Dark Dates is delighted to welcome author Anne Hamilton, who kindly stopped by to answer some questions and talk about her book, A Blonde Bengali Wife – the proceeds from which go to the educational charity Bhola’s Children.
Hi Tracey, thank for having me!
Tell us a little about your book…
A Blonde Bengali Wife is a bit of a red herring as I’m neither Bengali nor a wife, and I’m only blondish… The book is a travel memoir about my first (of many) extended trips to Bangladesh. It tells the story of me travelling around the country and working in various volunteer projects – and trying to make sense of it all. And it explains how I hit upon that title!
How long did it take to write it?
It started out as a diary of my three months in Bangladesh. I wrote daily, and very comprehensively; there wasn’t much else to do once it got dark or the electricity failed. I was completely out of my comfort zone and wanted both to process my thoughts and have a record to look back on in five or fifty years’ time. It only occurred to me when I got home that it might make a book. I spent about eighteen months playing around with it whilst it (very) slowly took shape. Another year on, it found a literary agent. A couple more years and it was eventually published. Then last summer, when my contract with the publisher was up, I decided to re-edit it and reprint myself as an eBook.
What was the inspiration for the book?
I wrote A Blonde Bengali Wife simply because I fell in love with Bangladesh. I wanted other people to see another side of a country so generally unknown beyond the poverty and the extreme weather conditions. I’d certainly never expected such a vibrant place, rich culture, and warm, welcoming people. I’ve never laughed as much (mostly at myself!) as I do in Bangladesh.
Is there anything you now know that you wish you’d known starting out?
I wish I’d known that writing a book was only the start. I now work as a fiction editor and mentor, and it’s a common misconception amongst new authors that you write a book, find an agent and/or a publisher and then they do the rest – leaving you to gloat at the bookshop shelves and count your royalties… I can hear the hollow laughs of all authors reading this!
Yes, the most important thing is to finish the book – not just dream about writing it – but don’t forget the editing, re-editing, editing some more, the proofreading (and on that note, seriously consider using an experienced/qualified editor proofreader; you miss so much in your own work). After that it’s the marketing and self-promotion, ideally whilst writing a second book at the same time. This is the case more or less whether you self-publish or do it traditionally, and it’s vital to be able to plan your time accordingly. You want to enjoy the whole experience, not be wondering why you didn’t take up brain surgery as the easier option…
What’s the toughest thing about being a writer?
That I feel I’m scrabbling around in the dark most the time, never sure I’m going in the right direction and knowing there isn’t a definitive map anyway. Is my novel any good? Should I look for an agent or self-publish it? Will people sneer at this thing I’ve put my heart in to? Why did that book get rave reviews and mine hasn’t even been read? Should I give up writing..?
The list is tortuous. Then just as I’m feeling an idiot for even secretly calling myself a writer, something will happen – a competition shortlist, an invitation to do a blog post, a great review, a kind Twitter notification – and for a few seconds I feel as if I’ve seen the light. That, and the fact I love writing for its own sake, is what keeps me going.
What’s the best thing?
In what other profession could I create my own ‘glorious’ worlds – that is, make up stuff from my imagination and call it work? More practically, it’s the opportunity to meet other writers, and readers, and talk about this all-consuming craft with people who find it equally fascinating. And more practically still, it’s being able to write and edit, and even tutor, from my sofa when I’ve got a five year old tucked up in bed.
What piece of advice would you give anyone wanting to be a writer?
It’s okay to dream about being a writer and to have lots of ideas flitting around, but if you really want to be that writer you have to write. Don’t wait for inspiration, that’s like spending months waiting for your birthday, then it’s over in a day. Just slog on and write. It’s nowhere near perfect? No matter – that’s what editing is for and that comes later, once you actually have something to work on. If it all seems too daunting to do alone, join a friendly class/group or an online forum to give you moral support and a bit of guidance.
Some great advice there – thanks, Anne!
Find Anne at:
Twitter: @AnneHamilton7 and @Anne_ABBW