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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interview: Ebony McKenna (Author of Ondine!)

Author Ebony McKenna is at The Hiding Spot today to answer a few questions regarding her novel ONDINE. The novel isn't out in the US yet, but it is available from BookDepository!

From Author's Website

Ebony McKenna lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and young son.

She has worked as an award winning journalist, market researcher, waitress, website contributor, accounts manager and company director.

In high school McKenna excelled in English and Literature, earning herself a place in the journalism course at Melbourne's RMIT University.

In the 1990s she worked as a journalist on many leading Melbourne newspapers. She won many awards - including scooping first and second place in the one night for best news report. By day she wrote other people's stories, but by night she plotted epic adventures.

Now she writes novels for a living.


Give a short statement describing ONDINE.
  ONDINE is about a teenage girl whose pet ferret, Shambles, starts talking with a Scottish accent. Mayhem ensues. She lives in the Eastern European country of Brugel, where everyday life with her family is crazy. Ondine discovers Shambles is really a man trapped in a witch’s spell - she’ll do whatever she can to break that spell to see the real man inside.

Was there a specific source of inspiration behind ONDINE?
I had written six novels prior to ONDINE, some were fantasy/science fiction, others were romantic comedies. The world can be so mean and cruel sometimes, comedies give us a break from all that. So I wrote the books I loved to read. But this inspiration was a whole new level of crazy for me. The setting - in a family pub - came naturally because I spent my childhood and teen years working for my mum and step-dad in our family restaurant. Lots and lots of work. A fair bit of stress. Everyone pitching in and helping. But it also gave me a love of food and an understanding that if you want something badly enough, and you work hard enough, you just might get the result you want. *lightbulb moment* I think this is why I have turned out the way I have. Thanks mum. (And at the time I thought you were just using me for slave labor, LOL!)
My family are a huge inspiration to me. There are a great many books featuring orphans or missing parents. When the ideas for Ondine first popped into my head, she was an orphan as well. But honestly, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted her to have a family and have all that support and a bit of suffocation-love. Her life is different to mine for sure (none of my pets talked, except the cockatoos) but her feelings are very similar. As a teenager, I craved privacy but I needed my family. I also felt like grown-ups treated me like a child but also expected me to behave like an adult. All the tumult and emotional upheaval is there, even if the story is very different.

Why did you choose to have cast the romantic interest as a cursed boy turned ferret? (Instead of some other animal or creature…)
The first time I had the idea of the bewitched creature, he was a rat. But a few seconds later he became a ferret. I’ve never had a pet ferret, so I didn’t know much about them. But, I had seen a tv show a few weeks earlier featuring ferrets and the people who are crazy about them. They seemed perfect for comedy. Racing down drainpipes, scampering about, sleeping in a tangled knot. I thought about how they could make great spies. Once I imagined the scene of Ondine informing the Duke about a treat to his life - with the ferret wrapped around her pretending to be a scarf - it cemented the idea of Shambles being a ferret.
Ferrets have such vibrant personalities. And, while the ideas were percolating in my head, I did have the vague sense that rats had been done, whereas a ferret could be very different. They are so cute, but they’re also primed for mischief. It seemed such a good fit to have someone trapped in a ferret’s body as a form of punishment.
Also - I wanted a truly sexy hero. He had to be funny, a bit rude and full of adventure. So he pretty much had to be Scottish because they are the funniest and rudest people on earth (and I hope they can forgive me for taking so many liberties with their language!) And some of them are very sexy. *cough* David Tennant.

How did you choose name for your characters? Do you find it difficult to pick names?
I wanted names that gave a sense of something old-fashioned yet modern. Ondine was there right from the start. Many years ago I used to get my nails done (what a luxury!) and the woman who did my nails was called Ondi. I’d always loved her name. It sounded so exotic and other worldly. So maybe I was just waiting for the right book to come along to name after her? I grew up with a friend called Cybelle, so her name was perfect for the clever and very private middle sister. I needed a movie-star name for the eldest, because she’s the showy one, the singer. One of my favourite movies of all time (aside from The Princess Bride) is The Scarlett Pimpernell. The heroine in that is Marguerite. Such a gorgeous name, and very European, to my mind. The name Shambles turned up pretty quickly in the process as well. I often say ‘this place is a shambles’ so it was a name ready to leap out of my mind and onto the page. Once I had his name, his personality really grew to the point where he could get away with so much! Cheeky imp!

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
These are such awesome questions. Love it!
Books are my escape too - they’re a pressure-valve to let off a bit of steam. They help me forget all about everything else for a while. I lose myself in books. Perhaps that’s why I put so much comedy into my writing - because there’s enough bad news out there I want to give people a good laugh and a diversion from the pressures of the real world.
As a kid, I used to hide in wardrobes looking for Narnia! After-school playtimes with friends were the classic, ‘Mum’s here, quick, hide!’ But she’d always find me in a wardrobe! I never did find Narnia.
Now I’m older, I’m supposed to grow up, but I still love hiding away in small spaces. Luckily my young son does too. So we hide in wardrobes together. In a year or so, I’ll let him read my Narnia books.

Thank you so much for the great questions and for being part of the blog tour. I’m having a fantastic time.

Thanks, Ebony!

You can find my review of ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES here. Be on the lookout for the sequel, ONDINE: THE AUTUMN PALACE, which will be released February 2011 from Egmont Books Ltd!


  1. This sounds like a fun read, i like how she answered in detail it's always pleasent to see, great interview!

  2. Thank you again Sara for being part of the blog tour and good luck to everyone in the comp.

    Thanks Blueicegirl, I had fun because Sara asked such great questions.


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