The Delightful Christina Banach - Author of Paranormal Novel: Minty











I’d like to offer a big and squishy, warm welcome to the lovely Christina Banach – author of debut novel: Minty.

Hi Christina, from what I gather, your life has gone a little mental of late – though I’m assured it’s a good kind. Your new novel, Minty, is on Amazon in both print and kindle versions – let’s start with how that feels? (And have you started wearing a cape – because it’s a huge achievement in such a subjective arena!)

Yes, life has definitely been crazy, a lot crazy, in fact.
But it’s also rather wonderful. The whole process, from being signed by my publisher through to Minty’s book birthday and beyond, has been an incredible experience. An emotional one too, if I’m being honest: my facial muscles have had a good workout in the last few months, that’s for sure. As for whether I’ve started wearing a cape, the answer is ‘no’. However, come wintertime I might just do that – it gets mighty cold here in Scotland during the cold, dark winter months.

I understand that you were a headmistress for many years. Can you tell us a little about what that was like... and also, were the staffrooms anything like the cult TV series: Teachers?

Being a head teacher was an enormous privilege, as was working as a teacher and an assistant and deputy head. I count my time in education amongst some of the happiest years of my life. What was it like? Exciting, enervating, exhilarating, rewarding, frustrating, joyous, all consuming, surprising, heart breaking, and loads of hard work…all of these and more. Rather like being a writer in many ways.
And the staffrooms? Believe or not I haven’t actually seen an episode of Teachers. Given this, it’s impossible to compare the staffrooms I’ve experienced with those in the programme. What I can tell you is that staffrooms can be very hard on the waistline (most teachers I know love a sugar rush!) but extremely good for your stress levels – sweets, biscuits, and cakes go hand-in-hand with lots of support, plenty of laughter and the forging of lifelong friendships. Oh, and you might hear the odd grumble from time-to-time, but that’s nothing other than an all-important escape valve in what can be a very taxing occupation.

Do you think your time and experiences in the education system were invaluable when writing Minty? I’ve read Minty and your teen terminology is pretty current and typical of today’s teen dialect.

Thank you, that’s such a compliment! However, I reckon the teen terminology in Minty came from observation of life around me. The children I taught were between three and twelve years of age. Of course, I learned a lot about human nature and young (and not so young!) people when I worked in schools and there is no doubt in my mind that some of this knowledge has filtered into my book.

You are also an enormous animal lover, and, I understand have two rescue dogs? Can you tell us your views on, what I feel; is a growing problem even in the UK regarding unorthodox breeding - when there are so many abandoned pets?

You’re absolutely right; I am a massive animal lover. I can’t imagine not sharing my life with a pet or two. Interestingly enough all my four-legged companions, from childhood to date, have been rescue animals. For me, knowing that there are so many unwanted and abandoned creatures in need of a loving home, means that I couldn’t bring myself to buy a pet from a breeder, even if that breeder is reputable – and I realise some are not, which saddens me greatly. However, that’s my personal choice, and I appreciate the fact that other people may think differently.

Okay, tell us a few local, historical facts about your home town of Edinburgh. I’ve only visited once and was blown away by the old quarters. Little tumbling rows of old shop fronts with tiny glass windows and cobbled streets which led to the castle and I believe, the turf of the infamous terrier – Greyfriars Bobby.

Although I now live in Fife I’m originally from Bathgate, which lies approximately 20 miles to the west of Edinburgh. It’s probably most widely known from featuring in the chorus of the Proclaimers’ song, “Letter from America”. As for historical facts, did you know that the world’s first oil refinery was sited near Bathgate? Or that James Young Simpson, who discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform, was born there? Or that there is a prehistoric burial ground at the foot of the Bathgate Hills? OK, maybe you didn’t know any of that but you might know that actor David Tennant, of Dr Who fame, was brought up in the town. Was that last fact historical? Probably not but David is always worth a mention, don’t you think?

Have you always known you had a wee writer hiding inside of you? If so, from what age and which type of books were you drawn to?

I suspect that I have. I can recall creating stories from a very early age, and having great fun doing it. Then throughout primary school my teachers told me that I had a talent for creative writing, that I would be published one day and become the next Enid Blyton (the JK Rowling of her time). Sadly, even although I secretly harboured the ambition to become just that, I never really believed them. Maybe if I had I’d have been published long before now – but who knows?

But what about the type of books I was drawn to? I read all kinds of fiction, for example: most of Enid Blyton’s work from Noddy and The Magic Faraway Tree through to the Famous Five and Secret Seven series; The Iron Man by Ted Hughes; Louisa M Alcott’s Little Women; Lorna Doone by R D Blackmore; I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Minty’s favourite!); Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis; The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger; Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird; The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; all of Jane Austen and the Brontes and so on.

A little fun now – Can you give us a small paragraph using as many typical, thick Scottish word alternatives. We all think we know one or two, but I have a feeling we’re in for a little more than maybe expected...

