Ross MacKenzie answers some questions about his new book Evernight. Thanks to Ross, Andersen Press, and Reading Time reviewer Libby Boas for this interview.
Why did you decide to make birds the symbol of witches opposed to other animals such as the traditional cats?
I have a bit of a fascination with birds, actually. I think, for me, they’re a symbol of freedom and grace and life, and that marries well with the wild Witches in the world of Evernight.
What inspired you to make Lara a tosher who treasure hunts in the sewers?
I’m a history geek, and my favourite period to research is the Victorian era – particularly Victorian London. It was such an incredible, wild, dangerous place, filled with shadows and danger and unsavoury characters. A lot of the time, voices from history tell us stories far stranger than anything we could imagine, and this is certainly true of the Victorians. While I was reading a book by a Victorian author called Henry Mayhew, I discovered that toshing was a real job. I could picture these brave souls so clearly in my mind, descending into the dark sewer tunnels with only a gas lamp and their wits to guide them, and I just knew I had to write about it – but in my own way!
Joe’s grandmother could read tea leaves to predict the future. Would you consider her a witch? If so, is it possible that Joe is a witch as well but he hasn’t realised yet?
That’s a very good and perceptive question. I wouldn’t say Granny is a Witch as such. The way I see it, there’s so much magic in the world of Evernight that there are bound to be a small number of everyday people who are sort of ‘tuned in’ to it. People like Granny exist on the very edges of the world of witchcraft. Their gifts are weak and unreliable compared to a genuine Witch, but still come in handy. Sadly, Joe hasn’t inherited Granny’s gift.
How long did it take you to write this book?
About four months for the first draft. It used to take me much longer, but the more I write, the more the stories seem to want to spill out in a hurry!
Did you always think you would be an author?
Ever since I was nine-years-old, being an author is the only thing I’ve wanted to do. I have Roald Dahl to thank for that. His book The Witches was the one that lit the spark in my head. I still read it today, and it makes me feel like I’m nine all over again. The reason I write stories at all is that I want to make people feel the way I felt when I discovered the magic of The Witches. That book changed my life.
What is your favourite childhood book/series?
Going by my last answer, it would have to be The Witches! But there are just so many great books and authors who influence me, including Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Phillip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Charles Dickens… if you have a spare couple of years I could list them all!
Read Libby’s review of Evernight here