Author Q&A: Brenda Burling Reflects On Might Make You Smile

Brenda Burling released Might Make You Smile in April, but the journey of putting the book together was a much longer, more physically and emotionally exhausting, one. Collecting stories from people across the UK who had suffered from cancer was never going to be an easy task, even less so when hoping to extract the natural humor from an almost humourless situation. A true passion project for the author; it’s been great to work with Brenda, to get to know the people behind the stories and to help spread them. Brenda’s hope was to do exactly what the book said – to make people smile. Thankfully, her quest has not been in vain. The book is a success, with reviews and features across national press and radio that only further the reach of Might Make You Smile and Brenda’s cause.

Six months removed from the release, we sent Brenda a few questions for her to reflect on the book, the journey, the people and the finished project. This is what she had to say.

We’ll start with a simple one. Hi, Brenda, how are you? How’s life treating you?

Hi. I’m good, thank you. Life is pretty hectic at the moment. I have a couple of writing projects on the go, some talks scheduled and a book signing coming up.

We’re now six months removed from when Might Make You Smile was released. It’s not something we’ve discussed much before but, now that it’s out there, how has the book affected you?

It is funny. I am, even now, affected by the book and its conception. The writing of it was a truly emotional experience. One minute I’d be falling about laughing with the lovely people involved and the next floods of tears (ironically, the majority on my part). I became so close to so many people and their lives. They say every book written contains part of the author; writing being a very personal endeavour. This one truly does and is so very close to my heart.

It almost takes on a life of its own. How do you feel about your work and these stories being out there and affecting people?

I am deeply honoured and humbled that so many people are finding something positive from Might Make You Smile. I hope this continues and all continue being as passionate about it and any further books to come.

As a project, it seems to have grown too. Are more people getting in touch. Is there a second book in the works?

It does seem to be continuing and I have had a few people say ‘if you do another, I have a couple of stories that you might like.’ When a reviewer actually writes “it is positively crying out for a sequel” I guess that is all the motivation I need. Yes, there is to be a second book.As an author,

As an author, obviously, you continue to write. Is a potential follow up the only project you’re working on?

I have a couple of things in the pipeline but the sequel does seem to be at the forefront. I realise I love the process, the meeting of new people and connecting with others as much as the writing itself.

The book recently received quite a bit of press attention – you appeared on various BBC Radio programmes and the book was featured in magazines and newspapers – what was it like to see Might Make You Smile and its message spread like that?

It is so exciting to see the word being spread so far. I have found I quite enjoy talking, even on the radio and especially about something I am so passionate about. I have really enjoyed getting the contributors involved too.

As someone who isn’t used to that, it must have been a little surreal? In a good way, of course.

It is a very surreal thing seeing your name and picture in the national press and magazines but fortunately having a young family, everyday life keeps me constantly busy, there is no time to dwell too much.A number of the stories have been posted online – appearing most prominently in the Daily Mirror – and I know you hand-picked a lot of them, but which was your

A number of the stories have been posted online – appearing most prominently in the Daily Mirror – and I know you hand-picked a lot of them, but which was your favourite story to write and which one affected you the most when you first heard it?

It is so very hard to pick favourites, because when I was told each one there is even a story to the telling. I do, even now, laugh out loud at ‘Pammies’, ‘Green With Envy, Not So Much’, ‘Catch That’ and ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ to name but a few. Some of the ‘quieter’ ones are often the ones that have affected me the most when I heard them. ‘Chick, Chick Hair’, ‘White As A Ghost’ and ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, again to name but a few. Suffice to say I love each and every story and love the fact that so many people can relate to them.

10% of the sale from each copy of Might Make You Smile sold is donated to charity. I know that Brafternoon and the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity are causes that are close to your heart, how does it feel to know that your work is helping them continue to do what they do?

Helping and working for good causes is great, every little helps, but on a personal level I am hoping to do more. Getting involved with Brafternoon has been a real highlight. I know so many of the ladies and will continue to be involved and support them. Helen Rollason Cancer Charity is a great charity, doing great work and I hope to perhaps be involved with more charities in the future.

Finally, is there anything you would like to say to all of those who have bought, read and supported Might Make You Smile and also those who will enjoy the book in the future?

I would like to say to everyone who has bought, read and supported Might Make You Smile and to all the future readers a huge, very heartfelt Thank You. Humour can be a weapon and shared humour is twice as strong.

Might Make You Smile is available now from all good bookshops. Order today from Amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles and the Matthew James Publishing Website.