Bannister, Bronwyn

IN BRIEF

Bronwyn Bannister is a Dunedin-born short story writer and novelist. Her first novel, Haunt, examined themes of isolation and repression against the background of 1920s New Zealand. Her short stories have appeared in Takahe and have been broadcast on National Radio. In 2000, Bannister was awarded the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary. She has also written features and book reviews for a number of publications.


Profile

Place of residence: Wellington, New Zealand


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bannister, Bronwyn (–) is a Dunedin-born writer whose first novel, Haunt (2000), examines themes of isolation and repression against the background of 1920s New Zealand.

Irene and Margaret are both married to farmers in Seacliff, a small seaside settlement in Otago and the site of the notorious Seacliff psychiatric institution. Over forty years of friendship, the two womens lives become irrevocably intertwined, haunted as they are by the restrictions of a repressive society, the criminal neglect of a small child, and other less worldly phenomena.

Combining elements of mystery, fairy tale and ghost story, Haunt eventually unfolds its secrets to the reader. A reviewer writes in the NZ Listener '...there is nothing extraneous here; it might not be readily obvious why certain aspects are included but read on and all will be revealed - so neatly and so hauntingly.'

Bannisters short stories have appeared in Takahe and been broadcast on National Radio. She fits writing time around caring for her two children, to whom Haunt is dedicated.

In 2000 Bannister was awarded the Creative New Zealand Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary. She has written features and book reviews for a number of publications including North and South, The Otago Daily Times, The Dominion Post, and Urbis.

In 2002 she had a short story included in Another 30 New Zealand Stories for Children, edited by Barbara Else. She is currently working on a book for children and her second novel.

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writers in schools information

KAPAI: Kids' Authors' Pictures and Information

Where do you live?
I live in Brooklyn, Wellington, but I’m from Dunedin.

What books do you read?
I read a lot of different books. I prefer reading fiction and I mostly read books for adults but I read some children’s fiction, too.

Who is your favourite author?
I just read a Diana Wynne-Jones – my first one – and I liked that but one of my favourite authors is Philip Pullman. My other favourites are Margaret Attwood, Jane Austen…actually, I like a lot of different writers. I like different writers for different moods.

How do you think up your ideas?
I think up ideas quite easily – nothing like a quiet time over the dishes for having a good think. Thinking them up is the easy part – it’s the stretching and cutting and pulling and twisting into words that is tricky.

What is the best thing about being an author?
One of the best things is being able to give into your imagination and just let go. There is a great freedom in inventing stories and having situations turn out just the way you want them to. If only life was really like that.

Some Questions from Primary School Students

What sorts of pets do you have?
I don’t have any pets just now but I’ve often had cats. We had to leave Bella, our beautiful tortoiseshell cat behind, when we moved here from Dunedin. We gave her to my parents and she’s very happy in their big garden and they seem to be very happy having a cat.

What is your favourite colour/food/movie/game?
Red but I do like black a lot, too.
A favourite food is anything I don’t have to cook.
My favourite movie often changes – I watched The Princess Bride again recently and I wouldn’t call it my favourite but it was still good.
I like playing monopoly but our family games often end in a bit of dispute – we don’t like losing!

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
One of the most fun things is writing stories that other people enjoy reading.

How do you make books?
My part is just in the writing – a publisher and a printer are needed to get the end result. That always surprises me, how a pile of loose A4 pages can be moulded into a neat ‘proper’ looking book.

Where do you go for your holidays?
I haven’t been on holiday for a while but I do think a summer without some time at or near or on a beach isn’t summer – and it’s the same for a holiday.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
What a dull childhood I must’ve had – I can’t remember doing anything naughty at school. Either I was very very good or I have a very very bad memory.

Some Questions from Secondary School Students

How did you get started?
I started writing as a child and then when I was older I was in plays but I never got the big parts so I decided to write a play with a really good part in it for me. From there, I wrote short stories, poems, was in a comedy group and wrote skits, and then did a novel. Still working on the next one so getting started is one thing, keeping going is another.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Other writers, books I read. I love getting lost in a book, caught up in the story, and engaged by the characters and the events.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Read. Read and read, write and write and so on. Write what you want to read but try to keep outside of yourself, too, and broaden your vision to be your own reader as well as the writer.

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
Yes. I don’t. Writers often work in related areas – as editors, manuscript assessors, writing teachers – and it is very difficult to make a living just writing.

What were you like as a teenager?
I was a little lonely, felt a bit different to everyone else – common feelings, and not just for writers. If everyone who felt different to other people were out in a group together would they feel ‘more’ different? Less? Or the same as everyone else?

Is there anything else you could tell children about yourself?

When I was about 8 or 9 years old I was hit by a bus while crossing the street. In those far off days when children were having fish and chips for lunch they could all go to the shop rather than an order being brought to the school. I had pushed in, just a bit, in the queue and I was feeling pleased with myself when I left the shop to go back to school. Too pleased, obviously, because I crossed the street without looking – always a dangerous thing to do – and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance on my way to hospital. I wasn’t too badly hurt, the ambulance even stopped to pick up my mother on the way to the hospital, but I did get a broken collarbone. Exactly what happened after I shut that shop door is a blank but the real question, the one which my friends and I wondered about and my children did, too, years later, is – what happened to my fish and chips?

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Wellington 6011, New Zealand