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Janis Mackay — Author Interview — Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret

Posted on 02/04/2012 in Author Interviews

In case you missed it, here’s the interview with Janis Mackay, author of Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret.

Q: Did you always want to be an author?
Janis Mackay [JM]:Yes – I did, ever since I was very young – but I became a journalist thinking that here was a ‘proper’ job, plus I could still be a writer!

Q. What is the best thing about being an author?
JM: Having huge freedom to express, develop and school your imagination. It is also wonderful to go round schools and meet children and encourage them to believe in their imaginations. There is nothing quite like story. It is sacred, powerful and something that unites us.

Q. What inspired you to write Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret?
JM: Thinking about the natural development of Magnus Fin’s life – I imagined he could well fall into the unwelcome glare of celebrity culture. If you are a ‘bit different’ it could well happen that snooping journalists might want to thrust you into the public eye. For the selkies such publicity could spell their death knell. Also, I wanted to bring lots of strands together. So Magnus Fin loves beach-combing – what if he found more than he bargained for? I also wanted to link in with the first book and tie up elements because soon Magnus Fin will be twelve – and I imagined the selkie adventures as really taking place in this in-between world I called ‘the world between worlds’ – that Magnus Fin inhabits when he is eleven.

Q. Who is your favourite character from the Magnus Fin books?
JM: All of them for different reasons. I love Tarkin for his enthusiasm and quirky nature. I love Aquella for her feminine selkie soul. I love the crab for his cheeky, mysterious humour and great power in one so small. I love Barbara for all she’s been through, and for her guitar playing and cake baking. I love Ragnor for his mysterious origins and for his stories and farm work. I love Granny May because she’s a bit of a gossip and likes line dancing. I like Billy Mole because he just wants to make something of his life. I love Miranda because she represents the wild free spirit that is in all of us. I like Mr Sargent for his dress sense and wobbly cheeks. I love Neptune for his oceanic majesty and of course I love Magnus Fin for being a boy in this world who knows there are other worlds out there – and who is brave enough to stand on the edge of the known world and jump into the unknown.

Q. How do you decide what the cover of your book looks like?
JM: That’s mostly a collaborative thing. Actually I prefer other people deciding. I love words and stories but I think people with a more visual artistic eye have a sense for book covers. I love that the three books have different colours – the blue book, the purple book and the gold book. And I love that you never see Magnus Fin’s face – so children’s imagination can have any face they want for Magnus Fin.

Q. The Magnus Fin books take place in the north of Scotland. What is you favourite place in Scotland?
JM: Just one? If I had to say one place then I’d probably say Edinburgh – but if I can have a few more choices I would add – Camusdarach Beach, Smirisary, Tyninghame beach, Strathy beach, Dunbeath Strath, Balnakeil beach, Iona – and the beach in Dunbeath in Caithness where Magnus Fin lives.

Q. What is your favourite water sport?
JM: Thurso in Caithness has big waves and sometimes have the world championship cold water surfing competition there. That is amazing to see. But the most I have done is try wind surfing and fall off!

Q. There’s a very nosy journalist in Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
JM: Well – I was one you know. Plus I trained as a journalist in London when I was only 19. They sent us out into Oxford Street to ask people on the street nosy questions and sometimes I tried hard to be a journalist but looking back it was a bit of a joke. So perhaps some of the inspiration for dear old Billy Mole came from me!

Q. Are you working on a book at the moment?
JM: Yes! I have actually just finished it. It has got not one drop of sea water in it!

Q. What book (other than the Magnus Fin books) would you recommend all children to read before they grow up?
JM: Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Celtic and Scottish fairy tales – ideally have them told to you. I read a good quote the other day – “If you want your child to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want your child to be a genius, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein.

Thanks Janis!

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