Interview with Dylan Mackenzie - October 2017

Dylan Mackenzie is an upcoming author from London whose debut book ‘Spooky Sarah Spiderlegs’ is out just in time for Hallowe’en. Having written a number of books this is her first offering with the next book already in the pipeline for early Spring. Dylan has an unconventional approach life which is evident in her launch, more reminiscent of a garage punk band releasing their first record and shunning the industry and going it alone.

Q : Is this your first book?
This is my first book to be published but I have written 12 books so far. This was one of the earlier stories but not the first.

Q : How did it come about that this was the first to be published?
It happened that I met the right illustrator who could really see Sarah as I had imagined her.
Joe Holdsworth was introduced to me through my best friend, the artist & film director Joe Sangre, after our initial meeting I knew that he was perfect and his style was exactly what I was looking for so we went forward with Spooky Sarah. Additionally, I think this is the most personal story I have written to date so I am happy to have her leading the way; it doesn’t get more high stakes than this!

Q : Do you work with many illustrators?
As each of the characters are so different, I want that to come across in the illustration styles too.
The next book in the pipeline is about a bohemian yogi who lives in the rural countryside, she is illustrated by Jos Harrison, who is himself a bit of a old school Notting Hill bohemian!

Q : Where did you get the idea for Spooky Sarah Spiderlegs?
She came to me as I was walking along The Southbank having just visited the London Dungeon for what must be at least the 7th time in my life. I was had got quite enthusiastic during this visit and without thinking, I had cheered the actor playing Guy Fawkes and he had then chosen me to act as volunteer in the set piece! I came out thinking about how dungeons and plagues and plots were still some of my most favourite things; we were about to visit Warwick Castle in the coming week to stay in the ‘medival’ glamping at the castle, and where there was another dungeon experience. I thought about how as a child I had devoured books on history, especially the gory bits and how I had been considered a freak by most of my peers —but how clearly that hadn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Q : Is this semi-autobiographical?
Yes, I think it may very well be! There are little bits of me in all my characters I think, but certainly more so in Sarah.

Q : Do you think it is important for children to be allowed to explore the darker side to our history?
I think it is important to be increasingly exposed to history, politics, art, literature just as they do in Europe. There seems to be a greater emphasis on making such subjects ‘bite-sized’ and easier to digest until knowledge is boxed up as a happy meal and has no substance at all. History especially is so fascinating that it would take many lifetimes to explore it all but children are asked by 12yrs old to drop the subject which I find heartbreaking. The same goes for Art.
If I can spark a passion that leads the child to investigate for themselves outside of the education system then that would be a huge win.

Q : Is that why you became an author?
I think that was perhaps the reason that what started out as a fun idea became something to pursue seriously.
It was my husband who suggested I should start writing after I burnt out running a law firm. As soon as I opened my mind to being creative, I had characters and storylines running through my brain day and night! The writing started to flow almost immediately and before I knew it I had ideas for 36 books! As I wrote however it became clear that there were certain things I felt passionately about and certain things that I felt were important to include in my stories, things that are left out of main stream books.

Q : Are you looking to start a revolution in the childern’s book market?
Haha! That wouldn’t be a bad thing! There are many great children’s authors out there, some I absolutely adore but there is also far too much derivative zero-calorie toot. So yes, start a revolution, change the world, I would say they are firmly on my ‘to do’ list!

Quick fire questions now :

Q : Favourite place to write?
On long train journeys

Q : Favourite book as a child?
That’s hard! First that comes to mind is ‘There’s a wolf in my pudding’

Q : One thing you can’t live without?
A notepad and pen (is that two?!)

Which historical figure would you most want to meet?
Charles I

Q : Favourite sandwich?
Peanut butter and jam -strawberry in winter, apricot in summer.

Q : Best piece of advice you have been given?
Don’t look at the scoreboard just try to make every shot a strike
-it was in the context of bowling but I think it applies to life too.

Q : Advice you would give to the next generation?
Question EVERYTHING -especially if it is being given to you with a hard sell by the papers, the government or mainstream society.