Saturday, August 29, 2020

Jenny McLachlan

Jenny McLachlan is the author of several acclaimed young adult novels. Before she became a writer, she was head of English in a secondary school. When she isn’t thinking about or writing stories, she enjoys living by the seaside, cycling, and running over the South Downs.

The Land of Roar is McLachlan’s middle grade debut.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Land of Roar is one of the few titles I have chosen for my books; many of my titles have been changed by my publishers so it’s great that this one stuck! Hopefully readers will find it intriguing and the ‘Roar’ hints at the humour and dragons to be found inside its pages. It is also made up of the first two letters of the main characters’ names, Rose and Arthur, and is a clue to the observant reader that the fantasy world was created by both of them.

What's in a name?

I find it difficult to start writing until I’m happy with the names of my characters. I called my main character Arthur because it suits him. The boy came first and then I named him! His surname is Trout which is quite close to my mother’s maiden name. Maiden names often get lost so it felt good to be able to bring it back in this way. Arthur is an old-fashioned name (and my Arthur is an old-fashioned boy, valuing kindness, loyalty and friendship), but it also has associations with the legendary King Arthur. Hopefully readers will agree with me that Arthur Trout is the perfect name for an accidental hero!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I think my teenage reader self would love The Land of Roar because my sense of humour has changed very little over the years. When I was a teenager, I would have found the idea of wizard-ninja who was terrible at both magic and being stealthy funny, and 44-year-old me does too! I also loved fantasy worlds when I was a teenager and really enjoyed the Moomin books. The Land of Roar is a place I would very much like to visit – like Moomin Valley – and I imagine teenage me would have loved it too.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings! Every time. The first 10,000 words of any book I write are always a struggle to write. This is when everything has to be put (apparently effortlessly) in place – characters, settings, plot. When the start feels right, then I can begin to write the book in earnest. Writing the first few chapters can take me weeks, but often I write the ending without even noticing that I’ve done it.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I’m very like Arthur, or rather, eleven year-old-me was like Arthur. I was shy, frightened of lots of things (including scarecrows and pointy black shoes!) and I loved playing. I watched with some sadness as my friends stopped playing and started going shopping instead, and, like Arthur I had a big imagination and loved visiting imaginary worlds. I did not want to start secondary school and found the first few years there difficult. Arthur and I have a lot in common!

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I grew up watching some of the best children’s adventure films - The Goonies, E.T., The Princess Bride, Labyrinth - and I think my love of these films shines through in The Land of Roar. It’s a classic adventure story filled with humour where children are the true heroes.
Visit Jenny McLachlan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue