• Ross MacKenzie

    Ross MacKenzie



    FEBRUARY 2020

    ROSS MACKENZIE's (The Nowhere Emporium) latest novel, EVERNIGHT, is an enchanting adventure for 10+ readers that explores themes of power, friendship and belief in oneself. Its Victorian setting gives it a Dickensian feel, although the story is steeped in fantasy and magic, and its villains are satisfyingly dark.

    We asked author ROSS MACKENZIE to tell us more about EVERNIGHT:

    Q: Who are your writing heroes? And which authors from your childhood have had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

    A: I have so many! Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Charles Dickens; the list goes on and on! But the writer who made the biggest impression on me when I was young was Roald Dahl. The Witches is the book that made me want to be a writer.

    Q: What has been your best moment ever during your writing career?

    A: It'll be difficult to top the moment I first found out that I was going to be a real-life author, with a real book in a real book shop! I still get shivers thinking about it.

    Q: In one sentence, if you can! What is your latest fantasy novel Evernight about?

    A: Evernight is a Victorian-flavoured story about a girl called Lara who, while treasure hunting in the sewers under a great city, discovers an ancient treasure that catapults her into an a world of forbidden magic, smuggled spells and a man who casts no shadow.

    The story was inspired by the real-life sewer hunters (toshers) of Victorian London - brave and adventurous souls!

    Q: How long did it take to develop your world of Kings Haven, where the book is set?

    A: King's Haven is a combination of lots of places. Victorian London is the biggest influence, but there are tiny flashes of Paris and Barcelona and other great cities too. It didn't take me too long to flesh it all out, because it seemed like King's Haven was a real place just waiting in my head to be discovered.

    Q: Can you tell us about your main character, Lara, and what is special about her?

    A: Lara has spent almost her entire life surviving the cold, rough streets of the city. She is fierce, and fiercely loyal - don't mess with her! But she's also spent her life wondering where she came from, what her history is and where she belongs. As the book unfolds, she begins to find some of the answers.

    Q: Lara is a 'tosher', one of the children who collects things that have been lost in the sewers of the city. What inspired you to give her this background?

    A: When I first read about toshers (who were real people back in the Victorian era), it was like someone lit a fuse in my imagination and all these sparks of idea and story began fizzing around, demanding I write them. It's a wonderful feeling as a writer to find your next idea. You never know when it might arrive.

    Q: Did any of the supporting characters in the novel become unexpectedly important?

    A: Joe Littlefoot (Lara's close friend) originally had a very different fate to what we see in the finished book. Let's leave it at that!

    Q: Did you enjoy turning around the idea of magic, so the White Magic in your story is used for bad ends and so-called 'Hags magic' is good?

    A: I like the idea that White Witch magic is cold and sterile and unimaginative, while Hag magic is wild and colourful and free. It just seemed to fit the story and the world, and was fun to play around with.

    Q: What is your favourite magical moment in the story?

    A: (Spoilers!) There is a scene where we find exactly how Mrs Hester keeps herself so young. It's very creepy and disturbing and I loved writing it - I don't know what that says about me but there we are!

    Q: There are some very dark moments and characters in Evernight. Did you set out to explore leadership and corruption in the novel?

    A: I didn't set out specifically to do that, but I think as Lara's story developed, it began to call for a couple of those issues to be addressed - particularly the disparity between the rich and poor, because Lara comes from the slums and faces a day to day struggle just to survive.

    Ultimately though, I didn't write with a message in mind. I don't think I could do that. I write the story in my head, and this was Lara's.

    Q: Who is your favourite bad guy in the story, and why?

    A: I do like Shadow Jack, because as his story unfolds, we see that he's not just a "bad guy". You rarely find a person in the real world who is either all good or all bad, and those are the sort of characters I try to create. Shadow Jack is dangerous, of that there is no doubt. But that's not the whole story...

    Q: Will there be a sequel to Evernight?

    A: Yes!

    Q: What are you writing now?

    A: The sequel...

    Q: When you're not writing, what do you do to relax?

    A: Spend time with my family and friends, go to the gym, and watch movies and box sets.

    Q: What are you reading now? Any recommendations for our ReadingZone members?

    A: I've just finished The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius, which has instantly become one of my favourite ever children's books. It's a globe trekking mystery with gorgeous writing, wonderful characters and illustrations so beautiful I'd happily hang them on the walls of my house. Stunning.