Welcome to the Author Interview of the Scottish Book Trust’s Teen Book of the Month author, Christina Banach!
About the Author
Christina Banach lives in Scotland with her husband and their two rescue dogs. When she’s not writing you’ll find her walking the dogs in the fields near her house, or along a beach. Or she could be in Edinburgh, her favourite city. She’s a voracious reader, the evidence of which is a house full of books. She loves eating out, spending time with friends and family, evenings at the theatre, watching a bit of television, listening to music and anything that makes her laugh. She probably won’t admit it but she also has a slight (!) addiction to Twitter.
Q. What first inspired you to write Minty?
The idea for the book appeared early one summer morning, just as the sun came up. During the night I thought I sensed my late father’s presence, after which, unable to get back to sleep, I sat in the sunroom contemplating what had actually happened. Whilst doing this I heard my dog panting and put out my hand to stroke her. Until it struck me – how could it be my pet? She had died the month before.
That’s when Minty’s story came to me. A story that deals with universal themes such as love, family, grief, hope and redemption, but that also attempts to answer one of the big questions in life, namely, what happens to us after we die?
Minty has been recently nominated for the Cybils 2014 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards.
Although the book is aimed at the Young Adult audience, I receive lots of fantastic feedback from adults telling me how much they love Minty’s story and how it has touched them deeply.
Q. From initial idea to final product, how long did you work on Minty?
After I had the initial idea for the book, I left it to ferment for a couple of years as I was working on another novel at the time. Then, in the summer of 2008, I embarked upon the first draft. All in all I wrote Minty eight times, sometimes leaving many months between drafts to allow myself proper thinking space before tackling the next revision. By February 2013, the manuscript was ready to be submitted to agents. After being acquired by Three Hares Publishing, it underwent proofreading and was ready for publication in January 2014.
Q. What was the hardest part in writing Minty?
Before I began writing Minty I submitted another manuscript to Cornerstones Literary Consultancy who, as well as critiquing authors’ work, also scout for agents. On the basis of that piece of work they offered to scout for me. Then began a long working relationship with the amazing Kathryn Price who was their then managing editor, now the co-director.
I struck lucky because Kathryn is an incredibly gifted editor. Nevertheless, she did put me through my paces! I’m so glad she did because, without her expert eye, Minty wouldn’t be the story it is today: it’s a much deeper, more satisfying tale than it was in draft one. As we worked through each structural edit Kathryn’s incisive comments and suggestions challenged me to come up with my own solutions in order to perfect the manuscript. However, this wasn’t always easy to do. At times I found this very hard, albeit necessary.
Q. What was your first thought when you found out Minty was going to be published?
My first thought was wow – really? After which I did a little jig, grinned a lot – laughed – and then burst into tears!
Q. How about when you found out Minty was chosen as Teen Book of the Month by the Scottish Book Trust?
That was a real ‘pinch me’ moment. I honestly couldn’t believe it at first. Then, when it began to sink in, I was giddy with excitement. I still am! It’s an honour to be featured on such an amazing site. I’m very lucky.
Q. Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I am working on a contemporary ghost story/psychological thriller set in and around the legendary village of Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands.
Q. Are you reading anything at the moment?
I’m reading We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
Q. What is your favourite Christmas read?
Christmas at Claridge’s by Karen Swan.
Q. Any piece of advice for young writers out there?
Gosh, Heather, I’m not sure that I’m qualified to give advice but since you ask here goes:
First off, never give up. Ever. It took me years before I struck lucky and was signed by my agent. Years of hard slog, pitted with rejection. It can be difficult to keep going, especially when you see friends and writing colleagues forge ahead to success. But you have to keep at it. You know that old saying, ‘If you’re not in it, you can’t win it?” It’s true! One thing is for sure, if you stop writing then you’ll never realise your dream of publication. So grow a thick skin and carry on writing!
Secondly, read. Read, and read some more! Seriously, set aside the time to read as widely and often as you can, especially within your chosen genre. Believe me, you won’t regret it because you will learn so much about the craft of writing by doing this.
Number three. Invest in some writing guides. Start with the more generic ones and, as your writing skills develop, move on to the more in-depth books devoted to plot and structure, character, setting, dialogue etc. I’m a massive fan of James Scott Bells’ books, especially Plot and Structure. But remember – all of these are only guides, an aid to help you find your own way of working. They are not meant to be prescriptive.
Number four. If you can, get yourself on a writing course, or attend a workshop. If that’s not possible seek out other writers, if only on social media sites. If you write for children or young adults try to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It provides wonderful support and lots of invaluable information.
When you feel confident in your writing, become a member of a critique group. Share your work with other writers. You’ll learn loads from having others read and comment on your work, and by doing the same for the others in your group. If you can’t find a critique group, find some trusted friends who you know would give you honest feedback.
Number five. Surf the Internet for writing websites/blogs: there are lots of helpful ones out there. If you write for kids or teens, check out the excellent Words and Pictures online magazine from the British Isles chapter of the Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators.
And last, but most certainly not least – write! Get that first draft done. Don’t be a perfectionist – give yourself permission to write rubbish. But get that story written. If, after the first draft, it doesn’t hang together, so what? That’s what the self-editing process is for. With each draft, your story will begin to take shape.
Thank you so much to Christina for taking the time out to answer my questions!
Set in the Kingdom of Fife, Minty is a contemporary 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, although it has heart and warmth at its core. It tells the story of fourteen-year-old twins Minty and Jess who, although they sometimes bicker, are completely inseparable. 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. A fight that results in drastic consequences for both sisters.
A beautiful tale of two sisters that grips you tight and doesn’t let go.
Christina weaves a tragic tale that hits you deeply. There’s a great sadness about the story, but it is so beautifully written that you immerse in the world so effortlessly. You connect easily to Minty as she tries to reach out to her sister and help her move on.
I’m not surprised that this book was voted the Scottish Book Trust’s Teen Book of the Month recently. One of the best books of 2014.
You can find Christina on social media at the following links:
To celebrate the festive season, and because Minty is such an awesome book, I have one signed copy to give away! Simply comment with why you want to win.
The giveaway ends on January 1st, with the winner being announced on the 6th. Good luck!