Christina Banach is the author of young adult/crossover fiction. Her debut novel Minty was published In April 2014 by Three Hares Publishing. Visit her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Minty. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?
My debut novel, Minty, was released by Three Hares Publishing in April 2014. Set in Scotland, it 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.
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 is the Scottish Book Trust Teens’ Book of the Month for December 2014. It 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.
NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? How did you decide the title?
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. The final manuscript was eventually ready for submission to agents in February 2013.
With regards to the title, as with so many aspects of the story, it bubbled up from my sub-conscience. Having said that, Minty is such a determined character that there could only be one contender for the title – her name.
NAW- What can a novice reader expect from Minty?
They can expect a gripping, heartfelt tale, shot through with humour; one that is entertaining and plays on the emotions but that might also make you think about life and what could 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.
NAW- Even though Minty is a YA read, you’ve dealt with grief, family issues and it’s an interesting read. How did you research for the book?
I read a lot about the customs of ancient Rome (the twins are obsessed with the Romans); studied the various stages of bereavement; explored the bonds that identical twins may experience, including extra sensory perception (ESP); and finding out a little about jazz music (both girls play the saxophone).
Although books and articles featured in my research, much of it was done online. I also drew on my first hand experience of bereavement when exploring the family dynamic within the story.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Minty. How did you develop the character?
Minty is funny, fiesty and headstrong but is also brave, loyal and caring. Above all she loves her twin sister, Jess. Even though the most terrifying thing imaginable happens to her, Minty draws on her innner strength and resilience to help her twin accept her death and, by doing so, help them both to move on.
How did I develop Minty’s character? She appeared, almost fully-formed, along with the idea for the story. While saying that, with each subsequent draft her character traits really came to the fore and her inner depths more pronounced.
NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey.
I came to writing late in life. As a child I used to make up stories, and write plays and poems. My teachers told my parents that I had talent – that I’d be the next Enid Blyton (Enid was the JK Rowling of her time.). However, although I secretly hoped that this would come true one day, I didn’t believe in myself. So, instead of pursuing a writing career when I grew up, I became a teacher, and eventually a head teacher. The thing is, whilst I really enjoyed 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 realised what that was – writing. So I picked up my pen and paper, switched on the laptop and began drafting my first story in years. From that momemnt on, I was hooked. However, finding time to write was very difficult so, in January 2006, I decided to resign my head teacher’s post to become a full-time writer. It took me until June 2013 to get an agent and a publishing deal. In the years in between I wrote several novels, read widely and studied the writer’s craft.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I live in Scotland with my husband and our two rescue dogs. When I’m not writing you’ll find me walking the dogs in the fields near our house, or along a beach. Or I could be in Edinburgh, my favourite city. I’m a voracious reader and, as a result, my house is crammed full of books. I love eating out, spending time with friends and family, evenings at the theatre, watching a bit of television, listening to music and anything that makes me laugh. I also have a slight (!) Twitter addiction.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
Gosh! I have so many – it makes it impossible to choose. However, here a few of my favourites: Jane Austen, Kevin Brooks, Malorie Blackman, Sebastian Faulks, David Almond, Philip Pullman, Candy Gourlay, Teri Terry, Christopher Brookmyre, Rosie Thomas, Keith Gray, Lee (LA) Weatherly, Dodie Smith & Stieg Larsson.
As for who has inspired me, that has to be David Almond. It was reading his wonderful novel, Skellig, that encouraged me to write for children and young adults.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
I am working on a contemporary ghost story/psychological thriller set in and around the legendary village of Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands.