Friday, 11 March 2011

Featured on Friday: Ebony McKenna

Designed by the awesome Sara. Thank you!

Ebony McKenna lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and young son. Her first novel, Ondine: The Summer of Shambles, was released last April and its sequel, Ondine: The Autumn Palace, was released last month by Egmont UK.

1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing?

Mornings work best for me so long as I turn everything off and don't do emails or facebook or read the papers and oh dear it's 10am already. Once my husband heads off to work and my son is at school, I convert all that fresh energy into my current manuscript. I wish I could write all day but after about two hours my brain gives up on me and I’m eating chocolate out of a trough.

2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
I gobbled up The Belgariad series by David Eddings. I became a total nerd and inhaled Frank Herbert’s Dune series too. I also loved the whole Narnia series - I loved the fact this adventure/fantasy series had a girl (Lucy) leading the charge.

I borrowed books from friends and the school library because we were in a recession - much like we are now - and couldn’t afford loads of new books. Uh-oh, just gave my age away!

Some of my favourite books today are William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Loads more. Oh, I’m hooked on Michael Grant’s Gone books and just read Mike Lancaster’s 0.4 (which is also an Egmont UK book, same publisher as Ondine) and it rocked. I loved the way he cleverly revealed the ‘big picture’.

3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
I’m going to cheat and take the iPad - it’s lighter and can store loads on there and - oh, but I couldn’t recharge it. Unless I had a really, really long extension cord. OK, how long will I be on this island? Is this forever? Will I go mad? Will there be coconuts to eat and how long until I get sick of eating coconuts?

To keep me entertained for a sustained couple of weeks - Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind
To make me laugh and forget my troubles - William Goldman’s The Princess Bride
For practicality, the third book would be something like Desert Island Survival for Dummies

4. How did the ideas for the Ondine series come about?
Back in 2006, I was walking to pick up my toddler son from daycare. An image popped into my head of a gypsy girl with an animal on her shoulder, who then became a real man. In the image, it was dark but there were fireflies or bright stars in the sky. I think the small animal was a rat at first, but then a few seconds later I realised a ferret would be a bit different. Then he spoke with a Scottish accent and I laughed at myself. (It was a long walk, by the way). More ideas followed on so I jotted them down and after a while realised there was enough for a book or two (or four if the publishers will have me!)

5. Is Ondine the first book you wrote?
Not by a long shot. I wrote six manuscripts before I began Ondine, all of which received encouraging but polite rejections. It was a 13-year road to publication for me. I think it took me that long to gain the skills and confidence to write Ondine’s story the right way. There were times when I thought about packing it all in. I am so glad I kept going, and now that the second book is out, I am having so much fun. You can’t wipe the smile off my face.

6. Are ferrets the new vampires?
I figure if I keep saying this, then it has to come true, haha! Wouldn’t it be awesome if ferrets were the next trend in publishing? In the crazy world inside my head, ferrets are heroes. They are fearless and loyal and change into handsome young lads in the moonlight. If things go really well for them, they have a chance to remain human nearly all the time.

In reality, ferrets do smell. They also like to nip. If they’re not housetrained, they amputate. They can be charming and curious, but that’s only for a couple of hours a day. The rest of the time they twist themselves into a knot with other ferrets and fall asleep.

And just in case you’re wondering if I’m really weird . . . no, I do not have a pet ferret, nor have I ever kept them. Perhaps that’s why I can only see their heroic qualities - I have no idea what it’s really like to care for and clean them.
7. Are any of your characters based on real people?
My imaginary friends are real enough! My theory is if you base a character on a real person, they end up not ringing true. Just because something happened in real life doesn’t mean it will work in a novel. In reality, people do crazy things for no good reason but in fiction, everything a character does has to make sense.

I love when readers tell me they’ve fallen in love with Hamish or their favourite character from book 2 is Anathea because she won them over. It’s so satisfying to know I’ve created believable characters - even if one of those characters is a talking ferret.

8. Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I always have something on the go. At the moment I’m madly trying to finish the next draft of The Girl and The Ghost (working title), which will appeal to readers who like Ondine. I'm really hoping my publisher likes it. I’m also writing the Ondine trequel, which is set in winter. I’m madly jotting things down for an Ondine in spring book as well, and in the mean time a tricky idea about a sweet little liar is brewing in my brain.

Thank you so much for featuring me on Friday, I’ve had a fantastic time.
Thanks so much, Ebony! You can visit Ebony at her website here.


  1. Great interview! Nice to get to know you a little better, Ebony.

  2. Fantastic interview, Ebony. Everytime I read an interview of yours, I learn something new about you.


  3. Hi Kristie, lovely to meet you as well.
    I'm very happy to be featured on Friday, it was lots of fun.

    Hi Cheryl, oh no, you know my secret craving for chocolate, tee hee! (no secret at all really)

  4. Fantastic interview - I really enjoyed reading it! I'm glad Ebony McKenna kept writing... :)

  5. Hi Ebony.
    Fabulous interview.
    I always find it fascinating that the best ideas come when you least expect them!

  6. Hi Luisa,
    oh wow, thank you very much. I think the feeling of giving up is universal. I could guarantee I would not get published if I gave up, and the thought of stopping completely scared me more than anything. So I had to keep going.

    Hi Michelle, thanks for dropping by. You're right about ideas, they do tend to crop up when I'm least expecting them.

  7. Reading this on a Saturday morning in Melbourne so posting a bit late. Loved the interview. Loved your incite into the difference between real people and fictional ones. Very enjoyable read. Thanks

  8. Hi Dora, thanks for your comment.
    Sometimes when a book says 'Based on a true story' I find the motivations less believable. Even though they really happened, real people don't always make a lot of sense. In a strange way, made up people can be more real to me.

  9. Hi Ebony,
    Loved reading about your walk to pick up your son from daycare and how the story ideas just kept coming to you. I can also imagine people's faces while you're out loud aughing on your own - and how they might have given you a wide berth ;-P

    Yes, a few us know all about your addiction to chocolate and good coffee!


  10. Hi Ebony,
    Great interview. You have worked hard for your success so you deserve to enjoy it.



  11. Hi Serena - tee hee! I think on that walk I may have also talked to myself. 'He's a rat, and he's on her shoulder. Now he's on the ground, now he's turning into and man and woah! He's hot. Ondine's an orphan. No she's not, she has two older sisters. And her parents love her so much they drive her crazy.'

    That kind of thing. A very normal walk for me, really :-)

  12. Hi Margaret,
    thanks so much :-) Some days I grin so much people think I must be on something. It's delight and a huge dose of relief that it all came together at last.

  13. Wonderful interview, Ebony. In the book I'm reading the main character 'had a lot to ponder and knew that everything is solved by walking' so smiled to read that you put your walks to such good use too. Best wishes for Ondine's continuing happiness. XX Ria.

  14. Ebony,
    Congrats on a great article. And I'm definitely an Ondine fan - love the ever-so-cheeky Hamish (aka Shambles).
    I've finally received Book 2 - yay! Can't wait to read it!

  15. Hi Ria,
    proof, if any was needed, that a good walk can solve many things.

    Hi Elvina,
    tee hee, thanks for being a fan, hope you have loads of fun in Brugel with book 2.

  16. Hi Ebony,

    Great interview - it's always great to get a peak into other writers' creative processes.

    It's amazing how many of them seem to involve chocolate...


  17. This was a fantastic post! Loved it. Also, can I recommend a novel to you? Check out my new novel Looks Like Love! I'd love to know your thoughts about it. :)

  18. Hi Cara,
    I am also seeing a pattern here - coffee, chocolate, um . . . thank goodness for South America! Land of inspiration.

  19. Hi Brandy,
    I share your excitement. When a novel comes out, I want to tell the world as well.
    Perhaps you could email Sophie directly and start a dialogue that way. Best to go through proper channels.

    Good luck!


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