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Interview with Now Novel debut novelist Christine Bhasin

We chat to Now Novel writer Christine Bhasin who has just published her first novel, Number 81

Christine Bhasin wanted to write for a long time, but life and children took over. She took the plunge into writing when she hit 60. She joined Now Novel where she has been able to receive feedback on her chapters as she wrote.

Christine Bhasin

Now 65, she has been steadily at work on her novel, Number 81. She sent it off for editing late last year, and has she has published it on Amazon. She says that the story was inspired to write the novel after researching her family tree. The writing of the novel was interrupted by having a stroke in 2021 and spending three months in hospital. She already at work on researching another book, titled ‘Caroline’.

Review of Number 81 by Jessica Fisher Riches

Number 81 is a unique gem: part historical fiction, part cozy modern research mystery, part ghost story. The multiple threads are woven into a charming story about family, redemption and hope.

Christine Bhasin’s novel, begun as simple research into her own family tree, is a carefully researched window into Shrewsbury’s past, played out by richly drawn characters, both historical and imagined. Streets, homes and pubs from the past come alive as we follow characters in different walks of life navigate the ups and downs of life in the early twentieth century. The drama of the past unfolds as a contemporary character, Kate, moves into a new home and discovers its secrets. The links between the two time periods are charmingly connected through both artifacts and a ghost with unfinished business.

I loved the combination of genres, the modern story tempering some of the more bittersweet sections of the historical part with humor and hope. Plus a bit of romance!  Just a gem.

The interview

Now Novel writer Arja Salafranca asked Christine some questions about her book and her writing process.

Is this your first book? Tell us about your book.

Yes, this is my first book. I was inspired to write the book after researching my family tree for 10 years. A great-grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1912, leaving his daughter behind. I grew up in Shrewsbury, England. It’s a medieval market town; luckily, several books have been published about its history. I spent a year researching and walking around the town to get my ideas together. I started writing in 2018. It’s an historical/genealogy mystery. 

On process

Do you outline, are you a plotter or pantser? How do you carve out time to write?

I’m definitely a plotter. I decide the aim of each scene in moving the plot forward.

I can write and concentrate better in the mornings. I put my phone on silent and have a cup of tea and a biscuit beside me. 

I’m 65 and retired. I don’t write daily, but I probably think about my ideas most days.

Where do you write?

I previously wrote in a spare bedroom, but I have been writing from my raised armchair since my stroke.

Advice for writers

Do you have any tip(s) for aspiring writers?

Writing a book takes a long time, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a week. Set yourself realistic targets to complete a chapter or write so many words.

Before I finish writing, I try to write down an idea of where I might go next. 

Believe in yourself and your ideas.

What do you wish you’d known before writing/publishing?

What a long journey it was from my idea to publication. From 2018-2024

What is that one special quality a writer needs?


A book to recommend

Do you have any writing books that you’d recommend?

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman. This is about how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Skylarks at Sunset by Rita Bradshaw. Since my stroke, I have looked for easy reads, and she fulfils my needs.

Who is your favourite author?

Paula Hawkins. The Girl on the Train, and Into the Water.

Read a Guardian review of this latest psychological novel from Hawkins.

Read a Now Novel post on how Paula Hawkins uses rising action in her fiction.

Are you on social media? How do you use it?

I’m not on social media but my daughters have helped me get some publicity for my book.

Inviting writers to dinner

If you could invite a few writers to dinner (past or present) who would they be? Why? What would you serve?

I’d invite Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Alexandre Dumas, and Beatrix Potter. 

Charles Dickens because he was so good at creating characters. Charlotte Bronte because I studied Jane Eyre at school and love a poor girl/rich man romance. Alexandre Dumas because I love The Three Musketeers and have watched it on TV many times. Beatrix Potter because I think she was just a lovely lady. I would serve a Chicken Tikka Masala curry to show what a multicultural society England is now.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my second book, ‘Caroline’, which is inspired by the life of a three-times grandmother. 

Anything to add?

I’ve realised even after suffering a stroke, I can still achieve things and get a bit of the ‘old me’ back.

I’d like to thank everyone at Now Novel for the help and encouragement they have given me.

To purchase a copy of Number 81 click here.

Would you like to start a novel and don’t know where to start? Consider joining Group Coaching to start and finish a book in six months. Alternatively, you may have finished a book and need editing. View our editing packages. If you would like to join a Writer’s Room and get feedback from both Arja Salafranca and other writers, consider joining us for this, too.

By Arja Salafranca

Arja Salafranca has published a collection of short stories, three collections of poetry and has edited anthologies of prose. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

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