We love celebrating books here at the Mafia! I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tania Unsworth about her book BRIGHTWOOD.
Middle Grade Mafia: What was your inspiration for BRIGHTWOOD?
Tania Unsworth: I’ve always been fascinated by the way children can normalize any situation – however strange – simply because they don’t have anything to compare it to. There’s something magical about that ability. My main character, Daisy, has never been outside her home, and so she has made it into a whole, complicated world. When that world is threatened by a sinister intruder, she’s forced to realize that her life isn’t normal at all. I wanted to write about that, the way the spell – so to speak – of childhood, is broken. I think all children go through a version of it, one way or another.
MGM: I loved how Daisy’s mother makes Day Boxes she fills with odds and ends to remind her of what happened each and every day. Where did you come up with the idea?
TU: I have a lot in common with Daisy’s mother. I understand the impulse to try to hold onto memories. When my first son was born, I started taking a polaroid of him every day, at the same time, 5pm. I wrote the date on each Polaroid, and stored them in rapidly expanding files. I did it for about four years. I wanted the Polaroids to be like pages in a flip book. If I could hold them all together, and flip through them really fast, I’d be able to remember how he changed from one day to the next. I’d have captured the story of him. I couldn’t of course – memory doesn’t work like that. I was almost grateful when Polaroid went out of business and I could abandon the attempt…
What is your writing process?
TU: I write ve-e-e-ry slowly. I wish I felt flow, but I don’t. I wish I could ‘just have fun’ but I can’t. It’s an anxious slog. But not writing is worse!
MGM: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?
TU: One of the best pieces of advice came from my father, the novelist Barry Unsworth. He told me that even though one may feel sick and tired of a book one is working on, the reader will be coming to it fresh. If you can just hold onto whatever excited you about the idea in the first place, hopefully your reader will be excited about it too.
MGM: How long was it from when you started writing this book until it was published?
TU: About eighteen months from the start to the publisher accepting the final draft.
MGM: Can you share a fun photo?