Monday, 16 March 2009

An Interview - Jo Bannister


Jo Bannister:

It’s nearly thirty years since I sold my first book, more than twenty since I quit my proper job as editor of the County Down Spectator to sink or swim as an author. Haven’t drowned yet.

My favourite review: ‘Bannister skilfully weaves the disparate story lines together and offers up an intriguing, thoroughly entertaining read... A masterfully written story that is as provocative as it is engaging.’ – Booklist.

My agent’s favourite review: ‘...will make you laugh, snort or blink back tears...all have their share of surprises and more than their share of piercing insights into the conflicts that still rage in the hearts of Bannister’s regulars, the most tormented continuing cast outside The Sopranos.’ –the Kirkus Reviews.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I recently finished my last series of books – about professional finder Brodie Farrell, her family and friends – and I’ve just started playing with a new one-off. I like the premise, it’s a psychological thriller, I’ve just got to work it through into a story.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Jo Bannister’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I used to be a lot more disciplined about writing than I am now – working 8 to 12 and 7 to 9 six days a week. One of the advantages of getting older is that you no longer feel the need to do everything yesterday. When I’m in the middle of a book I aim at producing a thousand words a day. Sometimes I struggle; sometimes I’m on a roll and produce a lot more. But I don’t beat myself up if nothing much is happening, just keep trying until it does. There are more than thirty of my books on the shelves: if the next is a little late, people can read one of the earlier ones while they’re waiting.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Usually I’m with my horse, mostly on top but occasionally on foot and in hot pursuit.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Do it for your own pleasure. There are easier ways to make a living.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I don’t read much crime fiction - reading it makes it harder for me to write it. Either I find myself trying to rewrite someone else’s book, or I start seeing my characters through the other writer’s eyes. The exception, to this rule as to most others, are Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books: those focusing on the Watch work brilliantly as police procedurals, even if the police in question are a shade – well - inhuman.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything, Pratchett’s Jingo and The Works of A. E. Housman. Eclectic or what?

Q7. Plans for the future?

Keep breathing in and out. Add another step to my mounting-block. And write one more good book.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Sure – I’d write a best seller. Apart from that, I don’t think so. It’s fed me, body and soul, for nearly thirty years and not many writers can say that.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Apart from all the rejection slips before I sold my first book? Probably with an editor. She was a zealot. And she thought, a bit like me reading someone else’s book, that she could improve something on just about every page. Maybe some of her suggestions were improvements, but most of them were just her way of saying things instead of mine. Which is not what readers buy my books for. I returned the edited typescript as wholly unacceptable, and to their credit the publishers had it re-read by a senior editor with the experience and self-confidence to know when to suggest an alteration and when to leave well enough alone. By now, that young editor has probably discovered this as well and may well be a successful senior editor herself. Or else she’s chucked it in and tried her hand at writing her own books.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Buy books. Buy more books. If you can’t afford to buy them, borrow them from the library – the Public Lending Right is a significant slice of most writers’ annual income. Don’t buy branded jeans and branded trainers and complain about the cost of books. You’re getting a year of somebody’s work for the price of a meal out. That’s a bargain in anybody’s money.

Thank you, Jo Bannister!

5 comments:

HanpaSunka said...

I stumbled across "No Birds Sing" in the library.. It was terrific. There are several lines that really stick in my mind, but the one I most remember is, "Cal donovan's mind is as flexible as a ferret in a drainpipe". I think in pictures, so this is a great image. Ake' pilamiyaye / thanks again.

Gerard Brennan said...

Thanks for stopping by, HanpaSunka. Always nice to hear good things about the writers I interview.

Cheers

gb

harrymanning said...

CAN I SEND MY COMPLIMENTS TO Ms BANNISTER ON HER WRITING.I BELIEVE SHE HAS WRITTEN 34 BOOKS TO DATE, OF WHICH I AM THE HAPPY OWNER 32.THE MISSING 2 ARE A CACTUS GARDEN AND FROM FIRE AND FLOOD.I WOULD BE VERY GRATEFUL IF SHE WOULD LET ME KNOW WHERE I CAN GET MY 2 MISSING ONES TO COMPLETE MY COLLECTION. ACTUALLY I HAVE 31 BUT THE LATEST ONE ON ORDER. MY E-MAIL IS
harrymanning@btinternet.com
YOURS ETC HARRY MANNING

harrymanning said...

I WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT Ms BANNISTER TO COMPLIMENT HER ON HER WRITING.I BELIEVE SHE HAS WRITTEN
34 BOOKS TO DATE OF WHICH I AM HAPPY TO HAVE 31.THE LATEST ONE IS ON ORDER, BUT I CANNOT FIND
A CACTUS GARDEN OR FROM FIRE AND FLOOD. I WOULD BE GRATEFUL IF SHE
COULD ADVISE ME OF A POSSIBLE SOURCE.MY E-MAIL IS
harrymanning@btinternet com
YOURS WITH BEST WISHES.
HARRY MANNING

Anonymous said...

gatRecently discovered Jo Bannister and totally admire her work. Just finished reading The Tinderbox and I have read three more of her books. I was surprised to read that she was born in Rochdale.... famous for being the hometown of Gracie Fields( who remembers her???) Anyway since I was born and raised only 3 miles away in Heywood I feel we have something in common. I now live in Florida. Keep writing Jo and we fans will keep reading and buying.