Freelance Blog + [young writers]

5 Q's with Catherine Banner

Nineteen year old British author Catherine Banner has been called the next JK Rowling, and her first book, The Eyes of a King, recently came out in hardcover. I was thrilled that Catherine agreed to an interview with me. Here's how this teen lit sensation managed to land a three-book publishing deal...

Urban Muse: How did you juggle friends, school, and writing? Was that a challenge?
Catherine:
It was definitely a challenge at times, and sometimes it meant working quite long days, or having to sacrifice other things like going out in the evenings. But my friends and family have been very supportive, so that helped me a lot when I was trying to balance writing with other commitments. The fact that they thought writing was worth pursuing was a big encouragement to me. And writing is what I love doing, so in a way it would be very difficult to sacrifice that instead. I think how I finished The Eyes of a King was by working on it nearly every day even if that was only for a short time. So over a year and a half the book came together.

UM: Did you ever experience writer's block? How did you combat it?
C:
Sometimes if I’m finding it hard to see where to go with a particular section of the story it helps to work on a different part instead. Then maybe when you come back to it the problem has resolved itself. Or I try to concentrate on something completely different so I have time to think about the story. That was one way being at school at the same time as writing my first novel really helped me, because there was always something else to focus on for a day or two.

UM: Did you find an agent or publisher first? What was that process like?
C:
I found an agent first, and the circumstances were very lucky. A few months after finishing my first novel I went to a talk about how to get into professional writing at a local literary festival. An agent, Simon Trewin, was talking, and afterwards I went up and asked him a question and he offered to read my work. So I sent the novel off to him, and a few weeks later he phoned to tell me he wanted to represent me. After that he found a publisher for the trilogy very quickly. So I think I was really lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The publication process itself has been quite humbling. At every stage there have been so many people willing to contribute their talents to turn the original manuscript into a published book; writing is a solitary profession but you don’t ever feel that you are working on your own because of that.

UM: What books or writers inspire you?
C:
I think I try to write starting from real life and from the characters whose stories I want to tell, so there isn’t a particular tradition of writing that I see myself fitting into. But there are certain books that maybe inspired me to want to be a writer when I was growing up. One story that captured my imagination when I was young was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, because I found the stories in that series easy to believe in even though they were extraordinary and magical. Later I found books like To Kill a Mockingbird inspiring; writing at its best and most honest is one of the things that most convinced me that it was a craft worth pursuing. Another book I admire but which I only read recently is The Catcher in the Rye. I think the voice is so clever and you really believe in it, and I also read that it was one of the first books to be really popular among young adults so in a way it’s defined the tradition.

UM: Any advice for other young writers?
C:
I haven’t been a writer for that long, so I’m still learning all the time. One thing I found helpful was reading books on writing; it’s a profession that I didn’t really know much about, and books on writing were useful even just on a practical level because they told me a lot about that. I also think you have to keep a certain determination to finish a novel, so to write about characters who captured my imagination enough to keep writing about them was really essential from the start. But I think the most important thing that I try to do in my own work is to only write about characters that I really care about, and leave out anything that doesn’t come from the heart.

Thanks, Catherine. Congrats on your book release!

Catherine Banner photo courtesy of Simon Trewin