malorie Blackman, Sebastian Faulks, David Almond, Christopher Brookmyre, Rosie Thomas, Lee (LA) Weatherly…oops, I never was much good at counting!
My favourite books are: for sheer story telling, The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (OK – I know there are 3 of them. Indulge me!); Wonder by RJ Palacio, for the awesome character of August; His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (oops – 3 books again!) for the brilliance of the writing; Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, for being a cracking good read for boys and girls; and 15 Days Without A Head by Dave Cousins, for its humour and poignancy; and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – why? Because it’s fabulous, and it’s Minty’s favourite! And yes, I have named more than 5 books. I told you it was an impossible task!
Now come back next week and I’ll give you two completely different sets of answers – there are so many wonderful books and authors out there.
SIX – What would you consider to be the worst and best things about being an author?
The best thing is being able to spend most of the day living inside my head. I love the writing process: taking an idea and running with it – seeing where it leads me. Developing the characters and plot. Playing around with the structure. I love that feeling of being in first draft Heaven but I also get a buzz from the self-editing process – working through draft after draft until you uncover the book you always hoped you would write. Even though it nearly drives me crazy at times, for me, self-editing is what writing is all about.
And what are the worse things? The goblin of self-doubt that perches on my shoulder and tells me every word I write is rubbish, that I can’t string a sentence together, far less a whole book. I guess most authors will recognise that scenario. Perhaps it goes with the territory. The other thing is lack of time: I never have enough hours to do all that I need to do, to write the books I want to develop. If only I had changed careers earlier – had started writing seriously in my teens. What if…ah! I think I have the kernel of another story there.
SEVEN – Describe yourself in four words.
Driven. Fun-loving. Enthusiastic. Loyal. (Did I cheat there with that hyphenated word?) See? I restricted myself to four! Do I get a free bookmark for doing that?
Minty can be purchased through Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
- ISBN-10: 1910153028
- Link to Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Minty-Christina-Banach/dp/1910153028/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1_84BV
- Link to Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Minty-Christina-Banach/dp/1910153028/ref=la_B00JNTM78W_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399458983&sr=1-1
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