Emily MacKenzie - Author Picture

Emily MacKenzie - Author

Emily Mackenzie is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in Edinburgh who graduated from Edinburgh College of Art. Working mainly with ink, digital collage and screen printing, Emily's illustrative work draws from childhood memories, an inquisitive nature and a vivid imagination. As well as drawing, Emily loves knitting and generally gets very excited about anything bright and colourful! This is Emily's first picture book. She lives in Edinburgh. You can see her on Instagram.

Author photo by Diana Pappas

Emily MacKenzie Q&A

What are your 5 favourite books, and why?

OTTO THE BEAR by Ivan Ganstschev. My favourite children's book. Mouthwateringly beautiful watercolour illustrations and a lovely story about a bear that rescues a forester. I lived next to a dark forest with deer, but no bears, and really loved the story as a child... and still do today. It's timeless.

THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger. I'm a bit of a soppy romantic but this is a romance with a difference that had me sobbing my heart out.

HARRY POTTER by J.K. Rowling. I love all of them! Amazingly gripping and magical. I'm still sad they're all over. I think it's time to start reading them from the beginning!

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR - Eric Carle. Simple and educational with gorgeous illustrations that leave my mouth watering every time I read it. The textures in Carle's illustrations created with layers of hand painted tissue paper are beautiful. I particularly loved the page with the pickle, salami and cherry pie as a hungry child!

BIG RABBIT'S BAD MOOD by Delphine Durand. Another one that just appeals to my sense of humour. I love the colour palette and the goofy mood character. Reading this is the perfect cure if you're in a funk!

Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, and why?

QUENTIN BLAKE - I've been in love with his colourful, crazy, exciting, speedy, inky, funny and sometimes scary illustrations my whole life. I love his stories too. His work is a constant source of inspiration and comfort. He's my hero.

ROALD DAHL - I have loved his stories as long as I can remember. The humour and eccentricity of his characters have had me giggling, scared and excited at bedtimes and on long journeys, forever. I never grow tired of rereading them and I'm sure my imagination wouldn't have been nearly as inventive if I hadn't had his books to read growing up.

BILL BRYSON - I love his travel writing. His witty observations and accounts of scenarios he's experienced never fail to make me laugh… really loudly and embarrassingly. Particularly on trains.

I discover new illustrators all the time, my current favourites are MARC BOUTAVANT, MADALENA MATOSO, SARAH DYER, MARTA ALTES, TOR FREEMAN, YASMEEN ISMAIL, DELPHINE DURAND, JON KLASSEN, SARA OGILVIE, BERNARDO CARVALHO and CHRIS HAUGHTON. A huge variety of styles here! I like them all for different reasons, whether it be their style of composition, striking colour combinations, beautiful mark making details, friendly/funny characters, bold shapes and textures or their sense of humour - I admire them all and find their work very inspiring.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

OTTO THE BEAR by Ivan Ganstschev and THE WINTER BEAR by Ruth Craft and Erik Blegvad. I adored the rich autumnal watercolours of bears, forests and fruit trees in Otto the Bear and the winter landscapes with the little lost teddy bear stuck in a tree in The Winter Bear. I also loved Dogger by Shirley Hughes. Basically, I had a soft spot for books about bears and cuddly toys!

Who is your favourite hero in a book?

Fantastic Mr Fox is a bit of a cheeky legend. We had this as an audio tape when I was a kid and it got us through lots of long car journeys! Getting one up on the nasty farmers in order to provide his friends with a marvellous feast… what a dude.

Who is your favourite villain in a book?

The Twits! I remember choosing this book from the little library van that stopped in our village when I was little and being completely gripped by their nastiness to each other. I found it hilarious!

If you could be a character from a book who would you be?

Paddington Bear - I've got a duffle coat and love marmalade… I'm almost there!

If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?