At first ah thocht, ‘ah dinnae ken whit tae say tae ye, hen’. But then ah telt masel, ‘Haud yer wheesht! Stoap being a numpty and git oan wi it’. So ah’ll tell ye aboot hoo ah write. Ah git awfy crabbit if ah’m no workin oan a book cos writing’s pure dead brilliant, but. Sometimes, though, ma heid’s mince an ah cannae pit wan word doon richt. Then ah gie masel a richt guid talkin tae. Thing is, writin’s aw aboot keepin the heid, tellin yersel dinnae be a dunderheid, stoap footerin aboot an’ git oan wi’ it. Git yer bahooky oan yon seat, (mind yer feet oan the dugs unner the desk) and gie it laldy. Och, ah’m bletherin oan so ah’d better shut ma geggy. Bet ye hav’nae a scooby whit ah jist said but?

Translation:

At first I thought, ‘I don’t know what to say to you, my dear’. But then I told myself, ‘Keep quiet! Stop being an idiot and get on with it.’ So I’ll tell you about how I write. I get awfully grumpy if I’m not working on a book because writing is simply wonderful. Sometimes, however, I can’t think straight and the prose won’t flow correctly. Then I give myself a good talking to. The thing is, writing is all about staying calm, telling yourself not to be silly, not to waste time and just get on with it. You have to get your backside onto that seat (watch out for the dogs sitting under the desk, though) and write with gusto. Oh dear, I’m going on a bit now so I’d better bring this to a halt. I’ll wager that you don’t understand what I’ve just written, though.

That’s brilliant! Ha ha… I should let the readers know that while you were composing this thick, Scottish ditty – your husband and yourself shed a tear of laughter or two. No surprises there!

I’d like to ask how you have found the journey of becoming an official writer, so far. It’s often a lonely trek with little or no reward at the end – other than the self satisfaction you have actually written something you love.

I reckon anyone who treats her/his writing seriously and takes the time to sit down regularly and put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, is an official writer – whether they are still-to-be-published, or otherwise. It can be lonely journey; after all for hour upon hour, week after week and sometimes year in year out, there is only you, your imagination and the notepad/computer for company. The flip side of that, of course, is that you get to inhabit fictional worlds populated by people of your creation. You must admit that can be – and is! – the best fun ever. While saying that, there is, as you say, no definite reward in sight as you tap away or scribble furiously and that could be demotivating, if you allow it to be. That doesn’t mean that I always remained focused and fully determined when I was struggling to become published. 
Far from it. Like everyone else, I expect, I had times when I doubted my ability – thought that everything I wrote was trash and that it would never attract the interest of an agent or publisher. Then, after letting myself inhabit this mind-set for a while I’d give myself a good talking to and get on with the job. I kept telling myself that if I gave up then I’d never be published. If you’re not in it, you can’t win it, so to speak.

That is so true, dedication counts for an awful lot, I believe. Well done for staying strong and not giving in to that voice which often plagues a writer. (You know the one, chomping at your ears, telling you that it's hopeless - and trying to distract you with the internet instead.) 

How important do you feel it is, Christina, to have a support network when trying to become a published author?

It’s very important. Without people willing you on, and chivvying you along when things aren’t going as well as they might, a writer could easily feel unbearably isolated. My advice is to seek out the company of like-minded people; join a writers’ group. If you write for children and/or young adults join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) – you won’t regret it.

Can you tell us a little about your network?

My first, and main, supporter is my husband. He reads, comments on and discusses everything I write, and his brutal honesty has helped me grow as a writer. He is wonderful - I’m very lucky to have him. I’m also lucky to have had a few fellow writers read the early drafts of Minty. Their frank feedback helped in the self-editing stages of writing the book. Nowadays I’m a member of an online critique group of talented writers and I find working with them invaluable – we learn so much from each other, plus they are amongst the loveliest people on the planet (since joining, I’ve now met most of them). Which brings me to my amazing SCBWI friends, particularly those in the southeast Scotland chapter. Support doesn’t begin to cover what these guys do for me. They are awesome – more like family than friends. I’d be lost without them. I’d also be bereft without my book group chums who have been such stalwart champions of Minty, and of me as a writer. Having mentioned family and friends, I couldn’t discuss my network without including my lovely sister and my non-writing friends; they are amazing and if they ever get sick of me banging on about my writing then they certainly never show it!

Thank you, each and every one: I couldn’t wish for a better group of people around me.

Thank you for asking such inspired questions, Danl. Lang may yer lum reek! (May you live long and prosper!)




I will certainly try, and you’re Welcome Christina. You’ve brought a lovely fresh breeze of Fife down to the Southern Quarters of England, and dusted it with your usual charm and humble loveliness.

It’s been a real pleasure to chat and I wish you and Minty every success for the future. I did want to ask another question… the all infamous one, you know – is it really true that a man goes commando under his kilt? But I think I will leave that to the readers imagination – best not go there, eh lass? ;)

-         

          - Danl Tetley
(You can find Christina's #Minty review in the Interviews and Reviews Tab)


  





Comments

  1. Danl, thank you for letting me drop by your blog; it has been a pleasure to be here. I'm very glad you didn't ask me the kilt question, your readers' sensibilities may not be ready for that type of information. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The pleasure was all mine - you really are a sweetheart. And yes, best not to go 'there' regarding the kilt - I don't know CPR ;) or have public liability!

    ReplyDelete

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