Friday, April 16, 2021

Ilona Bannister

Ilona Bannister grew up on Staten Island and lived in New York City until she married a Brit and moved to London. A dual qualified U.S. attorney and UK solicitor, Bannister practiced immigration law in the UK before taking a career break to raise her two young sons and unexpectedly found herself writing fiction. When I Ran Away is her first novel.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think When I Ran Away lets the reader know exactly where they're headed when they pick it up and it brings the reader directly into Gigi's mindset at the verge of her breakdown. But hopefully they find that the twists and turns Gigi takes on her journey toward accepting her new self as a woman and mother surprising. I think they'll find her choice of destination interesting as well. I think many readers will relate to the things she's running away from and that many people fantasize about doing the same thing at one point or another, especially after lockdown.

What's in a name?

Gigi's full name before she marries Harry is Eugenia Stanislawski. She readily takes Harry's surname, Harrison, when they marry. It's a nod to my own Ukrainian maiden name, Ilona Lewyckyj, and a life spent with a name many people struggle to pronounce or remember. My husband didn't use my name for our first three dates until he could be sure how to say it! Gigi's father, Jaroslaw Stanislawski, who goes by Jerry, is named for my late uncle, not because he bears any resemblance, just because it's a nice way to remember him.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

She would be shocked. First, she'd be amazed that she became a writer at all since that was never in her life plan. And I think she'd be slightly worried by the content, so we'd have to have a little chat before she read it, and I might tell her to hold off on reading it until she was a little older.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I think when you set out to write, you either already know your beginning or your ending. But through the editing process, that can change. My first start to this novel is now chapter seven, so, I've learned that you may have to sacrifice what you imagine your ending or beginning to be in order to give the whole story a better package.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I'm very connected to my characters, not necessarily by personality, but by the emotions they deal with and the feelings they convey to the reader. While I write fiction, I draw on reality for the emotional lives of my characters to make them authentic for the reader and to create characters that readers hopefully relate to.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

People-watching is my go-to inspiration. I have always been a keen observer of people, perhaps from many years of riding the subway in New York City or the tube in London, but people - how they dress, speak, their accents, how they interact, the objects they carry, the way they move - are fascinating to me.
Follow Ilona Bannister on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue