Meet L.J. MacWhirter.
L.J. MacWhirter was born in London, England, and now lives in the Scottish Borders with her husband and family. Black Snow Falling, her debut novel, launched in 2018 to critical acclaim. When she’s not writing fiction for adults and teens, Liz runs an award-winning copywriting studio which takes her all over the world.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
In England, 1592, 15 year-old Ruth is betrayed, and trapped by monstrous sexism. Her devastation splits apart time itself, where she encounters dream thieves coming to steal her hopes and dreams. Black Snow Falling was published last summer to critical acclaim and has been nominated for three book prizes to date, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.
Who would your book be perfect for?
At its heart, Black Snow Falling has a strong, simple concept yet is a satisfying ‘meaty’ read. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy a fast-moving thriller with an intricate plot. Ruth’s personal crisis becomes enmeshed with greater issues, spreading across dimensions.
Did you have a favourite character to write?
It’s hard to pick one out. Ruth was the teenager I wish I’d been – to tell you why would give away spoilers! Jude just broke my heart – you want justice for him, right from the first page. By contrast, Sagazan is the manifestation of my worst fears. Bringing him to life actually freaked me out a couple of times, especially when writing late at night, but in that way he’s a fantastic villain. He reminds me that courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the determination to carry on despite your fear.
What inspired you to the write the book?
In 2002 I was volunteering for a charity for young adults who had been referred by parole officers and care workers. It was the end of a weekend adventure in a mountainous glen in Scotland and we were all walking back to the van. A young man was telling me that he really wanted to be a gardener. It really struck me that, despite everything he’d faced, he still had a dream. I found myself wishing that nothing else would happen to him that would snatch this away… and then I had the writer’s ‘what if’. What if our dreams were a physical entity that could be stolen away from us? The heart of the novel came to me in about ten minutes.
Can you share with us a photo from 2018 that meant something special to you?
This was my first book event, Feisty Fantasy with Alice Broadway at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It felt such a privilege to share my passion for Black Snow Falling and connect with readers for the first time.
What has been your proudest bookish moment?
Can I have more than one? Holding the book in my hands for the first time after 12 years from first draft, all the while loving this story but fearing that it would never be published. In the author’s yurt at EIBF, a literary critic told me he loved the book and wished me ‘great success’. A week later, someone suggested that Black Snow Falling should be nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and a couple of months later, it was. It all felt surreal and exciting – it still does!
Do you have any questions for your readers?
I’d love to know which part of Black Snow Falling speaks to you the most? You could let me know on my author facebook page or via my website, ljmacwhirter.com
And here’s a question to ask yourself – like Ruth in the story, is anything stopping you from following your own hopes and dreams? Is there one thing you can do this week to help make that happen?
What is your favourite read of your whole life and why?
I’ve loved so many books, some reflective non-fiction as well as novels. At the time of writing Black Snow Falling it was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I re-read four times. It’s set just before the time of my character Jude, but still during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. As a primary-aged child, I often read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. But if I had to choose one, it would be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, not really for the read but for the way Lewis created a beautiful myth that has taken on a life of its own.
What are you working on now?
More historical fiction. Set in on wild, windswept Scottish islands, it’s Romeo & Juliet meets Macbeth…