Sitting in her warm and welcoming home Ebony and I drink coffee and talk about our favourite topic, writing. In particular I’m interested in the path which took her from unpublished author to emerging writer. With writing roots in journalism and the later shift to writing novels she focused on writing for a market. The difference with ‘Ondine’, her young adult novel published by Egmont, was that she wrote to please herself.
Of course she had knowledge of the market however this wasn’t her priority while writing ‘Ondine’. She said ‘I had no idea where it would fit.’ ‘I didn’t even think about the market’ during the revision process her publisher suggested changes to accommodate the target market of young teenage girls. It is interesting to note that reader reviews show the mothers of these girls also enjoyed the book so much they recommended it to their friends, showing that McKenna has tapped into the accessibility of Young Adult fiction to appeal to a broad market.
Ebony explained that she also wrote about what she knows. Her experience of being raised in small rural town where everyone knows you informed her knowledge of what life would be like for Ondine. Ebony helped out in her parent’s restaurant, this life experience enabled her to bring authenticity to Ondine’s character who is growing up in her parents hotel. She recalls what it was like to be a teenager, saying, ‘I enjoy writing about this age because the feelings are still there, the peaks and troughs. As a teenager these are the first hurdles you come against and so they feel like the worst thing possible.’ In creating the characters for Ondine she said she got to know them so well that she fell in love with them and in return they loved her back. ‘Love your characters and they will love you,’ she said and then laughed because it had just that minute occurred to her to coin the phrase. We both picked up our pens to write it down.
I asked how becoming published had impacted on her writing. She said, ‘It doesn’t feel like a hobby anymore and I don’t feel I have to justify my writing time. When I got an agent I didn’t feel like I was pretending anymore’ and ‘I have always had a good writing routine.’ ‘It just solidified it for me that I have to get that done first before I do anything else.’
McKenna’s passion for her book is compelling. No wonder she had success with getting it published.
It has been a couple of years since I interviewed Ebony. Since then book two of the series ‘The Autumn Palace’ has been published and book three is completed and ready for publication.