'Until I was nine years old, I didn’t like books' Ross Mackenzie

Published on: 03 September 2018 Author: Ross Mackenzie


Yup, that’s right – I’m talking to you.

Want to know a secret?

A deep, dark, swear-you-won’t-tell-anyone-else type of secret?

Right then.

Here it is…

Until I was nine years old, I didn’t like books.

ShadowsmithThere. I’ve said it. Can you imagine such a thing? An author who grew up thinking of books as nothing more than heavy lumps of paper! Sure, they had their uses; I could take a decent pile of hardbacks and build a mysterious cavern for my action figures, for example. But beyond that, books were… well, they were boring, weren’t they?

Today, as I type those words, I half expect the clouds to open and the lightning to come flashing down and crack me on top of the head. But back then, that’s how I felt.

So, what happened when I was nine? What turned me into a reader? And what made me want to be a writer?

In Primary Five, our class teacher was a wonderful lady called Miss McLean. She was the sort of teacher who made school FUN. She was funny, and interesting, and above all she was a magnificent storyteller. Over the course of the year Miss McLean read us quite a few books. For the most part, I can’t remember what those books were now; they’ve slipped out of my head the way a dream drifts away when you wake up. None of those books made an impact on my nine-year-old self.

Then came the day the magic happened.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon in Springtime, and our class was gathered around our beloved teacher on the carpet by her desk.

‘We’re going to start a new book today, children,’ she said, and she turned around and brought out the book that was going to change my life.

The Witches by Roald Dahl.

When Miss McLean began to read this wonderful story – the tale of a boy and his grandmother going up against England’s wicked witches – something amazing began to happen.

I wanted to know what happened next.

This book wasn’t boring! It was scary, and magical, and exiting, and exhilarating! It made me feel things, made me sit forward and bite my nails, made my breath catch in my chest.

I was hooked.

When we finished The Witches, I set about reading every Roald Dahl book I could get my hands on. The BFG; Matilda; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all cast their spell on me. After that, I was unstoppable. I became a book-eating monster, always hungry, always ready to munch on the next delicious, wonderful story.

Not only that, I became a Writer too. I wanted to make people feel the way I felt when I read my favourites. I wanted to make my readers laugh, and cry, and sit on the edge of their seat. And that is still at the very heart of my writing.

Whenever I start a new book, I think of how I felt as I sat on the carpet of Room Ten and listened to Miss McLean reading The Witches. I strive every day to capture just a little of that fizzing magic.

I am so excited – so honoured – that Shadowsmith is a BookBuzz title this year. Shadowsmith is a scary book. It crackles with dark magic and witches and monsters and the atmosphere of a small seaside town in the grip of a terrible darkness.

Not everyone loves books. I get that. But maybe… just maybe… if you’re still waiting to be convinced, Shadowsmith can be YOUR book, the way The Witches was mine. If not, just do me a favour and keep looking, because once you find that book, once you feel that “click” you will never be the same, in the best possible way.

Books are magical objects. I hope you enjoy the magic I’ve tried to bring to life in Shadowsmith.

Oh, I almost forgot. If you pick up Shadowsmith, there is a very important question you must ask yourself before you begin to read. It is the same question Amelia Pigeon, a mysterious girl in a yellow raincoat, asks our hero, Kirby, when she first meets him.

Are you brave?

Well… are you?