Seven Stories Q&A: Yvonne Banham

We are delighted to welcome Edinburgh-based author Yvonne Banham to Roaring Reads, for our first Q&A of 2023.

Yvonne’s new book, The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores MacKenzie is a spine-tingling spooky adventure with a truly original heroine.

Read on to find out more about the stories behind this story.

News story: What is your book about?

The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie follows 14-year-old Delores as she tries get control of her extraordinary levels of necromancy (communicating with the dead).
After she’s almost drowned by a particularly grabby paranormal entity, she’s sent to the mysterious Uncles in Edinburgh Old Town to learn how to control her dangerous gifts, but when a sinister apparition threatens the lives of her strange new housemates, Delores will need all her skills to save them.
It’s a ghost-filled, shapeshifting paranormal whydunnit with a grumpy gargoyle who is partial to blue sherbet, but it’s also about personal boundaries, trust and the joy of found family. It’s quite dark in parts, but hopefully I’ve balanced that with some lighter characters and a bit of sly humour.

Short story: Sum up your book in five words

Paranormal Hauntings Spooky Friendship Boundaries

Life story: How did you get where you are today?

I spent a lot of time on my own as a child, sat on a blustery Cumbrian beach with a book and a sandwich. I loved writing stories at school, usually with drawings that took far longer than the homework itself, but for many reasons, being a writer or an artist wasn’t on the cards for me, so I trained as a nurse.
As soon as my situation allowed, I went back to books, initially studying illustration. Even then, my work was quite dark, and my degree show was filled with strange marionettes in their own little theatres.
After ten years living in The Netherlands, I moved to Edinburgh and rented a small studio space in Leith. Surrounded by art supplies, I kept sneaking back to my laptop to work on a story about a young witch in the wilds of Cumbria. Finally, I listened to my heart instead of my head, and decided to take writing seriously. I took some courses in creative writing at the extended learning department of Edinburgh University and then with Golden Egg.
I joined SCBWI Scotland, which made me part of a wonderful writing community and I was selected for Undiscovered Voices, their showcase of new writing, in 2020. My Undiscovered Voices book didn’t get picked up, but it did give me the confidence to send Delores Mackenzie to an open submission at Firefly Press, and they liked it!

Love story: Who, or what, do you really care about?

I have phenomenal family and friends (I include my dog Toby in that!) so they’ll always come first, but I love all things North, the idea of North, of Northern skies. I grew up in Cumbria, live in Scotland and have travelled to Alaska, Canada, Norway and Iceland and I just can’t get over that feeling of standing at the edge of the world, of the massive skies and there’s something about the air the further north you go that fills me with joy. I do have an idea for a book in a wild northern setting, but the idea is still forming so I’ll wait a while.

Adventure story: What has been your most exciting adventure yet?

I’m very happy to say I’ve had lots of exciting adventures, so this is a tough choice, but I think it would be wild camping in Alaska. I’ve never been so cold in my life, but we saw bears, wolves, the amazing Northern Lights and some of the most breath-taking landscapes you could imagine. Worth every frozen moment of it!

Old Story: What were your favourite books as a child?

I still have my book of Fairy Tales and it has my mum’s handwriting in it so it’s extra special.
I read it so many times, cover to cover, but always lingered over the darker stories and the villains. I also relished books that had midnight feasts, banquets or picnics in them, even the dreaded Hansel and Gretel house. I put lots of food in my stories and I love writing all the tiny details. I remember buying a copy of Greyfriars Bobby on a school trip and it made me absolutely sob – who knew I’d be writing my own stories in Bobby’s Edinburgh all this time later!

Bedtime story: What’s your bedtime reading at the moment, and what’s next?

I always have a bedtime book and a daytime book. I’m currently reading What Walks These Halls by Amy Clarkin at night, and I’ve just finished the wonderful Haarville by Justin Davies. I think I’ll start The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon next; the beautiful cover illustration alone makes me want to dive in!

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