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Janis Mackay - Author

About the Author

Janis Mackay was born and grew up in Edinburgh, but moved to London to study journalism. She has an MA in Creative Writing and has held writer-in-residence posts in both Caithness and Sutherland. She currently lives in Edinburgh, where she teaches creative writing and works as a writer and storyteller. She is the author of the Magnus Fin series.


A Q&A with the author about the writing of The Accidental Time Traveller....

Q. did you always want to be an author?

A. YES

Q. How long did this book take to write?

A.  Probably a year in all. I finished it while spending a month on an island in Finland in the spring of 2012.

Q. When did you first get the idea to write about time travel?

A. In 2011 I went to a theatre show about Marjory Fleming. She lived in Edinburgh 200 years before. At the age of 8 she kept a diary and wrote poems and observations of life, and of herself. She was a wonderful writer. She died before her ninth birthday, but the diary was kept and later published. This gave me a Scottish child’s insight into life 200 years ago. It was Marjory that inspired the theme.

Q. This book is very different to Magnus Fin. What is your favourite thing  about this new book?

A. I love Agatha Black’s way of speaking, and her innocence and response in meeting the modern world.

Q. Do you have a favourite character in this book?

A. They are all very real to me. Agatha and Saul of course are favourites, and Agnes, and the pet monkey – and poor old Albert Black!

Q. If you met someone who had time travelled from the past what would you ask them?

A. How they did it!

Q. What do you like best about being an author?

A. All the money you make! Ha ha – joking! I like teetering on the edge in front of possibilities then jumping in and making someone that didn’t exist before.

Q. What was the hardest thing about writing a story involving time travel?

A. to make it seem like this could really happen. I like to write fantasy, but to write in such a way that this could be true.

Q. In the book Agatha has a performing pet monkey. Have you ever had unusual pets?

A. I had a tortoise that never woke up from its shoebox under my bed. Then, when I lived in France we had a yellow talking parrot called Jaco who was extremely annoying. Now I have a collie dog called Flora.

Q. If you lived in 1812 what job would you want to do?

A. Well, to be honest, I think I would like to be a man and be a travelling player.

Q. If you could travel to any point in history where would you go?

A. Way back, to Pictish times to see the land and the wild animals and to sit around a crackling log fire and see what people looked like 1000 years ago, and how they spoke.

Featured books by Janis Mackay

Other books by Janis Mackay

The Fairy Song

The Fairy Song

Author: Janis Mackay Illustrator: Ruchi Mhasane Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Rose lives with her parents in a small cottage in the forest. Her family are poor and hardworking, and Rose yearns for fun, friendship and flowers. One Midsummer's Day, walking wearily home, Rose hears beautiful singing and follows the joyful sound deep into the trees. As she listens, a flurry of fairies bursts out of a tiny door in the side of a hill! One of the fairies invites Rose to join their party. Entering the fairy world, Rose is enchanted with her new friends and gladly joins in with their Midsummer song. Will she ever want to leave? Inspired by traditional Scottish stories of fairy folk, celebrated storyteller Janis Mackay weaves a magical tale that will capture any child's imagination. Ruchi Mhasane's delightful illustrations sparkle with joy and vitality. The Fairy Song is a delightful new book from the creators of much-loved traditional Scottish tale The Selkie Girl.

Time Traveller Trilogy

Time Traveller Trilogy

Author: Janis Mackay Illustrator: 0 Format: eBook Release Date: 19/05/2016

This is an ebook-exclusive omnibus of all three books in Janis Mackay's award-winning Time Traveller trilogy: The Accidental Time Traveller, The Reluctant Time Traveller and The Unlikely Time Traveller. In the first book, Saul is on his way to the corner shop when a girl appears out of nowhere. Agatha Black is from 1812, and Saul has to figure out how time travel works to get her back there. The Reluctant Time Traveller finds Saul and his friend Agnes having to travel to back to 1914 -- a world on the verge of war. Can they risk altering the past, the present -- and their future? In book three, Saul is forced to travel to an exciting and unpredictable future time. Can he get his friend back to their own -- and what does the future hold in store? This pacy, time-travelling adventure series from Janis Mackay, winner of the Scottish Children's Book Awards, is full of funny misunderstandings, gripping action, historical detail and thought-provoking discoveries.

