The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Marilyn Bennett

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Marilyn Bennett

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Summary: Sue's only problem with Granny with Benefits by Marilyn Bennett was that she would have loved to spend more time with the characters. When the author popped into Bookbag Towers there was quite a lot to chat about.
Date: 9 March 2017
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue's only problem with Granny with Benefits by Marilyn Bennett was that she would have loved to spend more time with the characters. When the author popped into Bookbag Towers there was quite a lot to chat about.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Marilyn Bennett: I definitely imagine that my readers will be women. I would love it if women of all ages read it, but I think it will most likely be women over 30.

  • BB: I loved the title - Granny with Benefits. How did you come up with something so brilliant?

MB: Thank you! As soon as I thought of it, I knew it was the right one. As I'm getting older I'm more aware of society's obsession with youthfulness. The book explores aging and dating and I really liked the idea that pretending to be an older woman was a benefit rather than some kind of hindrance.

  • BB: What was the inspiration behind the story?

MB: The story was inspired by separate conversations I had with two friends. The first conversation was a discussion about my single friend possibly joining Match.com. She wasn't keen. We had a chat about the kind of men we were meeting and it appeared that most of them wanted us to look after them. We felt that they were possibly looking for a surrogate mother.

The second conversation I had was with a male friend and I wanted to set up a blind date with one of his single friends. His friend gave him permission to select a 'suitable' date by viewing photographs of my friends, which I thought was rude and against the spirit of a blind date, so I was having none of it.

It made me think, if a lot of men are looking for their mothers, what would you learn about them and yourself if you pretended to be a surrogate mother. It presented me with an opportunity to look at dating and aging.

  • BB: At the beginning of the story I didn't particularly like Grace: she lies too easily. Then gradually I started to root for her. Was the way we feel at the start of the book a deliberate ploy and was it difficult to gradually turn us all into fans?

MB: Grace is a deliberately flawed character that I knew people might dislike initially because of her actions, but at her heart she is a caring and decent human being. Outwardly she appears to be in control, but inwardly she is incredibly worried about her future and this results in her rash choices and dubious behaviour.

I think we all make mistakes and poor judgement calls at some point. My hope was that readers would understand her motivation for the things she did and would also see how much she loved her friends and family, so would understand that she wasn't all bad.

In the end Grace starts being honest with herself and ultimately that means she is being honest with the reader and I think that's what might help her to win people over.

  • BB: Church attendance occurs regularly in the story and it seems completely natural. Is your religion important in your life?

MB: It's funny you mention that because I only consciously realised how many religious references there were in the book when I completed it and it surprised me. I pretty much only attend church for weddings and funerals.

I think it feels natural because my reference point for Louise and Grace's Grandmother was my Mum. My Mum plays a big role in her church and a lot of the social events and duties referred to in the story are based on what I witness her taking part in secondhand.

  • BB: Without giving away anything about the plot, will we meet Grace, Dale and Sean again? (I need to know what happens to them!)

MB: I wrote the sequel to Granny with Benefits last summer and so it's ready to go! There are some new characters, but the story is very much driven by Grace, Dale and Sean and we literally pick up from where Granny with Benefits ended.

The sequel is about consequences, so it becomes a rather interesting new rollercoaster ride for Grace.

  • BB: How long did it take you to write Granny with Benefits and how did you fit this around your day job? Where and how do you write?

MB: I wrote it over a two-year period, but I had roughly five months away from it once I completed the first draft. Then I went back to it and did a significant edit and restructure.

I'm a freelancer, so my day job had peaks and troughs, so I was able to devote chunks of time to write at points when there were breaks in between projects/contracts.

I write at home. I have to be in peace and quiet or I just can't concentrate. I don't know how people write in coffee shops. I would be too distracted. Every other paragraph would have either the word latte or cappuccino in it.

  • BB: Which authors have inspired you and which three books would you take to your desert island?

MB: Rosa Guy, Enid Blyton and Judy Blume. I was part girl, part nerd as a child. These three authors helped me realise that writing can help people to understand their character and identity.

The Three Books: -

My Collins Dictionary
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

MB: To stay healthy! Good health has become my new 'must have' now I'm getting older!

  • BB: What's next for Marilyn Bennett?

MB: I am plotting a new series of books and I'm very excited about them. They will be modern day morality tales with lots of twists and turns.

  • BB: That's excellent news about Grace, Dale and Sean, Marilyn and there's plenty for us to look forward to there. Thanks for taking the time to chat to us.

You can read more about Marilyn Bennett here.

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