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Ross MacKenzie is the author of fantasy adventure, Zac and the Dream Pirates, winner of a Scottish Children's Book Award in 2012. He lives in Renfrew, where he grew up, with his wife and baby daughter, but spends much of his time in another world.
A Q&A with Ross about his novel The Nowhere Emporium
Where did your inspiration for The Nowhere Emporium come from?
It’s a bit mysterious, actually! The Emporium sort of popped into my head fully formed. I could see this strange old shop so clearly in my head, the sparkling black brick and the faded sign. I knew the shop never stayed in one place for very long, and of course I had to find out why, so I wrote the story.
What is your favourite room in the Nowhere Emporium?
Actually, my favourite place in the entire Emporium is the shop-front where Daniel first meets Mr Silver. It’s dim and dusty and mysterious, filled with so many treasures and curiosities. I could spend days looking around!
What would you write in the Book of Wonders?
I’d have a library with every story ever written waiting on the shelves for me. But it would be a library with a twist: I’d be able to meet the characters from my favourite books face to face!
Actually, on second thought, this might turn out to be dangerous – the bad guys would probably try to escape and take over the world!
Larabelle Fox is an orphan, a tosher who searches the sewers for any ‘treasure’ she can find, in the sewer system under Kings Haven. She is ranged against rival toshing gangs who want to rob her, as well as the powerful King’s Witch who wants to revive the Evernight in a bid to gain total power for herself. Unbeknownst to Lara she has found exactly what the King’s Witch and her awesomely scary djinn Shadow Jack are looking for – a box, long lost in the sewers. Can Lara discover what she can do with the box and its contents before the world succumbs to the evil of the Evernight? This is a wild magical delight of a story. The bad guys are wickedly bad and seemingly undefeatable, whilst Lara and her friend Joe Littlefoot seem small and powerless. But they have quick wits and goodness on their side, as well as the witches, though it will mainly be down to Lara that a defence is put up to the Evernight.This is the sort of book that will create a buzz of enjoyment, the fantasy world is well built, believable, cinematic and child friendly. The magic is fun, the friendship believable, the story is refreshing, and the feisty heroine is a delight to follow. I shall look forward to more books in this series.
September 2016 Book of the Month In a nutshell: good versus evil, spiders, finding courage Ross MacKenzie won the Blue Peter Best Story Award for The Nowhere Emporium and Shadowsmith is another heart-racing adventure. Kirby’s mum was hurt when a freak storm lashed their little fishing village and is in a coma. Slowly he realises that the storm and a series of strange, unpleasant events are linked. Helped by girl in a bright yellow coat – who turns out to be a powerful witch – he dares to fight the evil threatening his village and his family. This has all that the best books for children offer – real dangers to be faced and overcome, interesting and believable characters, humour, and a strong recognition of the importance of family relationships. Readers who enjoy this book should also look out for The Beginners Guide to Curses by Lari Don, The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell and Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher. ~ Andrea Reece Commenting on his new novel, the author: “I’m fascinated by magic and mystery and I wanted to explore the darker side of the supernatural, a world filled with huge spiders and witches and hideous, other-worldly beings. I hope the readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The crucial question for them is, are they feeling brave?
Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2016 - Best Story - Winner of the Scottish Children's Book Awards 2015 8-11 age category This sparkling fantasy adventure is a glorious hymn to the powers of the imagination. Young Daniel Holmes first stumbles into the Nowhere Emporium as he’s running from a couple of the bullies from the children’s home where he lives. He’s fascinated – and who wouldn’t be – the shop is a cave of wonders, stacked from floor to ceiling with beautiful objects. As for the shop owner, he seems to be a magician. Next day Daniel is knocked down by a car, only to wake up in the Emporium, which becomes his home. He realises the shop truly is magical, travelling through time, entertaining and delighting customers across the ages, while Mr Silver the owner builds strange and wonderful worlds from their imaginations. Not all in this world is happy however, and when Silver’s enemy Vindictus Sharpe threatens to destroy it, Daniel is the only person who can stop him. Mackenzie creates a dazzling fantasy world, so engaging and vivid it reminds one of Cornelia Funke’s books. Young readers – particularly those who like making up stories themselves – will be entranced. ~ Andrea Reece Commenting on his Blue Peter Awards win Ross, said: Best Story winner, Ross MacKenzie, who grew up watching Blue Peter, said: “It's always a great moment to receive any sort of award, but to win The Blue Peter Book Awards for Best Story is extra special. Firstly, because it's an award chosen by the readers. It's fantastic and important that children have a voice, and I'm so glad they liked The Nowhere Emporium enough to give it their vote. And secondly, it's special because Blue Peter was such a huge part of my childhood. I'm delighted and stunned to become a tiny part of the show's history and I shall be humming that famous theme tune for the foreseeable future! And of course I always wanted a badge.” Commenting on his Scottish Book Awards win, Ross said: “I'm so delighted to have won the SCBA for ‘The Nowhere Emporium’! Scottish Book Trust do such an amazing job, and these awards are extra-special because it's the readers who make the final decision. Children don't often get the chance to have a voice on this sort of scale, and I believe it's important for them to know that they have that voice and that their opinions matter.Long may the SCBA continue!”