Monday, 8 August 2016

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Karen McCombie - The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall (Scholastic Press)

I'm really pleased to be sharing with you the following interview with Karen McCombie. Her latest novel, The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall, was published by Scholastic in June 2016. It's a magical story with an up lifting feeling and a real sense of hope. I hope that this interview piques your interest and encourages you to purchase a copy to read.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall is your latest book, what is it about?
Ellis's mum Sadie is a hair & make-up artist, whose jobs normally consist of powdering the sweaty foreheads of actors in ads for car insurance and toilet rolls! Then one day Sadie works on a music video, and after a whirlwind romance with the singer in the band, thirteen-year-old Ellis finds herself with a rock star for a step-dad and a deserted, dilapidated mansion in the Highlands of Scotland for a home. Already struggling with bouts of anxiety, the Whole New Life thing leaves Ellis reeling, till one day she hears whispers in the walls... and finds herself slipping back in time to the busy, bustling 1912 heyday of Wilderwood Hall. Thanks to the one person who can see Ellis - Flora the fourteen-year-old housemaid - life takes a turn for the better. But will the past be the sanctuary Ellis hopes for, or is danger lurking in its warm, gas-lit corners?

You have written over 70 books what are the major themes of your work?
I've just done a head-count and 'The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall' is actually my 84th published book! (I'm writing no. 87 at the moment...) As for themes, family and friendship is at the heart of everything, whether I'm writing with my funny hat on, or leaning more towards history and mystery. 

Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?
There's very much a story "ripped from the headlines' in 'The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall',  though it concerns a historical event that made big news. It weaves itself into the twist at the end, so I can't tell you what it is, even if you threaten me with a Chinese burn...

Do you use your own experiences?
All the time. Or I nick 'em from my friends and family. I recycle everyone's experiences and stories - ha! The profession of Ellis's mum Sadie is a straight steal from my friend and neighbour Emily, though last time I looked, she was still living four doors up, and hadn't married anyone famous and moved to the Highlands! As for Wilderwood Hall, it's based on an old, deserted mansion house I stumbled upon years and years ago with a film student friend who was scouting for locations. The house we snuck into was derelict and vandalised, but eerily beautiful. It's always stayed with me, and it's mutated into Wilderwood...

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
For the time I'm writing a novel I'm ALWAYS the main character, seeing the world through their eyes, feeling all the angst, embarrassment, nervousness and joy that they do. If I make myself cry at some point in the story, I know I'm doing it right.

If you were running the 100 yard dash with a new writer. What writing, publishing wisdom would you bestow upon him/her before you reached the 100 yards?
I'm a rubbish runner, but you will regularly find me stomping over the parklands of Alexandra Palace in North London, which is practically my back garden! So I'd invite a new writer for a meander in the greenery, with its great views over London, and I'd tell that every writer would give them different advice! Mine would be to plan, plan, plan out your story, so you don't get lost and lose heart half-way through. Though other authors would say the opposite, telling you to just write, and see where a story and character takes you. (NB The idea of doing that gives me the heebie-jeebies. *Eek!*) 

What are your current projects?
Deep breath... I've just finished writing something young and funny and school-related for Stripes, something historical and VERY close to my heart for Nosy Crow, and am in the middle of a dual-aspect novel for Scholastic. After that, I'll have a bit of a break. Er, no I won't! I've got the follow-ups to the Stripes and Nosy Crow books to write, plus a quick-read book for inclusive publishers Barrington Stoke.   

How important are stories to you? What do you like to read?
Stories are everything to me, whether that's in a book, a film or a conversation with a friend. Stories are all around, they make you think, understand and share. Stories make us better at being human. As for what I like to read...? I'm not so keen on fantasy and crime; I find the extraordinary stories of ordinary people much more fascinating.

If you found a time travel machine where would you go and what would you do?
Can I be whisked to The Great Exhibition, please? I'd like to marvel at the glinting Crystal Palace and all the wonders of the world and science inside it. Though I've heard they didn't built enough WCs for the visiting throngs of Victorian visitors, so that could be a problem. In other words, I'd better not have too many drinks in the tea-room.

Last question, what five things would you take on a desert Island and why? 
Five boxes; one full of my TBR pile of books (obvz), one with squashy cushions to recline on (mmm...), one full of packets of crisps (nom), and one full of kittens (#allthecute). Oh, and the last one could contain my daughter Milly, as she's excellent company.   

Best-selling author Karen McCombie has had more than 80 books published, and her latest novel is 'The Whispers Of Wilderwood Hall' (out June 2016, Scholastic).
The quirky humour and endearing characters in her novels have been inspired by her previous career as a journalist on teenage girls' magazines, her collection of childhood diaries AND a bad habit of listening in to conversations on buses when school is coming out...
Her hobbies include scribbling random observations in notebooks, brushing cat hair from the keyboard of her laptop and posting nonsense on Instagram.

Author Website:
Twitter: @KarenMcCombie 

1 comment:

Nocturnals World said...

84 books? Wow, that is quite the number! Love myself a good time traveling book, especially when an old mansion in the Scottish Highlands is involved. I really enjoyed this interview, especially McCombie's point that "stories make us better at being human." Looking forward to reading some of her books!