Title: The Banana Bunch
Author: Dawn Carroll
Genre: Children's Book
Purchase at AMAZON
The monkeys have a human friend called Sheila. Sheila is in hospital – and she hates the hospital food. The monkeys decide that something simply has to be done… When their first attempt at delivering bananas to Sheila is thwarted the monkeys decide to form The Banana Bunch, a secret society dedicated to the delivery of delicious, health-giving bananas to Sheila and all the other unwell people at the hospital. Banana delivery proves, however, a little trickier than they had expected…
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
The answer is less one of pride, but more one of amazement. Like all junior doctors of my generation I spent my first years, after qualification, working outrageously long hours, with minimal sleep. When I look back I realize that there is a ten year period for which I have almost no memories. Everything just merged into a long blur of exhaustion.
It is a wonder that any of us managed to stay on our feet, let alone function and make important decisions for our patients. The power of the human body is awe-inspiring. Somehow we made it through, and most of us (definitely me) emerged still loving our chosen career. I’m seriously proud of all of us.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
Books have always been an important part of my life. My parents are avid readers, who taught me to read before I attended school. As a child hours spent tucked up with a book were one of my biggest treats.
My family also, very early in my life, taught me how easily unkind, incorrect, or thoughtless words can cause distress to others. I learned that it is not okay to get a cheap laugh, if this is done by creating unhappiness for another. I don’t think it is possible to totally avoid causing unintended offence (there are so many different cultural norms and rules in this lovely world) but I am always alert to at least trying to write in a way that has a powerful effect (in my case I’m usually hoping to make readers smile), while remaining decent and kind.
The Banana Bunch monkeys are the perfect vehicle for this approach. They are good-natured, always cheerful, goofy and gorgeous. I love that the personalities of the Banana Bunch monkeys make it possible for me to write in a way that makes others smile, while (hopefully!) causing zero offence.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always loved to write. At school we were often set the task of writing a story using imagination alone. While some of my fellow students groaned, I loved it!
The other influence is travel. When I travel something will go subtly wrong (I’ll be in one country, my luggage will be in another / cruise ships develop engine problems / if I set off to see the Northern Lights a 5 day blizzard will start … ) When I discovered that letters written about these experiences were making those at home howl with laughter I just kept on writing.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Honestly, No. I’ve just always enjoyed writing from the moment I could first use use a pencil.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
Even now I don’t truly feel like a writer. In my head “proper” writers create serious books. My writing is light-hearted and I’ve always felt that it was just something fun that I did to amuse myself and close friends. The same friends have, though, spent years telling me that I should publish my letters from abroad, but I’ve always laughed off the idea. It has come as the greatest surprise that a series of short stories, written for a friend who was unwell, has sold so well that we have already been able to donate over £7000 to two children’s charities.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
What inspired you to write your first book?
Our friend Sheila was unwell, stuck in a hospital bed – and she absolutely loathed the hospital food. It also helped that Sheila shared her home with 3 furry, soft toy monkeys.
On the day that I heard about Sheila’s passionate dislike of the hospital food a lightbulb went on in my head. A few hours later, I had taken a photo of Sheila’s monkeys, with bunches of delicious fresh bananas. The photo became the cover of a handmade greetings card, inside which was the first short story of what would, in time, become The Banana Bunch book.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
So many things and people. As soon as others became aware of the general Banana Bunch concept (in the stories Sheila’s monkeys are determined to help by delivering some delicious bananas to her, to save her from the hospital food – but somehow, something always goes slightly wrong with their plans) I started to receive offers of clothing and props for the photos, and everyone had an idea or two for future stories. In the end I had so much material and photos that I simply spread them across the dining table, scanned them before going to sleep, and would wake each morning with the next instalment of the Banana Bunch adventure ready to be written.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Publication! Thank heavens for the wonderful folks who work in the publishing industry and who understand all the things that have to come together to create a successful, and properly professional, book.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
I learned that there is still a place for innocent, gentle humour in the world of literature. I’ve also learned that all of the hard work that that goes alongside publishing and selling a book is 100% worthwhile. For publicity we take some of the original toy monkeys out and about to create photos for the Facebook and Twitter stories. It is tough on the shoulders (the monkeys have been eating a few too many bananas, and they are very heavy!) but every time we meet strangers who crack up laughing, it is all worth it.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I have to admit that the idea is tempting. Working alongside The Banana Bunch’s illustrator we already have the text and illustrations for a children’s story about a friendly frog and a lonely lizard.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
Yes. I hope to achieve writing which is (and we do test the text on a lot of readers of all ages before agreeing the final text) upbeat, happy, and capable of raising a smile. When writing imaginative essays at school we were giving a set subject – sometimes happy, sometimes dark. It was good experience to be obliged to write across a whole range of styles and emotions, but I soon learned that my natural style is light.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
That I thoroughly enjoy the process.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
Tenacity. When others say that something can’t done I first check whether it is wise and reasonable to make it happen – and if it is, then I set to work and don’t stop until whatever it is has been achieved.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
Laziness. I put heart and soul into tasks most of the time, but in-between times am guilty of slumping into an armchair to do precisely nothing for hours at a time. I can’t even pretend to be doing any useful thinking at these times. At these moments the old Spike Milligan quote comes to mind “Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits!” It seems such a waste on a lovely, sunny, day.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
The original quotation was written in Spanish by George Santayana 1863-1952 - philosopher , poet and novelist. There are numerous translations.
The most accurate translation is possibly “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
The version that I first heard was:“Those who do not learn from history well be forced to re-live it”.
As a passionate student of history the quotation made instant sense. I despair of world leaders who again and again lead their peoples into situations that wiser minds (with history as a guide) may have been able to avoid.
I also passionately believe that it is vital that we should all know about the dreadful events of human history. Without this knowledge how can future generations avoid making the same mistakes again?
This might seem a strange favourite quotation, given that I have emphasized the importance of the light-hearted and humourous in my own writing. I think, perhaps, that I have spent so much time reading and listening to important, but challenging, historical archive material that I need to break out into a brighter world when I put my own pen to paper.
Dawn Carroll was born in London, to a family who loved to read – and who also moved house with great regularity. One of the first tasks on arrival at each new home would be to find the nearest lending library, with the result that Dawn grew up with a great love of books. Encouraged by family and teachers, Dawn also started to write short stories. In adulthood, Dawn’s busy life as a hospital doctor left little time for leisure writing. Indeed, The Banana Bunch stories would probably never have been written had Dawn not, one fateful day, discovered that falling from even a very small tightrope can have devastating consequences… but that’s another story! Unable to return to her chosen profession, things seemed very black for a while. And then The Banana Bunch monkeys bounced into Dawn’s world…. Since then the monkeys (and Dawn) have been having a great time – telling the stories of their adventures in print and online, and also travelling far and wide to source new story ideas and to meet new friends. Find out more about Dawn and the Banana Bunch at www.thebananabunchbook.com