One reason Australian author Ebony McKenna scores a ten with her debut book Ondine: Summer of Shambles (Egmont UK Limited, 2010) and its sequel, Ondine: The Autumn Palace (Egmont UK Limited, 2011), is because she lets her delightfully witty personality shine through on every page. I hope you’ll also enjoy learning more about Ebony and some behind-the-scenes details about her books in this two-part interview. The second part is scheduled to run Thursday, so be sure to watch for it!
By the way, Ebony would like to send a signed copy of one of her books to two lucky winners. Contest details are at the end of this post. Did you miss last week's book review? It's available at http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/07/ondine-summer-of-shambles-and-autumn.html. And now for the interview ...
How did you come up with your ideas for the Ondine series?
I should have taken more notes at the time I started writing so that I'd be able to answer this question more carefully—and accurately! But at the time, I didn't know Ondine would be my break-out novel, so I didn't keep better records! At the time, I was editing Web content for some television shows, and one of them was an animals and pets show with a recent story about ferrets. So ferrets must have been in my subconscious. I also took long walks each day to pick my toddler up from day care. So on one of these walks, I suddenly had the image of a teen girl with long dark hair—wearing some kind of hoodie but really old fashioned—and she had an animal on her shoulder. The animal grew heavier and jumped down to the ground. He then transformed into a naked man, and I swear to you it all played out like a movie.
This type of make believe is incredibly normal for me, so at the time I didn't think anything of it. Except I giggled to myself and thought I had a dirty mind! I'd written six novels by this point, but none of them had landed me an agent or a publishing deal. I really didn't think this book would be any different.
Did you decide to have humorous footnotes early on or later in the writing process?
Again, I wish I'd paid better attention. I wanted the ferret to be really cheeky, but if I used too much slang nobody would know what was going on. So I put in a few footnotes—just for myself—so I could go back and try and weave in an explanation along the way. After about four footnotes, something took over and they seemed such a natural fit. Fiction with footnotes? Yes, by this point I was giggling away and feeling very silly. I was also starting to wonder if I might be on to something. So I kept the footnotes and made them crazier as I went along.
How did you know all of the wonderfully clever Scottish slang and phrases?
I didn't know all of them. Thanks to my Scottish heritage and friends, I knew a few, but the rest was research. There are so many hilarious Web sites with lists of Scottish slang—some of them are filthy! I laughed so hard I hurt. I'd take bits from here and there and then change the definitions to suit the way Hamish spoke. The more I got to know Hamish, the more his "voice" grew.
Did you consider any other animals besides a ferret for Hamish's enchanted form? If so, how did the ferret win out?
Yes, for a nanosecond. The animal was initially a rat, but then I changed my mind and he became a ferret. Once I decided he was a ferret, his personality grew so fast I knew I had to write the story down.
What was the hardest part about writing these books?
Writing a proper ending. At the time, I thought it would be a stand-alone novel, with a suggestion that Ondine and Hamish would have further adventures. Well, they're teenagers, there's an expectation that this would happen. But when my agent and publisher agreed on a two-book deal, it changed things.
I needed a proper ending for the first book, but with a definite plan for a second book that would see their relationship grow but also be put under strain. The pressure had to be something that would come from within, although they would also have external factors to negotiate. The second book was a joy to write, but I put myself under enormous pressure to really up the ante. I wanted people to enjoy the first book, but I had to make sure the second book was even better.
What message in your books do you hope will most resonate with your readers?
Oooh, that's an interesting question. I never intentionally put any "messages" in the book because I wanted to write something that was pure joy. I wrote these books so that readers could take time out from their crazy, stressful lives and have some fun. So perhaps the message is that it's OK to let the crazy in.
Can you share a little about your current work with us? Will you be writing more for the Ondine series?
I have written a strong outline for Ondine 3 and 4, and I'm most of the way through a draft for Ondine 3. However, the publishers (the fabulous Egmont UK) are cautious about further books until sales increase for the first two. I wish this wasn't the case, but in this economic climate, I can't blame them either.
In the past year and a bit I have written a time-travel romance called 1916ish. I am also near the end of an unrelated manuscript about a girl and her ghost called The Girl and The Ghost. Both these novels have humor, romance and a big slice of crazy. My agent is excited about them both and is confident she'll find a publisher on either side of the Atlantic to say "yes."
If readers could remember only one thing about you and your books, what would it be?
That girl, she makes me laugh.
Visit Ebony at http://ejmckennablog.blogspot.com/.
Here's how you can enter for up to eight chances to win:
+1 Become a new follower. (+2 If you're already a follower.)Then comment on this post with your point total and your e-mail address! If you commented on the book review, commenting on this post will give you an additional +1; give yourself another +1 for retweeting and another +1 for a new FB wall post.
+1 Subscribe to Bird's-eye View. (+2 If you're already a subscriber.)
+1 Tweet this contest.
+2 Follow my tweets.
+1 Post this on your Facebook wall.
+2 Like my Facebook fan page.
The contest will be open until 12:01 a.m. Aug. 7, and the winners (one for each book) will be announced the week of Aug. 7. Good luck!