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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I interview the lovely Ebony McKenna (in person)

On Thursday 8th April I got to do something very exciting indeed. I travelled into central London to interview Ebony McKenna the author of Ondine: The Summer of Shambles. This opportunity was courtesy of the lovely Alistair at Egmont Books and through the power of Twitter.
Ebony flew over from her home in Melbourne, Australia to promote her debut novel and part of her book tour was meeting moi!
I can't tell you how crazy nervous and excited I was the day before as I have been following Ebony's blog since I reviewed Ondine and she has been following mine. Really it was more like meeting a friend for a coffee than an interview but it was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon and it totally rocked.

We met at Patisserie Valerie just off Leicester Square. After the introductions and the arrival of our order we settled down to chat and for me to ask question after question. It was brilliant.

Me: Is this your first visit to the UK?
Ebony: No, this is actually my fourth.
Me: Really?
Ebony: Sure. I came here as a child. I also came once with my boyfriend and then for my honeymoon. [She ticks them off her fingers] Same guy. I married the boyfriend.
Me: Really. Awww...that's great. [I'm thinking she's a real romantic] So how has the book tour been? How do you feel seeing Ondine out there?
Ebony: It has been so great. I really wanted to come and meet the people that have worked so hard on Ondine. I wanted to thank them in person and show my appreciation. It has been just brilliant and all the folks at Egmont are fab. I just love the cover of the book. The girl who designed it, Emma. I saw her and ran had to hug her.
Me: The cover is gorgeous. [I get my finished copy out of my bag] I love the foils. They are so shiny. [I know, I'm lame]
Ebony: Yes and the heart. The heart is just beautiful. On one of the flats they sent me there was a silhouette of Brugel the city where Ondine is set. I really loved it but it was just too much. Maybe they'll get the chance to use it on Book 2.
Me: At the moment do you just have the two book deal with Egmont because I can see a whole six/ seven book series of Ondine adventures?
Ebony: Yes two books at the moment. We have to see how they fly. There is no knowing how they'll be received so we have to wait and see. But Ondine is out there and it is so exciting. I went to Waterstones and spoke to the booksellers and signed lots of copies and they got the special sticker, you know?
Me: Yes, signed books are great. [Laughing] I'm always on the lookout for signed books for giveaways so maybe other bloggers are too.
Ebony: Ooh yes, that's good. All those reviews coming through. It is so exciting to think other people are reading about my book and maybe they will tell their friends and then copies will be sold.
Me: I'm sure. Ondine isn't like any other book out there. Although it is a love story with the paranormal twist [we are both laughing because of Shambles/Hamish - the ferret], it is different because it is funny and you know what word describes your book best? Charming. Yep, charming is definitely the perfect word for Ondine.
Ebony: [Laughing] Thanks, thanks so much. I'm so glad you get it. When I read your review, I was so happy because I thought she gets it.
Me: And when I read it, I thought I know who would love this book. Nina, from Happy Endings. Ondine is just so Nina. She wrote a lovely review, didn't she?
Ebony: She really did [and then quotes her favourite line. I'm thinking reviews really matter to authors. We bloggers don't realise just how much]. Then there was that one that well it wasn't bad but it wasn't brilliant either. I blogged about it. Do you remember?
Me: Me, yes I remember but I still don't think it was bad and just because one person doesn't get it doesn't make it any less of a good book. We all have tastes and so not every book will appeal to every person.
Ebony: Yeah, you're right. It reminds me of that review you wrote. The one about the ship.
Me: Star of the Sea? Yeah, I thought that was the most boring book on Earth. [We both laugh]. But my husband really liked it. Weird.
So back to my questions. It says on your website that you've written books before but that Ondine was that first one to get published. What was different about Ondine? Is it a case of your writing progressing or just being in the right place at the right time?
Ebony: Well I had written six books before Ondine. Three sci-fi books that I had with an agent but after a year of trying we just couldn't sell them. I think maybe my writing has improved but with Ondine I was just writing it for me. I didn't have a clue where it would fit with the market but I just went with it. Sometimes I would feel like I was keeping up with Ondine and Hamish as I saw the story playing out in front of me.
Me: So is this the first YA specific book you've written?
Ebony: Yes the others were all adult and the romance books I wrote [she whispers] were rude [we both giggle].
Me: Well Ondine is very innocent although it deals with lots of issues faced by teens today. Egmont are marketing it as 12+ do you think that's the right audience? I mean there isn't really any sexual content. Just one kiss and lots of emotions.
Ebony: Oh, but what a kiss? [We are laughing]
Me: Indeed.
Ebony: When I was at one of the events, a parent said to me that she didn't want her eleven year old daughter reading about boyfriends. I thought hmmm...that's fair enough.
