Spin the Sky hits shelves in less than a week! We’re celebrating this week by sharing teaser quotes and images on our social media (do you follow and like us everywhere?). Author, Jill MacKenzie took on the Sky Pony Express Q&A so you lovely readers can get to know her a little better before you meet her protagonist, Magnolia Woodsen! Check it out below!
Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?
To me, writing YA literature was always a no-brainer. Those years between thirteen and nineteen have always been the ones I’ve gravitated towards, the ones that I reflect on now most often. It’s not so much that my own high school years were amazing (trust me, they weren’t) but more a case of knowing that those years shaped who I am as a person today. And when I say shaped who I am, in no way do I mean that my teenage years defined who I am—quite the opposite, actually. I’m a very different person now than I was as a teenager. I’d like to think that I’m a nicer one. I know that I’m a quieter one, a more introspective one. But my teenage years are when I started my journey of self-discovery and that was pretty huge for me. That’s when I really started to feel different and knew that others weren’t really seeing the world the way I was. Back then, I always felt uneasy in my own skin and moved through life carefully, like if I said one wrong thing my whole world would explode. I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that it’s okay to be different. I guess that’s why I write YA. So that when I write teenage characters now, I make sure each and every one of them know it’s definitely okay—preferable actually—to be different.
Q: What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a few books right now and choose which one to read each night based on my mood or what kind of day I’ve had. These include: Eileen Cook’s With Malice, A.S. King’s Still Life with Tornado, and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I’ve also got Jaye Robin Brown’s Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit and (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki loaded up on my Kindle. So I’ve got a lot going on, reading-wise! But that’s a good place for me to be in. My best place, actually.
Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?
Right off the top of my head, I’d say Amber Appleton from Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like a Rockstar. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character with the kind of strength that parallel’s Amber’s and I envy that because I’m naturally a pretty fearful person. I fell in love with Amber pretty instantly. As I did with Kidd from Matt de la Pena’s I Will Save You, though I think it was a different kind of love with Kidd. I’d like to be Amber. But if I’m Amber, I want to meet up, one day, with Kidd.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to write?
Sadly, my favorite place to write isn’t the place I write in on a daily basis. Usually, I write at home in my office (pajama clad, of course) with my little Siamese, Gloria, curled up on my lap. I love her. She’s snuggly. Plus she enforces that I sit in my chair for a minimum of three hours a day, as per her nap schedule. Here is a picture of me (or, at least, my lap) on usual, Monday-Friday days.
But that’s not necessarily my favorite place to write. Last year, I went on a writing retreat to Tennessee. The cabin/mansion I was staying in (packed with about thirty other writers) was nestled in the Blue Mountains and it was pretty huge for me because, although I grew up surrounded by mountains, my South Florida home has no mountains to be seen. This is a picture my retreat roommate took of me writing in Tennessee. I think it’s my favorite place in the world to create characters. I don’t know if I’ve ever written prettier sentences than I did while I was here.
Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?
Easy! Field of Dreams. I am a girl who doesn’t like sports. Probably because I don’t understand them at all—like, I don’t know the rules to any sport at all. So, a movie about baseball has to be pretty awesome to make me love it the way I do. Field of Dreams is definitely that, plus the miraculous W.P. Kinsella wrote it. I’ve always loved his work.
My other favorite movie—though not a classic—is called Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. Everything about this movie speaks to me. I’ve seen it over ten times when most people haven’t even heard of it. I definitely recommend it.
Lastly, I really love the movie rendition of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes. I think I’m sort of alone in my bursting-heart-bubbles feeling on this film, but it doesn’t happen often (for me at least) where a movie casts characters so right, so completely authentic and true to its book counterpart. Tiger Eyes did that for me, absolutely.
Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?
A miniature donkey, hands down. Have you seen those things? Serious cuteness overload. Like a tiny horse, but with a feistier personality. Like a large goat but without the weird eyes. Omg, I’m dying here.
Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?
Milk! I eat chocolate every single day of my life without exception. But I’m a purist about it. It pretty much has to be Godiva, Cadbury’s or Hershey’s (if I’m feeling a little desperate) or I won’t eat it at all.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
Promise you won’t laugh? It’s Valentine’s Day. I know what people say about it being a Hallmark holiday or whatever but I just love it. I love the little candies, I love the exchange of school Valentines, I love the colors red and pink and I love the red and pink together. It’s just a sweet little day without too much build up and if that’s what it takes for everyone to be a little nicer to each other, so be it.
Q: What’s your favorite emoji? OR What’s your favorite GIF?
My favorite emoji is this one here:
Giant eye roll. I often use it in text when I know I’ve just said something eye-roll worthy. I just put it out there so that the person on the other end doesn’t have to.
Favorite gif? Easy one, too! Someone sent this to me with the caption that said, “my current process” in regards to crafting a story. I was like, “oh my god IT’S MY CURRENT PROCESS TOO.” Ack.
Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Magnolia’s age?
Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But for a time (a long time, actually) I was told that the chances of actually being a writer were probably pretty small. I also wanted to be a Social Worker for at-risk youth so I tried my hand at that for a year as well. It was so incredibly hard and I didn’t make it at that kind of job very long. But when I was Magnolia’s age, I was very much a wanderer. All I wanted to do back then was travel the world and read books and do a little work along the way to support this travel-plus-books habit. That’s about as far as my ambitions went back then!
Magnolia Woodson wants nothing more than to get her and her sister, Rose, out of the pitifully small, clamming-obsessed Oregon town that hates them—she just doesn’t know how. Forced to put up with the snide comments and hateful looks the townspeople throw at them, Mags thinks she’s destined to pay for the horrible, awful thing her mom did—and that she’s left her and Rose to deal with—until the day she dies.
But when a nationwide televised dance competition posts tryouts in nearby Portland, Mags’s best friend, George, says they have to go and audition. Not only have they spent the past fourteen years of their lives dancing side-by-side, dreaming of a day just like this, but also it could be Mags’s chance of a lifetime—a chance to win the grand-prize money and get her and Rose out of Summerland, a chance to do the thing she loves most with everyone watching, a chance to show the town that she’s not—and has never been—a “no-good Woodson girl,” like her mother. But will the competition prove too steep? And will Mags be able to retain her friendship with George as they go head-to-head in tryouts? Mags will have to learn that following her dreams may mean changing her life forever.
Jill Mackenzie, a Vancouver native, is an ex-ballerina and contemporary dancer. Now working toward her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Jill chassés between roles as part-time student, full-time mom, and always-writer. Though Jill no longer studies dance, she still tries to dance herself clean whenever she can. Currently she lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she spends her free time beach-bound with her husband and two beautiful daughters.