Bethan Gwanas

Bethan Gwanas (born 16 January 1962) is a popular contemporary Welsh author, who publishes exclusively in the Welsh language. A prolific writer, she has had 17 titles published in the last decade. Whilst not just a fiction writer, she has written novels for teenagers and Welsh learners, though most of her recent work has been for adults.

She graduated in French from Aberystwyth University, and in 1985 she won the Crown at the Urdd Eisteddfod. Having lived for periods in places as diverse as Bethesda, Cardiff, Nigeria and France, she has now returned to Rhydymain, very close to her childhood roots.

Childhood
Bethan grew up in Brithdir, near Dolgellau in North Wales, and on transferring to secondary school attended Ysgol y Gader, Dolgellau.

Her favourite book as a child was Brownie Tales by Enid Blyton. She still has the book today, although its spine was damaged when her new puppy (a Welsh collie, named Del) took a liking to it.

Professional background
Before achieving success as an authoress, Bethan formerly worked as a teacher (French, English and outdoor activities – she was a deputy head at the Urdd Centre at Glan-llyn, near Bala), and also as a research assistant and producer on Radio Cymru.

In 2003 she gave up her job as a literature promoter with Gwynedd Council in order to concentrate full-time on her writing.

Her first book, a factual account of her experiences whilst working with VSO in Nigeria, was published in 1997. Since then she has had work aired on radio and TV, and her book Amdani! (Go for it!) – a novel about a women’s rugby team – inspired four series on S4C. Bethan wrote all but the last series. Following the success of Amdani she also wrote a stage play (written with Script Cymru, and including music and songs), where the publicity describes it as “Sex, mud and rugby from a female perspective.” For this, Script Cymru received a major ACW Audience Development Award for work in the Welsh language.

On two occasions her work has won the Tir na n-Og prize for Best Fiction of the Year (for Llinyn Trôns and Sgôr). This prize is awarded annually by the Welsh Books Council.

Her novel Hi yw fy Ffrind (She is my Friend) reached the shortlist for Llyfr y Flwyddyn (Book of the Year) in 2005.

She is known for her informal style of writing, and her adult novels often contain sexual elements not normally associated with Welsh literature. Her novels also draw on some of her own experiences, such as when she lived in Bethesda and worked as a librarian (as does Blodwen Jones in that trilogy) and her experiences of outdoor education (featured in Llinyn Trôns). She refuses to be drawn on the question of quite how autobiographical are the childhood elements of Hi yw fy Ffrind.

She has also developed something of a reputation as a Welsh Michael Palin following her two S4C series Ar y Lein (On the Line) and Ar y Lein Eto (On the Line Again), in which she twice circumnavigated the world (though not continuously – she returned home during breaks in the filming). In the first series (2004) she followed line of latitude 52º north, the second series (2006) following line of longitude 5º west. These specific lines of latitude and longitude were chosen because they pass through Wales. At times her travels necessarily took her off these lines for geographical or political reasons, and on occasions variations were also made for the sake of interest. She kept a diary on both these trips, which were subsequently published to accompany the TV series. Her trips are characterised by falling in love with places to which she would dearly love to return some day.

For some years she has written a weekly column in Yr Herald Cymraeg, which is now published only on a Wednesday as an appendix to The Daily Post in North Wales. Her articles are known for their openness and honesty, and reveal much of Bethan’s private life. Some of these articles have also been published as compilations, namely as Byd Bethan (Bethan’s World) and as Mwy o Fyd Bethan (More of Bethan’s World).

Bethan was one of 10 contributors to the book Y Mynydd Hwn (This Mountain), published in 2002. This a volume of pictures and essays on the different mountains of Wales. Bethan writes about Cadair Idris, the mountain on her doorstep.

Bethan regularly guests on S4C and Radio Cymru, and also at literary events and workshops throughout Wales. She has written work for radio, and also for the stage, including an adaptation of Stags and Hens (by Willy Russell) into Welsh for Fran Wen theatre company, and an adaptation (in English) of Peter Pan for primary schools through the BBC’s education department.

When asked which three words best described her, she replied “Brwdfrydig, Prysur, Aflonydd” (enthusiastic, busy, restless).

She names her favourite Welsh-language authors as Islwyn Ffowc Elis and Geraint V Jones, and her favourite English-language authors as Roddy Doyle, Isabelle Allende, JK Rowling and Barbara Kingsolver.

She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Family background

Bethan’s real surname is Evans. She takes the name “Gwanas” (as did her father) from the home farm of that name, built in 1838.

Bethan’s grandparents lived at “Gwanas” from 1947 until 1971 when her grandfather decided to move to the nearby town of Dolgellau. In 1971, when she was nine, her parents moved in, having previously lived locally in Dolserau Terrace, Brithdir, and prior to that in a caravan behind Gwanas. As a child Bethan shared the attic bedroom with her two sisters, the other bedrooms being used for bed & breakfast guests.

In 2006 her brother Geraint and his family took over Gwanas.

Her father, Tom Evans, a baritone, has twice won the Rhuban Glas (Blue Ribbon) at the National Eisteddfod, and has sung in venues across the world, including the Sydney Opera House. He has released two albums, entitled Ave Maria and Encore, which include songs recorded in a number of European languages. Bethan, for her part, denies any singing talent.

Books

  • Amdani ! Y Lolfa
  • Dyddiadur Gbara Carreg Gwalch
  • Bywyd Blodwen Jones Gomer
  • Llinyn Trons Y Lolfa
  • Blodwen Jones a’r Aderyn Prin Gomer
  • Popeth am Gariad…wel, bron Gwasg Gwynedd
  • Sgôr Y Lolfa
  • Byd Bethan Gomer Tri Chynnig i Blodwen Jones Gomer
  • Ceri Grafu Accac /Y Lolfa
  • Gwrach y Gwyllt Gomer
  • Hi yw fy ffrind Y Lolfa (sequel – Hi oedd fy Ffrind – out soon)
  • Ar y Lein S4C
  • Mwy o Fyd Bethan Gomer
  • Pen Dafad Y Lolfa (English version out soon)

TV

  • 3 cyfres o Amdani Ffilmiau¹r Nant
  • Sali Mali & Jacydo Siriol

Stage Plays

  • Awe & Ffrîc Cwmni Fran Wen
  • Pantolig & Pantivity BBC

Radio

  • Baked beans & Salad Cream BBC Addysg Llundain