Me: Really, I'm surprised. [I'm thinking. I bet the daughter wanted to read about boyfriends. It's the librarian in me]
Ebony: The book event was great. We had these huge cupcakes to entice people into the shop and then I talked to them about the book. There was a steady flow of people.
Me: That's great. So what other things have you had to do as part of the tour?
Ebony: Well a lot of talking to book sellers. The really important thing is to get them to stock it. That's the biggest battle. Egmont has done some special deal with Waterstones so Ondine is on the tables. I'm so excited. Not only is it in there, it is on the tables.
Me: That's great. What books was it next to?
Ebony: [Gets her camera out of the bag and shows me a photo] Look there she is. Next to Gone, Dr Proctor's Fart Powder and a Meg Cabot.
Me: Ah yes, Gone is another another Egmont book.
Ebony: Yes and so are these. [She reels off titles that I wish I could remember, she continues] Then I also did a talk and signing at Slough library which was great. Alistair introduced me and said I had come all the way from Australia.
Me: Had they had the chance to read the book?
Ebony: Yes. Alistair had organised so that the library had something like twenty copies. [I'm thinking Alistair is very good at his job.] The kids had some very good questions. One asked me what I would change if I could change anything about Ondine. I said the beginning. I think there was too much exposition.
Me: Can you be more specific?
Ebony: I just think it went on too long. I should have jumped right it. I waffled. [I laugh. I think there are a lot of people guilty of that!] With book two, we are just going through a big edit. We chopped off the first two chapters. [She proceeds to tell me how it begins but I'm not going to give spoilers].
Me: Tell me about your writing group.
Ebony: Well we meet once a month and it really helps me to stay motivated. We have a reward system with chocolate. We spend a day together doing all kinds of things. Sometimes focusing on critiquing each other's work. Once we even had a session on writing query letters to agents.
Me: I need to get me one of these writing group things. So how is your writing day?
Ebony: In the morning I've learnt not to check my emails until I've done some writing. I mean over here everyone is asleep when I'm awake so I've realised I don't need to. I write until about 11 and then I do my other job which is turning episodes of a cookery show into a readable format for the internet.
Me: That sounds really cool. You know how much I love Australian TV. So this is a cliche but I need to know. Do all the guys have blond hair and look like surfers?
Ebony: [Laughing] Yeah pretty much.
Me: [Sigh] So do you have a pool? What's your house like?
Ebony: No we don't have a pool. My son keeps asking for one. My inlaws have a pool and they are ten minutes away. Our house is what you would call a bungalow but it is just normal. We live in the suburbs of the city. We don't have kangaroos but we do have kookaburras.
Me: Cool. [Dreaming of a life in Summer Bay.]
Ebony: Sometimes it is so hot, you can't go outside.
Me: Do the kids still have to go to school on those days?
Ebony: Yeah.
Me: [Surprised] I guess they have air conditioning.
Ebony: [Nodding] In most parts of the school.
Me: Okay, I'll stop digressing now. Back to my questions. Lately I've read some comments from bloggers that the family unit isn't realistically presented in YA. I mean most families function perfectly well. What do you think about that?
Ebony: Well I never set out to write a study of family life but family is definitely an important source of conflict in Ondine. She's the baby. She wants to have the same freedom as her sisters. She wants to be treated like an adult but he dad is over-protective. He wants to keep her safe.
Me: Exactly and that is how most kids experience family life. Over protective parents and annoying siblings.
Ebony: When I first thought of Ondine, she was an orphan for all of two seconds. It is easier to get rid of the parents but I think conflict should come from within.
Me: I agree. I can't stand all of these love triangle stories at the moment. It seems like a cop-out. You know Vampire Diaries. Do you have that in Australia?
Ebony: Yep.
Me: So are you Team Stefan or Team Damon?
Ebony: Damon of course.
Me: Really? I'm Team Matt. I don't understand why she doesn't choose the human guy.
Ebony: Seriously, I don't get the whole Stefan thing. If you're not going to embrace the whole blood-sucking thing, you may as well stake yourself. I mean he's lived for over 100 years. What he hasn't seen by this point probably isn't worth seeing, right?!
Me: That's hilarious. I love your viewpoint. I think that is the best thing anyone has ever said to me about vampires.
Ebony: I'm not advocating suicide or anything. But I mean, why wouldn't you just end it if you didn't enjoy being a vampire?
Me: [Laughing] I have never thought of it that way but it is a good point. I still prefer the human guy though. He is always so nice.
Ebony: [Laughing at me] Back to characters I think they should have that moment where they don't know how things will get better but the conflict should be internal not something caused by someone else. An inner battle.
Me: Definitely.
Ebony: This has been such a fantastic end to my tour. Thank you so much.
Me: It's been brilliant. Thank you and lots of luck with Ondine.

