They all said that Bangladesh would be an experience ...
For Anne Hamilton, a three-month winter programme of travel and "cultural exchange" in a country where the English language, fair hair, and a rice allergy are all extremely rare was always going to be interesting, challenging, and frustrating. What they didn't tell Anne was that it would also be sunny, funny, and the start of a love affair with this unexplored area of Southeast Asia.
A Blonde Bengali Wife shows the lives beyond the poverty, monsoons, and diarrhoea of Bangladesh and charts a vibrant and fascinating place where one minute Anne is levelling a school playing field "fit for the national cricket team," and then cobbling together a sparkly outfit for a formal wedding the next. Along with Anne are the essential ingredients for survival: a travel-savvy Australian sidekick, a heaven-sent adopted family, and a short, dark, and handsome boy-next-door.
During her adventures zipping among the dusty clamour of the capital Dhaka, the longest sea beach in the world at Cox's Bazaar, the verdant Sylhet tea gardens, and the voluntary health projects of distant villages, Anne amasses a lot of friends, stories ... and even a husband?
A Blonde Bengali Wife is the ‘unexpected travelogue’ that reads like a comedy of manners to tell the other side of the story of Bangladesh.
All money earned from A Blonde Bengali Wife goes direct to the charity, Bhola's Children, of which the author and agent are active participants. A Blonde Bengali Wife isn't about Bhola but it is a tribute to Anne's journeys into Bangladesh and all the friends she has made there. Most of all, it is the story of the country that inspired Bhola's Children.
Author: Anne Hamilton
Title: A Blonde Bengali Wife
Publishers: Anne Hamilton
Publication Date: 3rd November 2015
Author Guest Post
Welcome to Sincerely Book Angels
What was the inspiration behind this book?
My very first trip to Bangladesh in 2002. I kept a diary whilst I was there as a volunteer with the Irish organisation Voluntary Service International (VSI) and initially I just expected to use the notes to write up my reflections on the experience. But I had so many stories and met so many ‘characters’ it spiralled out of control and ended up as A Blonde Bengali Wife.
Did you always want to be a writer?
In hindsight I realise that I’ve always written. I remember, aged 6, writing my first proper story at school. I retold the tale of ‘The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg’ and I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or my teacher – I hadn’t shown much interest in school work before that!
What other jobs have you had?
When I was at college I spent my holidays working as a National Express stewardess on the coach between Norwich and London; I was the one serving tea and sandwiches as we sped along the motorway. I was actually studying to be a social worker, and I worked with children and families for a long time, then moved into community health. I got a qualification in epidemiology and that’s what eventually led me to working in rural health and social projects in Bangladesh.
How did it feel when your first book was published?
Truthfully? It was something of an anti-climax. My little boy was born the very same week and, obviously, everything else went over my head for a while! The highlight was the book launch in Edinburgh; there was a huge crowd, A Blonde Bengali Wife was very well-received – and the baby slept peacefully in his car seat throughout. The excitement I do remember was getting an agent. Dinah Wiener invited me to her home; she loved the book, we clicked, and cliché or not, I left walking on air. Dinah, now mostly retired, remains a great friend.
Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?
I get stuck on different scenes or chapters sometimes, and end up deleting far more words than creating them, but luckily I’ve never had a total block where I can’t write anything. If I’m simply bored, or uninspired, I push on and get down the bare bones of what I want to say – I can come back later and edit. When I realise I’m going round and round in circles, I revert to my notebook and pen and doodle some notes – it tricks my mind into thinking I’m not writing and curiously works.
What motivates you to keep writing?
I sometimes wonder that myself. All I know is that the desire to write outweighs the desire not to – even when it’s all going wrong, when I’ve had a spate of rejections and when I doubt I have any ability, I’m still writing.
Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa?
All the time! With A Blonde Bengali Wife, the ‘characters’ are real people, of course, but writing about them – originally and in this current re-edit – never fails to lift my mood. As a travel memoir, it reminds me of some very happy days and enough time has passed for me to don rose-coloured glasses for even the frustrating and challenging times.
What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write. Stop thinking, dreaming, plotting, talking about it and get some words down on paper.
Create. Write your story and don’t worry too much about your spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can always find someone to help you with the technical aspects of writing but only you have the unique take on your story.
Enjoy. You have to love what you’re writing. If you write with passion and enthusiasm that will come through; if you are bored or insincere, you lose something… and you’ll certainly lose your readers.
Which authors inspire you?
I spend a lot of my time mentoring writers and helping them edit their first novels. I also tutor creative writing. Because of my work – which I love – I find it very hard to read like a reader as opposed to reading like a writer (editing and correcting in my head). Any author who can pull me into a story so that I forget the language, the format, the ‘making’ of the novel, really inspires me. I appreciate so many of the classics but I can identify more easily with contemporary writers. Recently, Scarlett Thomas, Barbara Kingsolver and Patrick Gale have all captured my imagination.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading and enjoying the eBook, The Infinity Pool, by Jessica Norrie. I’m also re-reading Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things. This was the inspiration for the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I loved – I wanted to see if the film had in any way altered the way I read the book.
If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits?
Adele doing a cover version of George Harrison’s Song 'Just Bangladesh.'
Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book?
Can I play myself? That would be an experience… good or bad, I’m not sure! (And more so since I’m not an actor). I recently saw an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca at the theatre and the second Mrs de Winter was played by Imogen Sage. She would be perfect for the character I would want me made into… if that makes any sense.
What is your next book about?
I’m just revising my first novel, Chasing Elena. It’s set on Cyprus and is dual narrative: in 1974, ten year old Elena was taken from England to the war zone the island had become. Thirty years later, her childhood friend, April, goes looking for her. But April has a whole lot of other things going on in her life and what she finds on Cyprus isn’t necessarily what she expects...
Thanks for joining us today Anne and good luck with the book.
Book Angel x
About the Author
Twitter: @AnneHamilton7 and @Anne_ABBW
Website: WriteRight Editing Services: www.annehamilton.co.uk
Magazine: www.lothianlife.co.uk and @LothianLife