When I left school, a friend gave me a copy of Oh, the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss. At the time I was nervous about change and worried about leaving home and my future. This little book really struck a chord with me and I refer to it even now all these years later when in need of a boost. It's a picture book life lesson that taught me the importance of self-belief and optimism. It taught me that we all inevitably experience slumps and downs but we aren't alone to face our problems, and that our hopes and dreams are achievable if we believe enough in ourselves to make them happen. I think it’s a really inspiring read for all ages.

What book do you wish you had written?

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. It’s a beautiful wordless story that I remember so vividly from my childhood. I think it was my first experience of a story without a happy ending and I guess, my first introduction to more complex feelings of grief and loss.

Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?

I'm very lucky to come from a very creative family, where my graphic designer parents always encouraged me to make, paint, stick, invent and draw. They nurtured my love of books and creating, took me to our local library often and encouraged me to make the most of my wild imagination. I grew up in a very rural part of Northumberland with a pine forest behind our house and I invented little stories about wild animals and was inspired by the nature around me. Also my uncle and aunt (Mick Manning and Brita Granström) are a prolific children's author/illustrator team and have been a huge influence, constantly inspiring me.

What inspired you to write your latest book?

The idea for my book grew from a batch of rabbit shaped book marks I made to sell at a craft fair. They were wearing 'I love books' t-shirts and screen printed in lots of bright colours. I also wanted to make a book about loving books, the excitement of reading and the joy of libraries… eventually all of these things collided in my mind and the story grew from there.

What's the best thing you've ever written?

That must be a book yet to come, one in the near future I hope!

When did you start writing?

I've been writing down ideas for short stories and picture books since I was little but it's only become a real job and not just a 'dream job' in the last two years.

If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?

Always have a pen handy! A notepad is good too, but be ready to scrawl ideas down on napkins, bus tickets and receipts - write everything down and keep your ideas in a box. Whether it's just a name of someone you've met that you like, an idea for a character based on someone you sat next to on the bus or a fully formed story idea that just popped into your head while you were pushing your trolly around the supermarket, it's great to keep a record of it all so you can refer back to it for inspiration. I keep a notepad and pen by the bed so I can write down ideas in the middle of the night - this happens surprisingly often!

Is there any particular routine involved in your writing process (favourite pen, lucky charm, special jumper)?

I've found in the past that I get a lot of my ideas in the bath or in the middle of night, so I often have a 'thinking bath' if I'm trying to develop a new idea for a drawing or a story. I'm in the process of designing a desk to fit over my bath to make drawing in the tub a little easier! I also go for 'thinking swims' at our local pool.

Do you have any abandoned stories in you ‘bottom drawer’ that you would like to revisit?

I have lots of ideas for stories! Some are just a title, or a few words for an opening line, others are a bit further along with character drawings… most of the time the drawings come first. The pile is ever growing and evolving!

Featured Books, with extracts, by Emily MacKenzie

There's Broccoli in My Ice Cream!
Emily MacKenzie
Full of fun and surprises, this lively picture book is guaranteed to be to the taste of children and parents everywhere, and particularly those with a fussy eater in the family. Being the youngest in a long line of prize-winning...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers | 5+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 12/01/2017
Info Extract Buy

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar
Emily MacKenzie
Longlisted for the inaugural Klaus Flugge Prize, an important new illustration prize for children's books.One of our Books of the Year 2015 - Shortlisted for the Scottish Children's Book Awards 2015 3-7 age category - January 2015 Debut of the...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 18/12/2014
Info Extract Buy

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar
Emily MacKenzie
Shortlisted for the Scottish Children's Book Awards 2015 3-7 age category - January 2015 Debut of the Month When Arthur's favourite books start to vanish from his shelves the only clue he has is a few well-nibbled carrots that the...
Lovereading Price: £8.79 - Saving £2.20 (20%) Featured in: Baby and Toddler | 3+ readers
Format: Hardback | Released 18/12/2014
Info Extract Buy

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