When the MockingOwl Roost asked me to write an interview with Emily MacKenzie, I was unsure of what to say as an introduction. I didn’t know Emily. I knew she was a writer for the MockingOwl Roost, but not her work. Truth time… I am nervous when it comes to interviews. I was nervous with my first interview, and the butterflies were still there for my second. My Editor-in-Chief, Rita, helped me with a few questions then kicked me out of the nest. It was time for me to Owl Up, so to speak. That is exactly what I did. I sent Emily my questions, and hoped she wouldn’t think I was too much a newbie. You know what happens when you Owl Up? You meet amazing people.
When I received the emailed answers, it was like magic coming off the page. Emily’s words were so alive with feeling that I could see the land that was her muse, hear the wind, and smell the ocean. Emily hails from Canada, but calls Scotland home. Her writing draws from the mystery of the land and the magic that surrounds that Country. I hope you enjoy meeting Emily MacKenzie as much as I did.
SC: Emily, would you please tell us a little about yourself? What are your likes and dislikes as a writer? How did you become involved with The MockingOwl Roost?
As a writer I love to explore different ways of telling stories, navigating the limits (or lack thereof) of narrative structures, and fiddling with how a story can be improved or be made more authentic in how it is told. I personally adore almost anything fantasy or science fiction, and have a hard time sticking with a book that has no magic unless it’s an alternate world or universe. I think stories with a romantic plot, and even sub-plot, are drastically overdone and cliché, and eagerly search for books that focus less on the fictional idealised notions of love. I want the stories about people who come together to fix their lives, not to tear each other’s apart.
I became involved with the MockingOwl through a chance of brilliant luck, and am thankful for it every day. I met Rita through a Facebook group, and when she was looking for contributors for the first issue I couldn’t believe my fortune. My Creative Writing Prof at Uni always said that the Writing world is all about who you know. I feel so incredibly lucky to have commented on that post that led me to meeting Rita.
SC: Has the folklore of the various countries you’ve lived in influenced your writing? Have you used them as backdrops for your novels?
EM: I’ve always been drawn to mythology and folklore, specifically Greek mythology, and anything at all to do with the fairy folk and individuals with unique abilities. Living in Scotland has had more of an effect on my settings when I’m writing than the plots themselves. It’s hard to travel anywhere in this country without being inspired by the land. If anyone were to read my drafts or notes and ask, I would be able to explain to them for the most part in detail where I drew my inspiration for the settings—although locating them on a map would be another dilemma altogether, as my sense of directions is absolutely abysmal. That being said, I love any landscape where, if you listen close enough, you can still hear the wild in its heart. Places like Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Seven Sisters, nearly all of the Alps, and stretches along the ocean in Maine or Oregon. Sharp rocks, steep cliffs, rugged landscapes, and ominous waters.
One thing I will say, after having answered this question, is that I’ve realised that the sun rarely provides the spark for a story. I’m sorry, but even metaphorically bright light doesn’t leave much mystery to uncover—and which adventuring party wants to be out in the hot, burning sun all day long? I may be mean to my characters, but even I would hesitate to do that.
SC: What creative mediums are you best known for, and if more than one, which do you enjoy the most?
EM: That’s a big question. I dabble in a lot of creative outlets: I paint from time to time, I crochet, I write, I sing, I sew, I carefully bang a few keys on the piano. Each has its moment, but writing will always be where my heart stays. Mostly I work with narrative prose, the occasional poem when I’m in the mood—and my work nearly always has a fantastic element of some sort. I love exploring magic, its definition and its influence on both societies and individuals, and especially the intermingling of magic and technology within the same world. Whenever I’m creating something I consider that to be my happy place, but writing compels and overwhelms me and my soul like nothing else ever has.
SC: What would you like the reader to know about your past works?
EM: There’s probably more to it? I still struggle with excess ambiguity in my pieces—especially the shorter ones—and there is undoubtedly more beyond the first reading. Whether I’ve left enough clues or not is the real issue, but fortunately most of the time I have people I can rely on through first edits who will tell me when I’m withholding too much. I guess I just like the mystery too much!
SC: What would you consider your dream job?
EM: Writing full-time, of course. That’s been the dream for a while now, and one I am absolutely still working towards. It would be great to have a little printing press in the background, just as a hobby for local writers, and to live by the ocean. I wouldn’t be opposed to doing some editing on the side either.
SC: Without giving any spoilers away, what new projects are you working on?
EM: There’s a story I’ve been building in my head with numerous drafts for years now that I’ve been able to make some headway with over the past year or so with Covid restrictions keeping me at home. I have characters inspired by Arthurian mythology that I’ve been playing with in the back of my mind, as well as a plan for a series aimed at a younger audience that was partially drawn from the notion of Temporal rifts and Schrödinger’s cat.
SC: What is one thing you would like our readers to know about you?
EM: I am only who I am because of the amazing circle of friends and family who surround me. I’m picky with who I keep in touch with, and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s a lesson that for some takes a long while to learn, and I feel fortunate that I picked it up relatively young. Some people aren’t worth your time, you’re allowed to be picky. And that’s okay.
Thank you, Emily, for the spark of passion and magic you brought to this interview. Scotland sounds like a writer’s paradise. If you ever do set up a small place with a hobby printing press, roaring fire, and meeting room for writers, let me know. I agree that there is no need for the sunlight when mystery happens in the mists. Enjoying writing your new project. I can’t wait to read it.
Sue Cook lives in Freeport, Illinois with her husband Randy and two dogs. Her passions include assistance dogs, rescue dogs, music, acting, theater, poetry, and Doctor Who. She’s been in both film and theater and is a regular cast member of the podcast Doctor Who’s Line is it….Anyway? Sue is an advocate for the use of Service Dogs to assist their disabled handlers to maintain their independence. Quigley’s Quest, her first children’s book, addresses how a dog becomes a Service Dog.