The Unlikely Time Traveller

The Unlikely Time Traveller

Author: Janis Mackay Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 19/05/2016

Robbie has disappeared. And, since he'd been asking Saul a lot of questions about time travel, Saul has a good idea where he might have gone... At school they've been doing a project on the future: will it be full of robots and shiny technology? Or will the environment have been destroyed? The last thing Saul wants to do is go there and find out for sure -- but there's no way Robbie will manage on his own in the twenty-second century. The third book in Janis Makay's much-loved Time Traveller series, set in Peebles in the Scottish borders, takes the reader to an unpredictable and exciting future filled with thought-provoking discoveries. What does the future hold in store, and can Saul get Robbie safely back to their own time?

Wild Song

Wild Song

Author: Janis Mackay Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/05/2015

A boy overcomes his fear of water and connects with nature in this powerful novel of transformation Thirteen-year-old Niilo's unruly behaviour means his loving parents sent him to Wild School, a young offender's unit on an island in the Finnish archipelago. Angry at first, eventually he comes to enjoy being there and builds a close relationship with his mentor, Hannu, who helps him face his demons and overcome his lifelong fear of water. But when Niilo hears Hannu is leaving, he is so upset he decides to run away. Escaping is one thing, but living alone in the wild is completely different and it tests Niilo to the utmost, especially as his fear of water still haunts him. With the help of a seal, Hannu eventually finds Niilo, but on the way back to Wild School Niilo is thrown into the water and experiences a revelation that will change his life for the better.

The Selkie Girl

The Selkie Girl

Author: Janis Mackay Illustrator: Ruchi Mhasane Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 18/09/2014

Fergus lives with his father by the sea, but is lonely. He wants a friend more than anything. One day Fergus finds treasure on the beach: a beautiful fur blanket hidden in the rocks. But Fergus doesn't know that his treasure belongs to someone else -- a selkie girl has lost her seal skin and can't go home to the sea without it. Will Fergus give his new friend what she needs, and risk being lonely again? This is a lovely retelling of the traditional Scottish folk tale of the selkie (a seal who can become human) adapted for a young audience. Beautifully written by storyteller and selkie storyteller Janis Mackay, the tale is accompanied by stunning illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane. The Selkie Girl is one of the first titles released in the new Picture Kelpies: Traditional Scottish Tales range of picture books that bring classic Scottish folk and fairy tales to life for young children.

Magnus Fin Trilogy

Magnus Fin Trilogy

Author: Janis Mackay Illustrator: 0 Format: eBook Release Date: 30/04/2014

On his eleventh birthday, schoolboy Magnus Fin finds out that he is half selkie - part human, part seal. Although he looks like a boy and lives on land, he can breathe underwater. In Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest, Magnus Fin must save his new-foound family from the evil force threatening all the ocean's creatures. In Magnus Fin and the Moonlight Mission, Magnus Fin discovers his initials scratched into rocks by the shore and must find the cause of a perilous seal sickness. Little does his know that his best friend Tarkin is also in great danger. In Magnus Fin and the Selkie Secret, Magnus Fin discovered a rusty metal chest which has been flung ashore in a storm. But when he injures his hand, strange things start to happen which threaten to reveal his most precious secret. Janis Mackay won the Kelpies Prize with the first Magnus Fin story. This complete trilogy will ensure you don't miss a sentence of Magnus Fin's brilliant adventures.

The Wee Seal

The Wee Seal

Author: Janis Mackay Illustrator: Gabby Grant Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 19/09/2013

Jamie has been watching the wee white seal that lives on the beach. At night the wee seal cuddles up to its mother. In the morning she goes out to sea and leaves it alone like a strange white stone on the sand. One day tourists come and crowd the wee seal but Jamie knows just what to do to protect it until its mother comes back... Janis Mackay's lyrical prose tells the story of the tender relationship between a wild baby seal and the young boy who watches over it, while Gabby Grant's soft illustrations brilliantly evoke the landscape of the Orkney Islands.

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