It’s time for a bit of mayhem and delicious silliness. My guest this week is the effervescent Ebony McKenna, author of the fabulous Ondine novels. I don’t normally read YA but who could resist a boy who turns into a ferret, an exotic eastern European principality gloriously cobbled together from the worst excesses of Eurovision and footnotes! Here’s Ebony.
When readers (and Ondine) first meet him in The Summer of Shambles, he’s face down in Brugelwürst sausage. Later, when he should be behaving himself in a huge crowd, he follows his nose to the delicious aroma of fried sausages and gets caught up in an assassination attempt.
The love of sausages fit Shambles’s personality so well, it drove his actions and shaped the plot. Which sounds marvellously planned out … if only it was! When I began writing the novel, I knew little about a ferret’s diet. I soon found out they can’t eat any carbohydrates or vegetable proteins, as it brings on mega-diabetes.
With a ferret as a romantic lead, I had the ultimate salad dodger on my hands and the fun never stopped. He made me smile every time he appeared on the page because he was always hungry and persuading people to feed him. I smiled even more when his horrid curse lifted for a wee bit and he could be handsomely Hamish again.
Food is always in my writing. In the 1980s, my mother and step-father took the crazy leap of running their own restaurant. (They were young, and didn’t do much research. If they’d known how much work it was going to be, they might not have done it.) So I grew up in a restaurant, trying lots of fun things and playing with my food.
And eating. Oh lordy did I eat. Living in a restaurant, we had the best produce available and the finest cuts of everything. So it stands to reason my favourite meal was fish and chips bought from the chippy across the street.
It wasn’t a huge leap of imagination on my part to put Ondine’s family in a pub–it was what I knew and loved, so it felt natural to me.
In book two, The Autumn Palace, we see how mean Duchess Kerala is, as evidenced by the way she limits the food servings. And she makes everyone take a dose of worming medicine because she’s convinced they eat too much.
In book three, The Winter of Magic, which will be released in December, food again plays a strong supporting role. Magic burns more calories than running a marathon, therefore witches using lots of magic are virtual eating machines. There is also a reference to fried cheese balls as a firm favourite in Brugel. They are a magnificent way to stay warm when you’re outside in the snow.
As I plot book four, The Spring Revolution, I can guarantee plenty of food. I might even find a way so sneak my all time favourite, the curried beef pie, into a scene.
Book 1 The Summer of Shambles and Book 2, The Autumn Palace, are available from bookdepository.com
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