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Interview with A.S. Mackey

Although A.S. Mackey admits that creativity is hard, it’s also the place she wants to live. As a child, she used that creativity to write poetry. As a teenager, she dabbled in science fiction and romance. As an adult, she tried murder mysteries. But her true calling was in writing children’s fantasy. Her debut novel, Edge of Everwhen, is narrated by a book and brings the message of God’s sovereignty to children. She shares her inspiration, her writing journey, and her advice to anyone who wants to write for children.

Welcome, Allison. Congratulations on the publication of your book! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I was eight years old, in the gifted program in fourth grade at Argyle Elementary in Smyrna, Georgia. We were given an assignment to write a poem, and the little poet within me was awakened. (The misguided teacher accused me of plagiarism, and refused to believe I’d written the piece I handed in!) That year I wrote a book full of poems as a gift to my parents, and then progressed to short stories and novels in my teens.

I love the unique concept. What inspired it?
The Edge of Everywhen all started with a social media post! I saw a random post early in 2015 in which someone wished that there was such a thing as, “The Book of Requirement.” The Harry Potter reference, of course, is the Room of Requirement, which is a magic room that appears only when the student needs it. So I decided to craft a story about a magic book that tells each reader the story they need to hear. As a believer, I knew that the source of the “magic” would naturally be God. And the story we need to hear is the one God tells us about who we are created to be.

What spiritual message do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I hope that readers will embrace the truth that God is limitless, and that He can make His presence known however and whenever and wherever He chooses. Mr. Greene’s sentiments in the book address issues of faith with explanations that mirror my beliefs. We serve a mysterious, supernatural, living God. God was a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day for an entire generation of people. He spoke through a donkey; He walked on water; He healed the blind; He raised the dead. And the Bible doesn’t say that God’s supernatural qualities are any less today than they were thousands of years ago. And I also hope that readers will see that faith is for everyone, no matter what kind of hard circumstances life throws at you. Piper is a normal girl with normal fears and big questions, just like every other middle schooler. I hope readers will begin to ask those big questions of God, because I know He will answer them.

What was the most significant waypoint on your journey to becoming a writer?
A major turning point for my writing career was participating in NaNoWrimo. If you’re not familiar with it, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual writing initiative that takes place every November. It’s free to join, and takes place all online; many thousands of people take part. Participants sign up and attempt to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. I decided in 2011 to participate, and I’ve done it (or attempted it) every year since then. I discovered a writing focus that I didn’t know I had.

Have you always wanted to write for children?
Actually, no! All through high school I swore I’d grow up to be a romance writer, because I devoured countless Harlequin Romance novels. My first novel was sci-fi (an utter failure!), and while I loved to read fantasy, I didn’t think I could accomplish the epic world-building that was required. The first several novels I completed with NaNoWriMo were murder mysteries, and not at all kid-focused. But when I was first inspired to write this book, I began to “see” the characters, and they were kids, so that's the path I went down, and it just fit.

Did you read fantasy growing up and what is your favorite fantasy series?
Oh yes! I loved The Sword of Shannara trilogy (Terry Brooks) in high school. That was my first real exposure to high fantasy, and I was absolutely captured by it. I read many other fantasy novels, but Shannara was my favorite.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as a writer?
Hmm, I had to ponder this a while. The only thing I can think of is that I had someone in my local writers’ group say they were certain that I was going to be rich and famous! Very, very few published authors earn their living solely from book sales, so I thought her unwavering enthusiasm was funny. But hey, I’m all for it!

What is one thing you would tell someone who wants to write for children?
Madeleine L’Engle, the author of Wrinkle in Time, has exceptional advice in this regard in her book Walking on Water (highly recommended!). If your book isn’t good enough for adults, then it isn’t good enough for children. She asserts that a children’s book is any book that a child will read, and writers shouldn’t think they can write “down” to children. Quality fiction techniques hold true for all novels, regardless of target audience.

If you want to write for children, you must read award-winning books so that you can learn what excellent writing looks and sounds like. Get to the library (or hop online and access one of countless free digital loan apps) and read every medal winner you can get your hands on. Winners of the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Balpré, the Horn Book – all of them!

While you’re doing that, study the craft of writing. Take classes, join a critique group, read books on becoming a better writer. I recommend On Writing by Stephen King (warning: lots of F-bombs in that one, but read it anyway because it’s the best book out there), The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. And then, of course, write. Write a lot! Be open to critiques, and be brave enough to share your work with well-read individuals who will offer constructive, honest feedback. And don't be afraid to use kids as beta readers!

What is your favorite fiction book, and what is your favorite nonfiction book?
Oh, that is a tough one! Right now I would say my favorite fiction book is The Book Thief. It’s stunning. My favorite non-fiction book (gosh, that’s SO HARD to pick!) right now would be Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. Inspiring and funny and moving and thought-provoking (did I say inspiring? it's SO inspiring!) - I can't recommend it enough!

Do you have another book in the works?
Always! I initially envisioned The Edge of Everywhen as part of a trilogy, so I’m working on books two and three. But I always have other projects going, so that if I hit an impasse on one, I can set it aside and work on something else. (That’s a great tool for erasing writer's block!) I’m working on a YA novel about a girl who lives as a healer in an alt-medieval world. And there is a whimsical character, a sort of millennial Pippi Longstocking, that is currently bubbling in my mind and is begging to come to life in a story.

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Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.




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