Having spent quite a bit of time looking into care homes last year, I was intrigued to find Marilyn Bennett has written a story starting in sheltered accommodation, Granny With Benefits. Consequently I just had to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit more about it.
Published by Matador on 28th November 2016, Granny with Benefits is available for purchase here.
Granny With Benefits
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…
An Interview with Marilyn Bennett
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Marilyn. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
Thank you very much for inviting me! I’ve worked in telly for the last 23 years and although it’s a very creative industry my role is very much about organising the logistics, so I wanted to do something that would explore my creative skills and it turned out to be writing.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Granny With Benefits?
Granny with Benefits is about a 39 year old single woman called Grace, who, when her grandmother dies, volunteers to clear out her belongings from Sheltered Accommodation. She has her eye on some coats and is playing adult dress up, wig and glasses included, when a very attractive man unexpectedly comes to the room to view it for his Dad.
Instead of this being a simple case of mistaken identity, Grace spontaneously uses the opportunity to try and engineer a date for the real her. The man has a similar idea, he thinks she might be a great date for his widowed Uncle, so things do not go remotely according to plan.
You’ve worked in television production for a long time. How did this impact on your writing style? I wondered if it meant you were more aware of pace, setting or dialogue for example?
Working in television had a impact on my writing style because script writing is my natural go to regarding understanding the basics of writing. My plan was originally to write a short film, I just didn’t have the ending, so I started plotting and it instantly lent itself to being a novel.
Scriptwriting really informed the dialogue and pacing of the book. I wanted the dialogue to feel real, so that readers could relate to and believe the characters. It was also important to me that the pacing retained the interest of the reader even when they might not particularly like the characters.
The basic scriptwriting principle of a story having a clear beginning, middle and end was a key factor in how I plotted and structured the novel. I thought there might be a sequel to it, but I wanted to write the book, so it could standalone, so I tried not to drag things out or be repetitive.
You say Granny With Benefits broke a lifelong tradition of never finishing anything! What drove you to write and complete Granny With Benefits?
I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, but most of them have either been abandoned or not even started. I think I finished the novel because I set myself the task of completing something. I also really enjoyed the process of writing. I had no idea it would be such fun, but I really loved creating the characters, scenarios and relationships. I got a real kick out of it and they pretty much took on a life of their own. I also believed in the story, so for once, it wasn’t a half-hearted attempt at something.
I know that launching Granny With Benefits has been a steep learning curve for you. What have you learnt since publication day that might be helpful to other debut authors?
Steep learning curve is an understatement! It’s been like trying to climb Everest in my flip flops! I did expect this because I’m completely new to the industry and self-publishing, but it’s been way harder and equally as exciting, than I expected.
I’ve learnt that perseverance and patience is key. I’m happily taking the independent route, but it most certainly is not for everyone. If the book you’ve written is your life’s work or wish then I would suggest you need an agent.
Writing the book is only the very beginning. It took me three years, with time off for good behaviour, to finish Granny with Benefits. I would’ve finished it sooner if I knew the amount of work that would be required to promote the book. It’s really difficult to get the traditional media to take interest in you or your book if you have no track record, so the more you can build an understanding and relationships outside of the traditional media the better. If you have a great agent or/and publicist they are key to helping you do this, as they will already have those crucial contacts and networks on both sides of the fence.
Prepare to go out into the world starkers! By that I mean, you are your campaign and not the book. I’ve had slight panic attacks around promoting this book because so much of it has been about me personally and not the book. For example, on Friday I did my very first radio interview (yayyyy!). The reason I got the interview is because one of my hobbies is recycling old furniture and antiques. Yes, you read it right. The majority of the interview was spent talking about recycling doors! But I got to mention the book at the end and that’s the end game.
Think of it this way, when Walkers want us to buy a packet of crisps, they don’t have potatoes in the ads, they have Gary Lineker! Nothing sells itself and right now I am by far the best person to sell my book.
Your blog (here) shows you as someone with a real sense of humour. Have you used this in Granny With Benefits and has it ever got you into trouble?
My sense of humour is what keeps me sane. I don’t take myself too seriously and I can laugh through most things as a result. Life is just too short! I think my sense of humour has actually got me out of trouble, so it’s been a very handy tool.
My sense of humour is one of the key drivers in Granny with Benefits. I don’t think it’s laugh out loud humour, more bittersweet comedic moments and it is threaded throughout the entire novel.
Granny With Benefits seems to have a message about making the most of opportunities, even if they don’t always work out. Why did you choose to write about this theme?
I think a lot of people suffer from the fear of trying. It can stifle you and result in you not living your life to the full. Over the past few years I have seen people that are very close to me suffer with very grave illnesses, yet they have a life affirming positivity as a result, which is so inspirational. They are taking life by the go-nads and living.
I just wanted to say if you want something in life then go for it! Don’t wait for circumstances to take those choices away from you, make your own choices.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
When I finished the book. I did a final read-through and I thought “Huh, not bad”. Then I thought I better check if anyone else agrees, so I got an Editor.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I would be a songwriter or music producer. I have been writing songs since I was a kid, but in my typical DNF character, 95% are only first verse and chorus.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
For Granny with Benefits and the sequel I didn’t really have to do detailed research. These are very much slice of life stories. I suppose in some ways I have been doing the research most of my adult life, as the characters are a mash-up of lots of different people that I have encountered in my personal and professional life.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I find writing dialogue the easiest. I will come up with whole conversations in an instant and without the rest of the scene simply because it get’s to the heart of what I want to say.
I think plotting is the most difficult bit for me. I can’t start writing until I’ve plotted everything out. I need a structure. It tends to be quite skeletal, but it’s definitely how my brain works. Its needs order.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I’m not one of these people who writes everyday. Sometime I just don’t fancy it. The way I work is I set myself date deadlines. There’s the date to finish plotting and one to finish the draft. That way it doesn’t matter if I don’t write today or tomorrow, but I have to hit that date.
Generally once I finished plotting and start writing I tend to aim to complete a chapter every time I write.
I only write at home and I need silence. I have this clock with a loud tick in the room I write in. I thought it was so nice when I bought it, but now that I write it slightly gets on my nerves.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I really like contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance and thrillers.
I like most types of genres, but the above are my favourites to read.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
The next series of books is completely based on one of my other interests. I’m keeping it under wraps for the moment, but I’ve become obsessed with it over the past 4 years. It informed everything about my writing. Not what I wrote in terms of the story arc, but the timing of it. It worked for me, so that has been my greenlight to pursue it as the subject for my next series of novels.
If you could choose to be a character from Granny With Benefits, who would you be and why?
I would be Grace’s friend Cassie. She’s direct, brash and bold. She needs to keep her knickers on a bit more, but other than that I would be her. I would like to be more courageous and not give a monkeys, but its just part of my nature to care.
If Granny With Benefits became a film, who would you like to play Grace and why would you choose them?
Ooooooo, good question! I’m going to have to come back to you on that one. I’m going to compile a dream audition list and then from my imaginary casting chair make my decision.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Granny With Benefits should be their next read, what would you say?
GwB is a must read unromantic love story on how to hijack your forties.
Did you see how I cheated by abbreviating!
I did! But I’ll let you off. Thank you so much, Marilyn, for your time in answering my questions.
About Marilyn Bennett
Marilyn Bennett has worked in television production for over 20 years. It was the intention to write a short film about an elderly lady who ran a dating agency that morphed into Granny With Benefits.