Author Spotlight – Ananda Braxton-Smith Interview – Part 1

We’re incredibly excited to be publishing Ananda, and hope that you’ll love her writing as much as we do. Ananda’s debut novel, Merrow, (released in 2010) has been a great success, and is a CBCA Notable award-winner. It was also shortlisted in the Aurealis Awards for young adult fiction (winners announced May 21) and longlisted for the 2010 Inky Awards. In this interview Ananda discusses her latest novel, Tantony, the second book in the Secrets of Carrick series.

What inspired you to write Tantony?

Toward the end of Merrow Ma Slevin says, ‘Have you heard about the twins down at Strangers Croft? Poor little mites.’ Well, the thing is, I made myself very curious about those twins. What could have happened that they were talked about right away up on the northern cliffs? Who were they? What had happened to them? Tantony is a result of that curiosity. Also, I wanted to write a bog story. Some of the best stories have happened on bogs. And Carrick’s word (from the Manx) for the bog is the moaney … it’s such a great word. The sound of it started me thinking about sad stories and little lost ghosties drifting about in the mist, making sorrowful noises and so forth.

What is your favourite part of Tantony?
Well, as usual I really loved writing about the creatures; up on the bog there’s the gembugs and specklemoths and all the remarkable birds. Not to mention the family, the Quirks themselves, who are a type of bog creature all of their own.

But my favourite parts of the story itself are the scenes with Fermion and Boson as he goes madder and madder and she tries to keep up with his ideas about time and angels. I love her irritability in these bits.

 Did Tantony change much between the initial idea and the final book?

Not much, really. The general sweep of the whole story was there in the initial idea, but I had no idea about the details until I was in it. This made writing it somewhat hairy.

What were you reading while writing Tantony? What were your influences/ inspiration while writing?

I read a lot, for research and encouragement. I always do. I’m always reading, and it’s all research.

For Tantony, I first read the long early English poem ‘Beowulf’ (Seamus Heaney’s translation). It’s set in a bog, and has a monster at its heart. There is a little homage to it in the section where Boson is being chased by the towny boys.

I also read Understanding Wetlands: Fen, Bog and Marsh. Very helpful non-fiction book by SM Haslam.

The legend of St Brendan the Navigator, in many versions. In the legend, Brendan sails the Atlantic in a leather boat and has many adventures. One of my most influential discoveries was that the saint and his comrades were not happy sailors. They went unheroically ‘wailing and gnashing their teeth’ into their sea journey. It gave me heart to write my unheroic hero as she traveled her own whale-road into her fears.

Also, I read the Celtic Book of the Dead, in many versions. This tells of the journey the Celts believe they were to take after death, journeying through the western isles where they met with many trials, and leading at last to their paradise.

Parliament of the Birds, by Farid ud-Din Attar. Beautiful long Persian poem written in 1100s, all about the journey of a group of birds.

Monsters, Marvels and Miracles: Studies in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination, edited by Timothy S Jones. This gave me a glimpse into what scared and excited the people of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, it was very much like what scares and excites us today, but with a bit more religion.

Plus I read lots of books of Manx folklore, mostly by Kathleen Killip, and the collections of Irish myths and legends collected by the poet WB Yeats and Lady Gregory (Oscar Wilde’s mum).

Are any of the characters based on real people / people you know?

That is a hard question. Nothing comes from nothing. It all has to come from somewhere.

I confess to using everything. From my life, from other people’s lives, from stories I hear second and third hand, television, newspapers, songs, dreams and other people’s books. Anything that works. But it doesn’t resemble itself anymore after I’ve used it. It goes through some alchemical change on the way into the story.

There are real events in Tantony, and references to people I’ve known … but it all goes through such a heavy fictionalising process before it comes to the page that it’s not recognisable any longer. Even to me. It’s one of the mysteries of writing fiction.

So, the answer is yes … and no.

Tantony is the second book in the Secrets of Carrick series. Will readers need to read Merrow first to be able to follow Tantony?

No. The books are not serialised in that one leads into the other. The stories all happen at the same time, on the same island, over one summer. They enrich but do not depend on one another. They are each self-contained novels. So far, Merrow is set on the wind-blasted northern cliffs, and Tantony on the western edge of the island’s bog, near the deserted settlement of Stranger’s Croft.

Tomorrow we bring Part Two of this interview.
Also be sure to visit again soon to win a copy of Tantony.

$28.49 Purchase the Secrets of Carrick value pack (Total RRP $37.98)

Cover of 'Tantony'Cover of 'Merrow'

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2 Responses to Author Spotlight – Ananda Braxton-Smith Interview – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Author Spotlight – Ananda Braxton-Smith Interview – Part 2 | black dog books blog

  2. Can’t wait to read it, Ananda. Sounds fantastic.

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