Book of the Month

Discover our special book this month! Read both the first chapter online (see icon link below, above the title) and an exclusive author interview asking all the questions YOU want to know.

Plus, we have five copies to give away to lucky Kelpies newsletter readers!

Cover image of The Reluctant Time Traveller

The Reluctant Time Traveller

Janis Mackay

You can buy this book now, online or in your favourite bookshop.

Win a signed copy of the Book of the Month

Win one of 5 signed copies of The Reluctant Time Traveller by answering this simple question (Hint: The answer is in the interview below)

What year would Janis most like to visit if she could travel in time?

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If you are under 16 years old, please ask your parent or guardian for permission before you enter.

Author Interview

September's Book of the Month is the fantastic The Reluctant Time Traveller by Janis Mackay. Read our exclusive interview with Janis to find the answer to our competition question!

How did it feel to win a Scottish Children's Book Award for your last book, The Accidental Time Traveller?
Janis Mackay [JM]: Amazing. What a treat and to know that the book is read and judged by children is great. That gives power to children and gives them 'authority,' which I think is where the word 'author' comes from!

Where did you get the idea for The Reluctant Time Traveller?
JM: In discussion with my wonderful editor Eleanor. Because The Accidental time Traveller had done well the question came up -- how about a sequel? I had thought lots about a sequel, but in the story of Agatha Black and Saul I really felt the ending was complete and Agatha went home and lived her life. Somehow I had imagined if there was to be a sequel it would involve Saul going back to see Agatha -- and that didn't really feel right. Until clever Eleanor said that Saul now had the formula for time travel so he could travel anywhere, like the swinging sixties or he could go back one hundred years to 1914! And the more I thought about that the more excited I felt about it. I started to write, the servant characters Elsie and Frank suddenly appeared complete with their voices and unusual work ethics. They felt real and when you have real characters you know you are in the zone. So off we went -- zooming back one hundred years!

Do you plan out the storyline in advance or do you prefer to see where the story takes you?
JM: Ha! A big question. I tend to write into the dark and allow the story to unfold. I think writing this way possibly takes longer (because when you write in the dark you often up wrong alleyways!) but I think it is more interesting for me and also the writing feels as though it has energy and surprise. I do tend to have a sense of the ending -- but often no idea how I am going to get there.

Do you ever get writer's block? If so, how do you cope with it?
JM: I don't really, but sometimes I don't know what to write. I don't think that is writer's block. I think sometimes the imagination needs a rest in order to fill up -- so when I feel that way I do different things. Recently I have been sketching. I am not talented at drawing but it helps me learn to look at things -- and I think that is good for a writer.

Are any of the characters in The Reluctant Time Traveller based on someone you know in real life?
JM: Well, Saul is based on my nephew -- though he is now 15 and the story Saul is 12 going on 13 -- and when I say 'based on' that is a very loose term. Apparently as writers we absorb many characters -- especially in our early years -- and they kind of live on in us, sub-conciously, and an aspect of them can come out in fiction. My grandmother was 'in domestic service' and this is something I have studied and written about in the past, though I don't imagine my grandmother was anything remotely like Elsie -- possibly more like Mrs Buchan, the housekeeper. My uncle once lived in a rather tumbledown castle and the owner was an eccentric character, so perhaps I thought of him when I created Gaunt, the creepy owner.

There are lots of historical details in The Reluctant Time Traveller, did you have to do lots of research?
JM: Not loads. To be honest I didn't have much time. Once we had decided (in November 2013) to go with a book set in 1914 we thought it would be a good plan to bring it out in 2014 -- so I had to get a move on. I did go to Peebles museum and talk to people and look in old books. I also went on a historic walking tour of the town. I had already done a lot of research about the life and work of domestic servants in the Victorian era and up to the 1920s. And obviously I did research about the First World War. The problem with research is that you can get bogged down reading way more than you will ever use. I became obsessed with the fate of ships and submarines in the First World War. Oh yes, and I researched bicycles!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
JM: I really like teaching creative writing and I do that for Edinburgh University. I also love walking and visiting remote Scottish islands and the highlands, fresh air and wild places. I like seeing friends, dancing and hanging about in gorgeous Edinburgh cafes drinking coffee!

Do you have a favourite place to write?
JM: I have a small desk in my bedroom which overlooks the back garden which has two fabulous rowan trees. Right now they have thick red berries. The garden is in the middle of Edinburgh but it feels like deepest countryside. I like the best of both worlds. I like the idea of writing in cafes but often they play music and that doesn't work for me. It has to be quiet. Or natural sounds, like right now the wind is singing and soughing in the trees. Lovely.

What is your favourite children's book? (apart from your own, of course!)
JM: I think Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell is lovely. She won the Warwickshire children's book awards. I came second!

If you could time travel, where (when!) would you go and why?
JM: I would go to Glenfinnan in 1745 and help row Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye in a small boat with Flora Macdonald -- and I would go to the old piping schools and sit in a corner in a stone croft and listen to people sing.

Thanks for chatting to us Janis! And don't forget to enter our competition to win a signed copy of The Reluctant Time Traveller!

About The Reluctant Time Traveller

This book costs £5.99.
It is a paperback with 240 pages.
If you're searching for it online, it might be useful to have the book's unique number, which is 9781782501114.

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