Then we walked back to Leicester Square tube stop. It was really just the best way to spend an afternoon. Ebony was as wonderful in real life as she is on her blog. I want to say a huge big THANK YOU to Alistair for making the interview possible. I loved every minute of it.

For those of you who haven't had the chance to read the Amazon blurb for Ondine: The Summer of Shambles, here it is:
Still need convincing? Read my review here.
This is a brilliantly witty fairy tale with a mystery that is as surreal as it is sinister. One girl. One boy. One spell to be broken. Ondine de Groot is a normal fifteen-year-old who lives with her family in the European country of Brugel. She has a pet ferret called Shambles. But Shambles is no ordinary ferret...He's Hamish McPhee, a boy cursed by a witch. A witch who happens to be related to Ondine. When Shambles turns back into Hamish temporarily, Ondine knows that she has to help him break the spell. He is the most gorgeous boy she has ever met and her one true love! He just can't remain a ferret forever. Can he?

You can buy Ondine: The Summer of Shambles from Amazon and The Book Depository.

You can follow Ebony McKenna on Twitter @EbonyMcKenna or on her blog. You can also find out more about her on her website.


Kay (Dead Book Darling) said...

It looks like you guys had a great time! I have only had a chance to skin this, but Ebony seems rather hysterical! Will have to sit down and read the whole thing later today.

Christina/Book Addict said...

This is awesome! What a great opportunity for you and awesome interview. I will now be adding this book to my TBR pile. I love the Vampire Diaries references. Team Matt- that's awesome! I am over love triangles as well!

Leah said...

What an enjoyable interview! I bought Ondine myself after reading a review somewhere (maybe here?) and I can't wait to read it as it sounds fab!

LovesSam said...

That is so cool that you got to meet her in person and spend the afternoon with her, I would have been extremely excited. And the photos are fab as is the interview, gald you had such a good time! Thanks for the interesting thoughtful questions!

Kris (Voracious YAppetite) said...

Every time I come to your blog it's like a special treat. I would love to do an in-person interview! It seems so fun. What she said about vamps is totally true. I haven't heard someone just come out and say it! I like her take on parents and inner conflict, too. When I think up stories in my head (don't laugh, we all do it!), I am guilty of killing parents off just go get them out of the way. But when I don't, it makes the daydreaming a lot more interesting and realistic. Great interview Becky!

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Wow, what a great interview! I haven't read the book, but I really enjoyed the interview - it was like eavesdropping on a chat, hehehe. ;)

Luisa at Chicklish said...

What a fantastic interview! I love the pics, too. Wonderful!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Hello Becky - and your fabulous readers - I had such a wonderful time in London. It was all over too soon!

I had such a great time meeting you. It felt like we'd only been talking for half an hour and yet it was closer to two and a half! I would be hopeless doing those 'junkets' where you do a whole stream of 10 minute interviews in one day. The PR honcho would be saying 'next' and I'd be saying 'we're not finished' hahahahaha

And for the gourmets out there, that custard tart was DIVINE!

MargaretM said...

Just received my copy of Ondine in the mail and I loved it!! Who'd have imagined a ferret as hero material :)

prophecygirl said...

Great interview Becky! I'm so glad it went well - you both look like you had a great time! :)