Interview with Brenda Bannister…..
with thanks to Rachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Brenda Bannister and I’m a retired college librarian, living in Frome, Somerset, where I write, volunteer at the local theatre box office, potter in my garden, visit my elderly mum and look after the cat. I am the current organiser for the Frome Festival Short Story Competition and a founder member of Frome Writers’ Collective. My first novel, The Tissue Veil, is set in East London where I worked for eighteen years. It’s told over two time frames, beginning in 1901 and 2001, with the narratives alternating. There’s an element of the supernatural — the two main characters live in the same house 100 years apart and a mysterious link develops between them — but the real concern is with the lives of young women in both eras, and the problems they share in following their own paths.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
The area of East London where I worked for 18 years was a big influence, as were the people there.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Mostly they are amalgams of aspects of lots of people, with a healthy dose of make-believe. However, one of the lecturers — Andy — in the modern narrative owes a debt to a past colleague.
How do you pick your characters names?
I take care to choose first names which fit the period or the age of the character. With the Edwardian story, it helped to think of famous people from that era — politicians, writers etc. The modern story features a Bangladeshi family: some of their names were familiar, others came from online lists of muslim names aimed at new parents. Characters are like babies — they soon grow into their names and couldn’t be called anything else!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
It’s a bit shambolic. A few days of thinking, maybe scribbling an outline in a notebook, then type straight onto the screen.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
I’m not great at lists and don’t read ‘series’ very often, though I do enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Uhtred’ books. I’ll say Dickens would have to be there, Philip Pullman for young adult and fantasy, Jane Smiley, Hilary Mantel, David Mitchell — but if you ask me next week, I might have changed my mind!
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d like to ask Hilary Mantel when the third book in the Wolf Hall trilogy will be published!
Were you a big reader as a child?
Definitely. I’d choose an Enid Blyton from the library, sit reading it on the front doorstep, then complain bitterly that I couldn’t exchange the book until the following day. In my teens I read anything from Dickens to Dumas and Hemingway to Emily Bronte.
When did you start to write?
I’d written short pieces on and off since my teens, but didn’t really write seriously until I retired to Frome, nearly eight years ago.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
I suppose it’s only human to want happy endings — make Cordelia survive in King Lear, save Hardy’s Tess from hanging – and I really wanted Lyra and Will to be able to stay in the same world together in The Amber Spyglass, but no — I wouldn’t change them.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Another difficult one! Much as I admire the grand sweep of nineteenth century novelists, I think I’d choose something small but perfectly formed like J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
It’s unlikely, but as an arch procrastinator, I’ll tell you tomorrow.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
If she hasn’t reformed too much, I reckon Jane Austen’s Emma would have plenty of gossip to share.
What are you working on right now?
A story set in Somerset in the first half of the twentieth century. Lily, the feisty heroine, is let down by her father and makes a disastrous marriage in the search for a substitute figure.
Do you have a new release due?
No, I have to finish it first!
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I haven’t published enough yet to set a pattern — probably a get-together with my writing buddies over a bottle of wine.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Just that I’m really grateful for this opportunity to ‘chat about books’ with you and your followers. Thank you for having me!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Brenda 🙂
The Tissue Veil
What if you discovered a hundred-year-old diary under your floorboards – and then found references in it to yourself? Or if you lived in 1901, yet kept seeing glimpses of a girl from modern times? And what if both of you had problems that only the other could really understand? Emily and Aysha live in the same Stepney house and an inexplicable link develops between them, fuelled by Aysha’s discovery of a journal and Emily’s sightings of a ‘future ghost’. Each takes courage from the other’s predicament – after all, what’s a hundred years between friends?
Author Bio –
Brenda studied English at university and later qualified as a librarian, working in various educational settings from schools to higher education. Moving from London to Frome in Somerset in 2010 proved a catalyst for her own writing as she joined local fiction and script writing groups. She has had a number of short stories published, plus short plays produced in local pub theatre, but all the while was incubating a story based in the area of Tower Hamlets where she had worked for eighteen years. This germ of a story became ‘The Tissue Veil’.
Brenda is a founder member of Frome Writers’ Collective, an organisation which has grown from a handful of members to over a hundred in the past four years, and helped set up its innovative Silver Crow Book Brand. She is also the current organiser of the annual Frome Festival Short Story Competition. A lifelong reader, Brenda rarely follows genres, but enjoys modern literary fiction, historical fiction, classics and the occasional detective novel. The latest Bernard Cornwell might be a guilty pleasure, but she’ll be even more eager to get her hands on Hilary Mantel’s final instalment of Thomas Cromwell’s story.
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