My little sister Lois, is not only a huge Harry Potter fan but she absolutely loves contemporary women’s fiction and #ChicLit. This made me determined to give such novels a spot on my blog and when the opportunity came, to feature a Q&A with Marilyn Bennett, I jumped at the chance. Here goes!
Granny With Benefits by Marilyn Bennett
Grace is thirty-nine and not remotely convinced that life begins at forty.
When her grandmother dies she volunteers to pick up her belongings from the sheltered accommodation. It is the last place she expects to have a chance encounter with the first man she has been instantly attracted to in a very long time, particularly as she is dressed almost head to toe in her grandmother’s clothing and accessories.
Grace’s granny alter ego elicits a conversation with the man about love, death and the universe, which she is convinced would not have happened otherwise. This inspires her to throw caution to the wind and turn what should have been a simple case of mistaken identity into a dating introduction opportunity for the real her. A decision which sets Grace on a rollercoaster adventure of lies, secrets and lust, making her thirty ninth year one she won’t forget, but might well regret…
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) I have worked in television production for the past 23 years. My role is very much behind the scenes and not remotely glamorous unfortunately. I mainly count the pennies and help support everyone who needs to spend them.
Granny with Benefits is about a woman called Grace, who when her Grandmother dies, volunteers to clear out her sheltered accommodation. Grace has her eye on a few coats and some jewels. She is playing adult dress up, including wig and glasses, when a very attractive man comes to view the room for his father. Instead of Grace simply confessing she pretends to be an elderly woman, as a means to engineer a date for the real her. Things do not go according to plan, as the man thinks the “little old woman” he has met would be a good match for his father, which has far reaching consequences.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?
A) It’s been a long old journey! The idea started off as a short film script in 2013. I never expected to write a book. I think working in telly made script writing seem like the natural home for my writing. I work in a creative industry, but because of the job I do I have never actually felt very creative in my role. I decided that I was going to write a script and make the film. When I started writing notes it became pretty obvious to me that it should be a novel, so I went to WH Smith and bought five notebooks, just in case I made a habit/hobby out of writing and also because they were quite pretty and I couldn’t choose. I ended up writing the entire novel by hand in those notebooks. Absolute lunacy because I had just bought a shiny new computer!!
When I finished the first draft in April 2014 I thought I would step away from it. The reason being, that I had attempted to write a novel about ten years prior when I came across a new writers competition. Abby, when I completed the first draft and read it, it was soooo bad, I had to DNF my own book!! I decided having time away from Granny with Benefits would give me a fresh pair of eyes. I picked it back up in September 2014 and the break really helped. I also read Stephen King’s On Writing over the summer, which was just fantastic. It provided a lot of clarity on how I should work on the next draft. So, when I attended a friend’s wedding in Greece I used the time away to sit on a lounger with my trustee red pen and axed one third of the draft and re-wrote huge chunks. I think the first draft was two parts story and one part brain dump.
Once I got the draft to a stage where I knew I couldn’t make it any better on my own, which was February 2015, I enlisted the help of an Editor, who was a godsend. My draft came back massacred, but it all made complete sense. I would have looked like a total amateur had I not brought my Editor, Joy, on board.
Once I had created the third draft and after Joy’s final read-through, I had the draft proofread and voila, here I am.
I decided to go down the self-publishing route. I wanted to stay true to the promise I made to myself when the idea was a script, write something, then make it. Only time will tell if this was the best decision. I knew very little about the publishing industry and that is still the case today, but what I now know without question is that it is ridiculously hard to get your book in front of readers if you don’t have an agent, publicist or the support of a large publisher. It’s not impossible, but it is very hard in such a busy marketplace. The first book has been a very steep learning curve, which will definitely help me navigate a better route for future books.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) My favourite authors are from my childhood, when I was an absolute bookworm, Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. When I was ten years old my Mum took me to see Flash Gordon at the cinema after that books got unceremoniously bumped!
My adult reading recommendations would be: –
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is my absolute all time favourite, but anything written by Roald Dahl would also do the trick.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) It’s been so great to get such fantastic reviews of the book. I don’t have many, but by and large they have been wonderful. It serves as justification for all the lonely days in my torn tracksuit bottoms wondering what I’m playing at trying to write a book! It really has been the light at the end of the tunnel for me.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) My Editor, Joy Tibbs was my main source of support. I wrote the book pretty much in isolation. I was never quite sure if what I had written was even the right way to go about it. I just knew it felt right to me. When I received her initial response after reading it I actually felt emotional. It was a relief. The idea that I might have spent nearly two years writing something that didn’t make sense to someone with industry experience would have been a bit depressing. It gave me encouragement to believe that I didn’t need to seek permission to be a writer, but I definitely needed support.
*Huge thanks to Marilyn for taking part in a Q&A on my blog and I wish her every success with her novel 🙂